There are currently four COVID-19 vaccines licensed for use in the UK. These are:
- the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (Vaxzevria®)
- the Pfizer /BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty®)
- the Moderna vaccine (Spikevax®)
- the Janssen vaccine (approved but not yet available in the UK).
All of these vaccines give very high protection against severe COVID-19. They have been through a rigorous approval process to make sure they are safe and effective.
All adults, aged 16+, are now eligible for two doses of the vaccine.
Children aged 12 to 15 years old are also eligible for an initial dose. Children in this age group are eligible for two doses if they are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, or if they live with somebody who is at higher risk.
People who had severely weakened immune systems at the time they had their first two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for a third dose to help improve their immune response to vaccination. This includes many people with lymphoma. If you are eligible for a third primary dose, you should have been contacted by your GP or specialist. If you think you should be eligible but you haven’t heard, contact your GP for advice.
We have more information about third doses of COVID-19 vaccination.
Booster vaccinations are being offered to people at higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19, to help keep their protection as high as possible. This is not the same as a third primary dose. Many people who are not eligible for a third primary dose are eligible for a booster.
People eligible for a booster dose include:
- people who live in residential care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 50 or above
- frontline health and social care workers
- people aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19
- adults who live with someone with lowered immunity.
You can't have the booster until at least 6 months after your second primary dose. Boosters will be offered in the same priority order as the initial vaccination programme (based on age and underlying health conditions). The booster programme started in September. If you are eligible, the NHS will contact you when it is your turn to have your booster. You might have your booster at a community healthcare setting, a pharmacy or a vaccination centre.
Whichever vaccine you had for your first two doses, you are likely to have either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, for your booster. If you can't have either of these vaccines, you may be able to have the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The benefits of booster doses for younger people, who received their initial course of vaccination more recently, will be considered at a later date.
People over 12 who live with someone who is severely immunosuppressed are eligible for two doses of vaccine. This aims to reduce the risk of infection in immunosuppressed people by vaccinating those most likely to transmit to them.
- The NHS or GP practices should write to inform these people (or their parents or carers) that they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
If you live in Wales and you are a household contact of a severely immunosuppressed person, you can complete a self-referral form to register for vaccination.
Severely immunosuppressed individuals include, but are not limited to:
- anyone with a history of haematological malignancy, and those who may require long term immunosuppressive treatments.
- individuals who are receiving immunosuppressive or immunomodulating biological therapy and individuals treated with steroid sparing agents
- individuals treated with or likely to be treated with systemic steroids for more than a month at a dose equivalent of prednisolone at 20mg or more per day for adults.
Some people with lymphoma have lowered immunity and might not respond as well as other people to vaccination. Lots of clinical trials are being carried out to test how effective the vaccine is in people with lymphoma and other types of blood cancer.
Results of trials carried out so far suggest that:
- Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma or high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma who finished treatment more than 6 months ago produce antibodies in response to vaccination.
- Many people with low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma produce antibodies in response to vaccination, but at lower levels than healthy people.
- People who are having treatment for lymphoma, or finished treatment within the last 6 to 12 months, are less likely to produce antibodies in response to vaccination, especially if they had treatment that targeted B cells.
It’s important to remember that antibodies aren’t the only way your body responds to vaccination (although they are the easiest response to measure). We don’t know yet how other parts of your immune system respond to the vaccines, or how antibody levels relate to your overall protection from COVID-19.
Clinical trials are also looking at different options for people who cannot have COVID-19 vaccination, or do not respond to it. Treatments for COVID-19 are also becoming available, such as dexamethasone, Ronapreve (casirivimab and imdevimab), remdesivir, tocilizumab and sarilumab.
We have more information on antibody tests after COVID vaccination. The National COVID Cancer Survey is measuring COVID antibody levels in people with cancer to find out more about how people with cancer respond to vaccination and what level of antibodies is enough to provide protection against COVID-19. If you are eligible, you can sign up online.
A consensus of UK lymphoma specialists also recommend that all patients with lymphoma should receive a non-replicating COVID-19 vaccine, unless there are particular reasons they can't have it (for example, if they've had serious allergic reactions in the past). The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Oxford/AztraZeneca vaccine, Moderna vaccine and Janssen vaccine are all non-replicating. However, these vaccines might not achieve full protection for people who have lowered immunity.
If possible, you should complete both doses of the vaccine at least 2 weeks before you have treatment that lowers your immune system. If you are already on treatment that lowers your immune system, ask your specialist about the risks and benefits of having the vaccine or delaying it until your immune system is stronger. They can offer you advice based on your individual circumstances and immune status.
After having the vaccine, it is important to carry on taking appropriate measures to reduce your risk of infection.
All over 12s in the UK are now eligible for at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Most over 16s can get a vaccine dose at a walk-in vaccination centre without needing to book. Most 12 to 15 year olds will be vaccinated in school (with parental consent). Alternative provision will be made for children who don't attend school.
If you prefer (and are eligible) to book:
- Over 16s who live in England can book their vaccination online or by calling 119 (7am to 11pm).
- Adults who live in Northern Ireland can book their vaccination at a local pharmacy. You can book a pharmacy that stocks the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (suitable for over 40s) or a pharmacy that stocks the Moderna vaccine (suitable for over 18s). Children aged 12 to 15 who have a letter from their consultant or GP confirming they are eligible can book a vaccination online or by calling 0300 200 7813 (8am to 8pm).
- Over 16s who live in Scotland can book their vaccination online or by calling 0800 030 8013 (8am to 8pm).
- If you live in Wales and you haven’t yet been contacted about your coronavirus vaccine, the Welsh government has advice on who to contact. This varies depending on where you live.
Your booking should include details of where you can have your vaccination. This might be at a hospital, a community healthcare setting, or a vaccination centre. All settings providing vaccination are COVID-safe.
While you are waiting to have your vaccination, and afterwards, it is important to keep taking appropriate measures to reduce your risk of being exposed to coronavirus.
The safety profiles of the vaccines are very favourable. They are suitable for nearly everybody.
- The vaccines can't be given to people who are allergic to any of their ingredients.
- The AztraZeneca vaccine should not be given to people who:
- have ever had a condition called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (low platelets and blood clot caused by an immune response to the blood-thinning drug heparin)
- have ever had a rare condition called capillary leak syndrome (where the liquid part of your blood, without the blood cells, leaks out of your blood vessels and into your tissues)
- had a blood clot and low platelets after their first dose of AstraZeneca.
- The JCVI has advised that it is preferable for people under 40 to have a vaccine other than Oxford/AstraZeneca. If you have already had a first dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine without suffering any serious side effects you should complete the course. The JCVI has not yet issued advice on the use of the Janssen Ad26.COV2-S vaccine in this age group.
- Research so far has not shown any harmful effects of the vaccines in women who are pregnant. The JCVI recommends that pregnant women should be offered vaccination at the same time as other people in their age group. There is more data available on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in pregnant women than on the AstraZeneca vaccine. For this reason, JCVI recommend that pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in preference to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, if you've already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, you can have the second dose. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
You have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as an injection into your upper arm. You have two doses. You usually have the second dose between 8 and 12 weeks after your first dose, although it might be given after 3 weeks if you are due to start treatment that is expected to lower your immune system.
You have the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as an injection into your upper arm. You have two doses. You usually have the second dose between 8 and 12 weeks after your first dose, although it might be given after 4 weeks if you are due to start treatment that is expected to lower your immune system.
You have the Moderna vaccine as an injection into your upper arm. You have two doses. You usually have the second dose between 8 and 12 weeks after your first dose, although it might be given after 4 weeks if you are due to start treatment that is expected to lower your immune system.
You have the Janssen vaccine as an injection into your upper arm. You have one dose only.
The main side effects of the vaccines are pain and redness where the injection went in; muscle aches; headache; fatigue; and mild fever. These typically last a day or so. Occasionally, people develop swollen lymph nodes a few days after having the injection. The swelling usually goes down within around 2 weeks. Some people might feel sick or be sick.
A very rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after vaccination has been identified in people shortly after the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This has also been seen very rarely in people who have had the Janssen vaccine. Around 15 people develop this condition for every million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses given. This is seen slightly more often in younger people. If you experience any of the following around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination, you should seed medical advice urgently:
- a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
- a headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or
- an unusual headache that may be accompanied by:
- blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
- difficulty with your speech
- weakness, drowsiness or seizures
- new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
- shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain.
Each nation is updating information on the coronavirus vaccination programme as more details are confirmed:
- England (this includes information in an Easy Read format and British Sign Language resources)
- Northern Ireland
The NHS website also has information.
The government in England has produced a leaflet about COVID-19 vaccination, including information on who should have it. Public Health Wales have also produced answers to frequently asked questions. Public Health Northern Ireland have also produced a list of questions and answers on the vaccination programme.
If you'd like to know more, you can also download patient information leaflets for the vaccines: