Our guide will help businesses ensure their staff can find accurate and timely information on COVID-19 vaccines.
This page was updated on 23 July 2021.
Following the authorisation of the first COVID-19 vaccine in December, the government launched the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. As the vaccination landscape continuously evolves, it is important to be able to access the latest information from reliable sources.
To help businesses ensure their employees are well informed we have created this quick-read guide with key information relating to the COVID-19 vaccines and a series of frequently asked questions.
Employers can also refer to the government's guide for more information on what to do to support the vaccination of their workforce.
Who can get the vaccine?
Currently, everyone aged 18 and over can get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can book your COVID-19 vaccination appointments online on the NHS website or visit one of the walk-in centres that have opened across the North West.
You can find more information on the Greater Manchester walk-in clinics through the links below.
|Manchester||Pop up vaccination clinics|
|Oldham||Local vaccination clinics|
|Rochdale||Local vaccine clinics|
|Salford||Walk-in vaccination clinics|
|Stockport||Vaccination pop up locations|
|Trafford||Clinics in which you do not need to pre-book are occasionally set up. Keep checking www.twitter.com/TraffordCouncil to find out when these clinics operate|
|Wigan||Walk-in vaccine clinics|
Authorised COVID-19 vaccines
In the UK, there are currently four approved COVID-19 vaccines with three of them in distribution.
|Vaccine||What age group is the vaccine approved for?||Dosage||In distribution|
|Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine||authorised for those aged *12 and over||2 doses required||Yes|
|Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine||authorised for those aged 18 and over||2 doses required||Yes|
|Moderna vaccine||authorised for those aged 18 and over||2 doses required||Yes|
|Janssen vaccine||authorised for those aged 18 and over||Single-dose||No|
All adults are eligible to get their second dose after eight weeks
*The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has issued advice on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people recommending that the following should be offered COVID-19 vaccination:
- children aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities
- children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with someone who is immunosuppressed
- all 17-year-olds who are within three months of their 18th birthday
The NHS will get in touch when it is able to vaccinate those eligible
All four vaccines have been shown to be effective in clinical trials and have a good safety record. The real-world efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines is also being monitored by Public Health England.
While there has been increasing evidence that vaccines help to reduce transmission of the virus, it is still important to:
- Ensure good hygiene (washing your hands regularly)
- Follow the current guidance
- *Self-isolate if you have been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, even if you have received one or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
*From 16 August, fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case. Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible and only self-isolate in the event that this is positive.
Employers should also continue to follow the working safely guidance even if their employees have been vaccinated or received a negative test result. More information on testing is available through our dedicated page.
Ensure your staff have access to information from credible sources and help prevent the spread of false information
The government has launched the SHARE checklist to help prevent the spread of false information relating to coronavirus and vaccinations. This tool can help colleagues know what to look out for before they like, comment or share information they come across online.
Employers can also use Public Health England's toolkit to run an internal awareness campaign to help ensure their employees get access to reliable and accurate information about the vaccines.
Raise awareness of vaccine fraud
Throughout the pandemic, there has been a noticeable rise in fraud and cybercrime. There have been reports of scammers taking advantage of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to access financial details and steal money.
Other COVID-19 scams include websites and social media accounts selling medical products claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19, fraudulent government websites and HMRC related phishing emails, suspicious phone calls and texts.
To help ensure your employees know what to look out for, we have created a Cyber-crime awareness guide with a series of useful tools and resources.
Is the vaccine safe?
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). All steps in the usual vaccine development process were rigorously followed for the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes clinical trial phases that are standard in the UK.
In addition, once MHRA reviewed the data, they sought advice from the Government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines. They critically assess the data too before advising the UK government on the safety, quality and effectiveness of any vaccine.
As with any medicine, COVID-19 vaccines require continuous safety monitoring to ensure the benefits in protecting people outweigh any side effects or potential risks. The MHRA has responsibility in law to continuously evaluate all medicinal products on the UK market and this vaccine is no exception.
How was the vaccine created so quickly?
The COVID-19 vaccines were developed in a coordinated way that allowed some stages of the assessment process to happen in parallel, which condensed the time required. However, the expected high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness were not compromised in any way. This "rolling review" – a regulatory tool that allowed the MHRA to review the data as they became available from ongoing studies, rather than waiting for it to be submitted as a full package– was key.
As the data came in, scientific and clinical experts robustly and thoroughly reviewed it looking at all aspects - from the laboratory studies to the clinical trials, and more.
For more information, view this explainer video from Dr. Mary Ramsay, head of Immunisation at Public Health England. Further insight into the process of authorising the vaccine has been provided by Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive.
Does the vaccine have any side effects?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Not all COVID-19 vaccines are the same.
The AstraZeneca vaccine tends to cause fewer side effects after the second dose. Pfizer and Moderna cause more side effects after the second dose. The very common side effects are the same and should still only last a day or two.
Very common side effects in the first day or two include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
- feeling tired
- headache, aches and chills
You may also have flu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two. However, a high temperature could also indicate that you have COVID-19 or another infection. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better.
An uncommon side effect is swollen glands in the armpit or neck on the same side as the arm where you had the vaccine. This can last for around 10 days, but if it lasts longer see your doctor. If you are due for a mammogram in the few weeks after the vaccine, then you should mention that when you attend.
Further information on vaccine side effects is available on the government website.
Recently, there have been reports of a very rare but serious condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccination. This is being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear. For more information and guidance relating to the COVID-19 vaccination and blood clotting, visit the government website.
For people under 40 without other health conditions, it's currently advised that it's preferable to have another COVID-19 vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
How does the vaccine work?
When a person is given the vaccine, it triggers the body to naturally produce antibodies and stimulates immune cells to protect against COVID-19.
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca stimulates the body’s natural defences (immune system) and causes the body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the virus. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID-19.
COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna stimulates the body’s natural defences (immune system) and causes the body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the virus. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID 19.
Do the vaccines contain animal products?
Can people with allergies get the vaccine?
Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction.
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 vaccine
- any of the ingredients in the vaccine
Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.
Can pregnant women get the vaccine?
At the start of the vaccination programme, the COVID-19 vaccine was only offered to pregnant women when their risk of exposure to the virus was high, such as health and social care workers, or if the woman had underlying conditions that placed her at high risk of complications of COVID-19.
However, on 16 April, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated their guidance, advising that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.
Real-world data from the United States showed that around 90,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, without any safety concerns being raised.
Based on this data, the JCVI advised that it’s preferable for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available. Pregnant women who commenced vaccination with AstraZeneca, however, are advised to complete with the same vaccine.
The advice, published in Public Health England’s Green Book, a clinical professional guide for vaccinators in the UK, still advises that pregnant women should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their clinician, including the latest evidence on safety and which vaccines they should receive.
More information on the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy is available through the government website.
At the time, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released a statement to welcome the change in guidance.
Does the vaccine affect fertility?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant.
On 16 April, The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued new advice on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women announcing that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.
There is now extensive post-marketing experience of the use of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the USA with no safety signals so far. These vaccines are therefore the preferred vaccines to offer to pregnant women. Clinicians should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with the woman, who should be told about the limited evidence of safety for the vaccine in pregnancy.
Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum, or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with a suitable product for their age and clinical risk group.
- Health chiefs are encouraging more pregnant women to get their COVID-19 vaccine, as new data shows that 51,724 pregnant women in England have received at least one dose. View here (22nd July).
- The government plans to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather by the end of September when everyone aged 18 and over will have had the chance to receive full vaccination View here (19th July).
- Statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years. View here (19th July).
- Both first and second dose vaccine targets for 19 July were hit ahead of schedule. View here (19th July).
- Data highlights the importance of getting both doses for the best possible protection as almost 100% of people have antibodies after the second vaccine. View here (15th July).
- More than two in three adults have received both doses of vaccine. View here (14th July).
- Over half (54%) of young people aged 18 to 24 in England have received a first dose - just three weeks after the programme was opened to this age group. View here (9th July).
- A study from Public Health England (PHE), which included more than 1 million people in at-risk groups found that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in clinical risk groups. View here (9th July).
- Interim findings from one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England show COVID-19 infection rates are three times lower for double vaccinated people. View here (8th July).
- The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has been asked to consider the options for a potential coronavirus (COVID-19) booster programme. View here (1st July)
- New analysis suggests the vaccination programme has prevented between 6.4 and 7.9 million infections and 26,000 and 28,000 deaths in England alone. View here (28th June).
- A new leaflet has been published for people eligible for COVID-19 vaccination who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and have concerns about having the second dose. View here (28th June).
- Over 60% of UK adults (3 in 5) have been vaccinated with a second dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, giving them the fullest possible protection. View here (23rd June).
- 4 in 5 adults have now received a first dose of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. View here (18th June).
- Second dose brought forward to 8 weeks for over 40s to provide strongest protection against Delta variant sooner. View here (14th June).
- New analysis by PHE shows for the first time that 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the Delta (B.1.61.2) variant. View here (14th June).
- More than 55.4% of people in the UK have been vaccinated with both doses for the fullest possible protection. View here (11th June).
- Over 40 million people receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in UK. View here (8th June).
- The MHRA concludes positive safety profile for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. View here (4th June).
- Over half of UK adults vaccinated with second dose. View here (3rd June)
- Three quarters of UK adults vaccinated with first dose. View here (2nd June).
- The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has today approved the single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for use in the UK and doses are expected to be available from later this year. View here (28th May).
- Around 72% of UK adults have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. View here (23rd May).
- A new study by PHE shows for the first time that 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India. View here (22nd May).
- New storage conditions for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, that extend the length of time the thawed vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperatures from 5 days to 31 days, have today been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). View here (20th May).
- New government-funded clinical trial looking at different COVID-19 ‘booster’ vaccines launches in the UK. View here (19th May).
- 7 in 10 UK adults receive first dose of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. View here (19th May).
- The first COVID-19 vaccine study in the UK to recruit pregnant women has been launched across eleven National Institute of Health Research sites. View here (17th May).
- Appointments for a second dose of a vaccine will be brought forward from 12 to 8 weeks for the remaining people in the top 9 priority groups who have yet to receive their second dose. View here (14th May).
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines have now prevented 33,000 hospitalisations and 11,700 deaths in older adults. View here. (14th May).
- New evidence continues to show vaccination is highly effective in protecting against death and hospitalisation from coronavirus (COVID-19). View here (10th May)
- The government has published a statement following updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the use of the coronavirus (COVID-19) Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged under 40. View here (7th May)
- An extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been secured by the UK government to help support the booster COVID-19 vaccination programme beginning from the Autumn. View here (28th April).
- A new study by Public Health England (PHE) has shown that one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine reduces household transmission by up to half. View here (28th April).
- JCVI issues new advice on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women. View here (16th April).
- The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its final statement on phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. View here (13th April).
- The national protocol for the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna has been published. View here (8th April).
- The government has published information and guidance on a very rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after COVID-19 vaccination. View here (7th April).
- Government statement on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine following MHRA update. View here (7th April).
- MHRA issues new advice, concluding a possible link between COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and extremely rare, unlikely to occur blood clots. View here (7th April).
- Statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) following reports of an extremely rare adverse event after vaccination with the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. View here (7th April).
- New vaccine advice for adults living with adults who are immunosuppressed has been published. View here (29th March).
- Study led by Sheffield and Oxford Universities finds that 99% of people have robust immune response against COVID-19 after one dose of Pfizer vaccine. View here (26th March)
- UK regulator confirms that people should continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. View here (18th March)
- Data on the real-world efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, March 2021. View here (17th March)
- PHE study shows three-quarters of over 70s have COVID-19 antibodies. View here (18th March).
- MHRA response to the precautionary suspensions of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. View here (14th March)
- JCVI advises prioritising homeless people and rough sleepers for COVID-19 vaccine. View here (11th March)
- Modified COVID-19 vaccines for variants to be fast-tracked, says MHRA and other regulators. View here (4th March).
- New data show vaccines reduce severe COVID-19 in older adults. View here (1 March)
- Advice on phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme: DHSC statement. View here (26 February)
- First real-world UK data shows Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides high levels of protection from the first dose. View here (22 February)
- Published the Public Assessment Report for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. View here (19th February)
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.