COVID-19 Vaccines: Your FAQs Answered

Last updated 20/07/2021 at 13:25

If you are 18 or over, chances are you’ve either had at least one dose of the vaccine or you have an appointment scheduled to get it.

If not, did you know that drop-in clinics are now open across every local authority in Scotland for you to get your first dose, even if you have an appointment, or to get your second dose as long as your first was at least eight weeks ago? Check the NHS Inform website or social media pages for more information.

If you are aged 12-17, did you know that you may also be eligible for vaccination?

If you’d like more information before getting a vaccine read below to find the answers to some common questions. You can also watch a short video where we interviewing young people about their experiences of getting the vaccine.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The three approved vaccines in Scotland are being offered to everyone aged 18 years or older.

People aged 16 and 17 can receive the vaccine if they:

  • are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, or as having a specific underlying health condition
  • are an unpaid carer
  • are a frontline health or social care worker.

Based on recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also being offered to the following groups:

  • Young people aged 12 to 17 who live with someone who is immunosuppressed
  • Young people within three months of their 18th birthday
  • Young people aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisability, Down's syndrome, a severely weakened immune system, including some children with cancer and those with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Are vaccines helping the number of cases decrease? 

Due to restrictions easing in Scotland over the past several months, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 has risen compared to earlier in the year, this is because more people are interacting with each other and the virus has more opportunity to spread.

This makes it difficult to assess the impact of vaccination on the number of cases, however, getting vaccinated has been proven to reduce the transmission of coronavirus by as much as 90% in fully vaccinated people. This differs depending on the vaccine and the coronavirus variant.

While cases have risen in Scotland, the number of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalised, or die, has remained relatively low which suggests the rollout of vaccines has helped reduce the more serious impacts of the virus.

In the latest evidence from the REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) a study on the 8th of July - people under the age of 65 who were unvaccinated had an infection rate more than three times higher than those who were double vaccinated (1.15% vs 0.35%).

How do you get your appointment?  

If you are 18 years old or over, you should have been contacted about arranging your first vaccination appointment. This may have been you being invited to self-register on the online registration portal or via a letter to the address that NHS Scotland has for you via your registered GP. The address your GP has for you must be kept up to date by you to help NHS Scotland offer you all the care you need.

If you have not received an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination, you can go to the NHS Inform self-registration portal to arrange an appointment.

You can also attend a drop-in centre, which are open in every local authority across Scotland, to get either your first dose or your second if you have had your first at least eight weeks ago. This can be done even if you have a scheduled vaccination appointment.

Check the NHS Inform website or social media pages of your local health board to get more information about where your nearest drop-in clinic is.

What are the different vaccines / what one will I get?  

There are three approved vaccines in Scotland, these are: 

Currently, the advice from JCVI is that under 40’s should be offered an mRNA vaccine type – such as Pfizer or Moderna – and this is what you will be offered to you now in Scotland.

Some younger people had AstraZeneca vaccination as part of previous priority groups in the U.K. such as health and social care workers, carers and household contacts of those who are severely immunosuppressed. If you have already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine without suffering any serious side effects, you should complete the course (unless there is a medical reason for you not to have the same vaccine).

If you have any medical reasons that these vaccines will not suit you, the clinical staff at the vaccine clinic will discuss this with you. This may include for instance any known allergies you may have. Information about the vaccines and their ingredients can be found at:

You should not get a vaccine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients used in it. You can these by visiting the links for each below:

Why do you need a second vaccine? 

All three vaccines approved for use require two doses. This is because, although one dose will start to give you increased immunity to the virus after a few weeks, the second dose completes the course maximising the effectiveness of the vaccine and is likely to be important for longer-term protection. It is important to get both doses to protect yourself against coronavirus.

The second dose is normally given between 3 and 12 weeks after the first dose. Most people will be invited for their second dose of coronavirus vaccine at around 8 weeks after their first dose.

If you have had your first dose 8 or more weeks ago, you can go to a drop-in clinic to get your second dose before your appointment.

Does the vaccine have COVID-19 in it?  

None of the three approved vaccines being used in Scotland contains the live COVID-19 virus.

The vaccines do not contain any animal products, eggs, gluten or wheat and are suitable for people with coeliac disease.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are known as mRNA vaccines, which means they use some material from the COVID-19 virus to help your body create an immune response to it. However, the protein it produces is harmless and is destroyed shortly after it is used.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is known as a viral vector vaccine, it uses a weakened version of a different virus, specifically a common cold virus found in chimpanzees called adenovirus. It has been modified to contain genetic material shared by the coronavirus although it cannot cause the illness. Once injected, it teaches the body to create an immune response to COVID-19 similar to how the mRNA vaccines work.

What are the potential side effects?   

All vaccines have potential side effects, but this doesn’t mean that the vaccine isn’t safe. When your body reacts to a vaccine it shows that the vaccine is teaching your body’s immune system how to protect itself from the disease. However, not everyone will get side effects. If you don’t, this doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working.

Most side effects will be mild (they can affect 1 in 10 people) and may last one or two days.

Side effects may include:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick
  • a high temperature
  • feeling hot and shivery for a day or two

Reports of serious side effects of the COVID-19 are rare. If you experience any side effects, you can take painkillers to manage them (follow the instructions on or in the packet) or call 111 if they worsen or you are worried.

There have also been rare but serious cases of blood clots occurring after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a slightly greater risk among younger people. Vaccine guidance now states that it is preferable for adults aged 18-39 to be offered an alternative vaccine.

Hear from young people over on our Instagram account about their experiences of side effects after having the vaccine.

Read more about possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS Inform site. 

Can you still get COVID-19 after having the vaccine?   

Yes, some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but the illness should be less severe. It is not yet known whether having the vaccine completely stops you spreading the virus to others, so it’s important that we all continue to follow the latest government advice.

No vaccine is 100% effective, however, scientific studies have shown that your chances of infection after having 1 or 2 doses are significantly reduced.

It can take several weeks for your immunity to build up after getting vaccinated. And whilst you may still contract COVID-19 your body will recognise this virus and respond effectively. Therefore, you should continue to follow any restrictions and following the FACTS.

When will under-18s get vaccinated?  

Currently, vaccination against COVID-19 is only being offered to people aged 18 or over in Scotland – unless you are 16/17 and are in one of the other priority groups such as you are a health and social care worker; and unpaid carer; have an underlying health condition yourself, or are a household contact of an adult with sever immunosuppression.

The decision about who will be offered a vaccine is made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the JCVI, which advises all 4 Nations across the UK on vaccine deployment and prioritisation.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women? 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines and you can have your vaccine at any time during pregnancy.

The available data does not indicate any harm to pregnancy from having the COVID-19 vaccine, however, there have not been any large-scale clinical trials. In the USA, around 90,000 pregnant people have had the vaccine and no safety concerns have been identified.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have produced guidance to help you make an informed decision. 

If you’re unsure and have questions about whether to get the vaccine, you will have an opportunity to talk with medical professionals to raise any concerns prior to consenting for vaccination.

Find out more on the NHS Inform website.

Does vaccination affect fertility? 

There is no evidence to suggest the COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility in women or men. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommend women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

The latest evidence shows that the vaccine is safe for those undergoing fertility treatment although timing around both treatments should be considered and discussed with your fertility experts to make sure that you get the treatment and support that’s right for you. There is no need to delay fertility treatment after having the COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you’re unsure or have questions, you can seek fertility advice from your local Health Care professionals for accurate information and guidance.

Find out more on the UK Government website.

If you have had COVID-19 and recovered, do you need to get vaccinated? 

The Royal College of Nursing advises that people previously infected with COVID-19 should still get vaccinated as there are no safety concerns and vaccination would be expected to boost any natural immunity.

Scientific studies carried out suggest that COVID-19 infection does offer natural immunity similar to vaccination, although it is not known how long this lasts.

How long does protection last after vaccination and will you need a booster dose? 

It’s not possible based on current scientific data to say exactly how long immunity from COVID-19 lasts after either vaccination or previous infection.

JCVI has provided interim advice about a potential coronavirus booster vaccine programme, in order to maximise protection in those who are most vulnerable to serious coronavirus ahead of the winter months.

The JCVI currently advises that any booster programme should be offered in two stages from September 2021. The first stage will include:

  • adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed 
  • those living in residential care homes for older adults 
  • all adults aged 70 years or over 
  • adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable 
  • frontline health and social care workers 

Stage 2 of the programme will include: 

  • all adults aged 50 years and over 
  • adults aged 16 to 49 years who are in an influenza (flu) or coronavirus at-risk group 
  • adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals 
  • The JCVI will continue to review the scientific data over the next few months, and their advice on a coronavirus booster programme may change. 

Find out more on the UK Government website

Hear from a vaccinator

For general Information on All Covid Vaccine Related Questions, please visit the NHS Inform coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine website or download the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 Vaccination booklet.

For more information about COVID-19 in Scotland head to our coronavirus page.