Wednesday 8th September 2021

I’m worried about getting the coronavirus vaccine - why should I have it? 

Having the vaccine is a very personal decision that only you can make.   

The vaccine not only helps to protect us from coronavirus but those around us – our friends, family and wider community.   

The success of the vaccination programme, in combination with restrictions, have meant the numbers of coronavirus related hospital admissions and deaths have reduced massively. This has helped to ease restrictions across the UK. 

Vaccination helps you build immunity to the virus, so your body will stop the infection more easily. This can reduce your risk of becoming infected with coronavirus or make your symptoms milder. This is especially important to consider if you have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, or clinically vulnerable, as you may be more likely to be very unwell if you were to catch coronavirus. 

There are also people in our population that are not able to have the vaccine and rely on the rest of the population who can have the vaccine to do so to protect them, as it is hoped there will be less virus circulating. 

If you decided not to have the vaccine but change your mind later on – that’s ok! The vaccine will still be available to you. 

Do I still have to follow recommendations if I’ve had the coronavirus vaccine? 

It’s important we all help to reduce the spread of coronavirus once we have had the vaccine, even after having both doses.   

And even though many restrictions have lifted or are lifting in the UK, it is still really important to continue to protect ourselves and each other, and to help make everyone feel safe.  

That includes making sure you’re aware of any restrictions or advice still in place for where you live or are visiting, and by doing things like meeting with others outside where possible, covering our face, and keeping space between us.   

You might feel especially reassured by people around you continuing to do these things if you were previously identified as clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. 

How will I know when I can have my coronavirus vaccination? 

Unfortunately, there have been some scam emails and texts. You do not have to pay for the NHS vaccine, or confirm bank details in order to register. Always make sure any links you’re using are real. 

If you’re over 16 

Everyone over the age of 16 years old will now be offered the coronavirus vaccine in the UK.  

If you are 16 or 17 years of age, your GP will contact you to make an appointment for the vaccine at your GP or another local NHS centre. 

You cannot book your appointment online at the moment but it is hoped that walk-in centres will be set up very soon for everyone over the age of 16.   

If you are 18 or older, you can book your vaccination online or by calling 119.  There may also be walk-in centres locally to where you live. 

If you’re under 16  

If you are aged 12 years and over and have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to coronavirus, including being immunosuppressed from disease or treatment, or you live with someone who is immunosuppressed, you may also now be eligible for your first dose of the vaccine.  

First doses for this age group are now available. The NHS will get in contact with you directly if this applies to you. If you or your child believe you are eligible and have not been contacted, you should contact your GP or clinical team. 

How many doses of the coronavirus vaccine will I need? 

You will receive two doses of the vaccine between 8 and 12 weeks apart.

Some people over the age of 12 who are severely immunosuppressed - including some people with cancer - may be given a third dose of the vaccine. This is an extra ‘top-up’ dose to provide extra protection for those who may not have had a full immune response to the first two doses.

If you have questions about whether you might be eligible for this you should speak to your clinical team. You can also find more information on the third dose on the government and NHS websites

What happens on the day of my coronavirus vaccination?  

It is useful to have the appointment letter, text, email or screenshot with you on the day when you book in.   

Unless you are medically exempt, you will need to wear a mask.  There’ll probably be plenty of hand sanitiser available but you can also bring your own. 

You’ll be told ahead of time whether someone can come in with you or not.  

Try to arrive as close to your appointment time as possible – this is to avoid queues of people outside the centre.   

It’s helpful to wear a T-shirt or similar so the top of your arm is easily accessible – this will help speed up the process when you are there. 

These centres are incredibly well run with one-way systems and plenty of space.  All the staff will be wearing appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment such as aprons and masks) to help protect everyone.   

There will be loads of staff and volunteers helping at these centres so if you get there and you feel a bit overwhelmed just have a chat with someone and they will be able to take you somewhere quiet.   

You’ll be asked some questions when you arrive and will be asked to sign a form to say that you agree to have the vaccine.  Staff will be on hand to help with this.   

The injection itself only takes a few moments and may feel like a sharp scratch in your upper arm.   

You will be given a card with your name, date and which vaccination you have been given. It’s important to keep this safe and bring it with you when you go for your second dose.  A note that you have had your vaccination will be put on your GP records too. 

Depending on your age or circumstances, you may have booked your second dose already, or you may have to arrange this once you’ve had your first. This will be explained to you when you attend for your first dose of vaccine. 

You may need to wait after your vaccine has been given to you, just to check you’re OK. If that’s the case you’ll be told where to wait, and for how long. 

Is there a difference in which coronavirus vaccine you should have as a young person with cancer? 

There are currently four coronavirus vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK -  Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-Astra Zeneca, Moderna and Janssen (which will be available later in 2021).  

Vaccination centres may be administering one or all of the available vaccines at different times. But all approved vaccines have been shown to offer effective protection against the virus. Because of how the vaccine works, young people who are immunosuppressed at the time of the vaccination will still get some protection.  

There is no evidence to suggest that young people with cancer should receive a particular coronavirus vaccine. 

But everyone under the age of 40 will be offered an alternative to the Oxford - Astra Zeneca vaccine, because of a possible link to very rare blood clots in a small number of people.   

Blood clots can happen to healthy people (even those who have not had a coronavirus vaccination).  The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) are currently reviewing of all of the cases. 

If you’re under 18 years old you’ll be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This may change in time, so always check if you’re not sure which you’re being offered.  

Depending on your age or circumstances, you may have book your first and second dose together, or you may have to arrange this once you’ve had your first dose. This will be explained to you when you attend for your first dose of vaccine. 

If you have any questions about which vaccine is best for you, always talk to your GP or care team. Whichever vaccine you’re advised to get, rest assured that all those approved for use in the UK have been shown to be effective against becoming seriously ill from coronavirus 

There may be a booster programme for coronavirus vaccinations later this year, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for more information available about this once it’s confirmed.  

I’ve had a severe allergic reaction in the past. Is it safe to have the coronavirus vaccine? 

The information about the vaccines and people with allergies has changed several times since we started vaccinating, as we now have lots more information about side effects and allergic reactions. 

The current guidance is that you should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to: 

  • a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine 
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccines 

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority) who approved the vaccines in the UK and who look at all the side effects reported, have confirmed that even people with severe allergies to foods or other medicines can now have the COVID-19 vaccines.   

If you are worried about your allergies, have a chat with your doctor, pharmacist or specialist nurse who will be able to check the lists of ingredients with you. 

Serious allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccines are rare.  If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens within minutes of getting the vaccine and staff at the vaccination centres are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately. 

Will there be any side effects to the coronavirus vaccine? 

More than 48 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of the vaccine so we have lots of information now about side effects.   

A sore and achy arm after the vaccine is the most common side effect with some people experiencing mild side effects like a headache, feeling tired, joint and muscle aches and chills for a couple of days. 

Information about the coronavirus vaccine may change  

The information on this page was up to date at the time of writing. But guidelines, processes and advice is always subject to change. So always make sure you check the latest information from the NHS website. And if you ever have questions, always check with your GP or clinical care team.