About the vaccine used to protect against coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine does not cause a coronavirus infection. It helps to build up your immunity to the virus, so your body will fight it off more easily if it affects you.

This can reduce your risk of developing coronavirus and make your symptoms milder if you do get it.

The coronavirus vaccine is suitable for people with disorders of the immune system.

The effectiveness and immune response of the vaccine is being monitored as the vaccine is rolled out.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Information about the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, including a full list of ingredients, is available on GOV.UK.

Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca vaccine

Information about the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, including a full list of ingredients, is available on GOV.UK.

Information for UK recipients on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

How the vaccines are given

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine will be given in 2 doses. It offers good protection within 2 to 3 weeks of the first dose.

The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the vaccine provides protection for most people for up to 12 weeks. As a result of this evidence, when you can have the second dose has changed. This is also to make sure as many people can have the vaccine as possible.

What happens at your vaccination appointment

About the virus

Coronavirus is a highly infectious respiratory infection, first identified in late 2019. It can spread quickly and cause serious illness, hospitalisation and death.

Common symptoms of coronavirus

The most common symptoms are:

  • new continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

Some people will have more serious symptoms, including pneumonia or difficulty breathing, which might require admission to hospital.

It is also possible to have coronavirus without having any symptoms.

More about coronavirus

Can I catch coronavirus from the vaccine?

You cannot catch coronavirus from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught it and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

What to do if you develop coronavirus symptoms

Vaccine safety

All medicines, including vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Their safety continues to be checked while in use.

NHS Scotland will only use a vaccine if it meets the required standards of safety and effectiveness.

The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved coronavirus vaccines for use in the UK.

Who should not get the vaccine

There are very few people who cannot get the coronavirus vaccine.

You should not get the coronavirus vaccine if you've had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to:

  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • a previous dose of the vaccine

The vaccines are not routinely recommended for women who are pregnant but may be considered in some circumstances.

When the vaccine may be given in pregnancy

Allergic reactions

If you have a history of serious allergic reaction to food, an identified drug or vaccine, or an insect sting, you can still get the coronavirus vaccine, as long as you're not allergic to any ingredient of the vaccine.

It's important that you tell the person giving you the vaccine if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. The people giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

If you're taking medication

You’ll be asked some questions at your vaccination appointment to make sure that there are no reasons for you not to have the vaccine.

You'll also have an opportunity to ask any questions or discuss concerns you may have.

If you have bleeding disorders or take medication to thin your blood or reduce bleeding, speak to your specialist for advice on vaccination.