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Coronavirus and COVID-19

Coronavirus vaccine: what people with lung conditions need to know

On this page we answer your questions on the coronavirus vaccine and explain what people living with lung conditions need to know.

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna. A fourth vaccine has also been authorised by the MHRA, developed by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

You can find out more about the coronavirus vaccine on the NHS website.

Advice for people living with a long-term lung condition, their family or carer

What you need to know about the vaccine

What you need to know about getting the vaccine

Advice for people living with a long-term lung condition, their family or carer

As a person with a lung condition, when can I get a vaccine?

Everyone in the UK aged 12 and over can get two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Find out more about the vaccine and book on the NHS website

Read more about children (people under 18) getting the vaccine.

What about the booster vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine booster programme will give people extra protection this winter. Everyone aged 16 and over is eligible for a booster vaccine. Booster vaccines will be prioritised according to age, as well as any risk factors for COVID-19 (factors that might make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19). Some children aged 12 or over are eligible for the coronavirus booster.

You can get your booster once three months have passed since your second dose of the coronavirus vaccination. You'll be invited to get your booster vaccine by your local NHS service. In England, people over 18 can also book online or go to a walk-in vaccination centre. Find out more about how and when to get your booster on the NHS website.

Find out when you will be offered your booster in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Most people will have the Pfizer vaccine for the booster (regardless of which vaccine you had for your first and second doses). A half dose of the Moderna vaccine has also been approved for use. If you can’t have Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you may be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Omicron variant

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a new variant of coronavirus called Omicron. Data suggests Omicron spreads more easily than other variants of coronavirus. It is not yet known if Omicron causes more serious illness. 

Early reports (from the UK Health and Security agency) show a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine (booster) offers people over 70% protection from getting seriously ill with coronavirus.

What’s the difference between the booster vaccine and the third primary dose?

The JCVI is advising that some people with a severely weakened immune system (immunosuppressed people) should be offered a third primary vaccine dose as part of the initial vaccine programme. It’s thought this will include some people with respiratory conditions, but the decision for who gets a third primary dose ultimately sits with the respiratory specialist.

This third primary dose is separate to the vaccine booster campaign. People who are eligible for a third primary dose will also be offered a booster vaccine (fourth dose), which will be given at least three months (12 weeks) after the third primary dose.

Will I get the coronavirus vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine?

You may be offered the coronavirus vaccine (including the booster) at the same time as your flu vaccine. For example, in situations where it makes practical sense for the booster to be given earlier, for example in care homes where residents were originally offered the first and second doses at separate times, or to allow someone who is housebound to get their COVID booster and flu vaccine at the same time. It is safe for the two vaccines to be given at the same time or separately.
 
It’s very important you get your flu vaccine, especially if you have a lung condition. Last year, because of preventative measures such as lockdowns and social distancing, levels of flu were very low.  It’s thought that as a result, people may have a lower immunity to flu this winter and flu levels could be very high.

Is the vaccine safe for people with lung conditions?

The vaccine is safe for people with lung conditions. The vaccine has been tested on people with long-term conditions and on people from a range of age groups, including older people. The JCVI has decided it is safe for people with long-term conditions and that people who are high-risk should be prioritised to get the vaccine first. There is no reason to think the vaccination interacts with any medications. Treatment you are on for your lung condition should continue as normal.

If you are on a blood thinner caller warfarin (used as treatment for pulmonary embolism) you should be going for regular blood tests to monitor the thickness of your blood. On the day of your vaccine appointment, make sure you know your latest reading and when you were last checked. If you don’t know your reading, you can get it from your GP surgery. If your reading is unknown, it could mean your vaccination might not be able to go ahead. Vaccination centres don’t have access to your medical records and so can’t look up your reading on the day.

If you have asthma and are treated with biologics (known as mAbs, or monoclonal antibodies), talk to your hospital clinician around the timing of your vaccine and your asthma biologic. There is no evidence to show the vaccines are unsafe for you, but it’s advised there should be, if possible, a 7-day gap between when you have the vaccine and your next asthma biologic.  These decisions should be made by your specialist, so it’s important not to stop taking or change any of your medicines without speaking to them first. You can read more about the coronavirus vaccine and biological therapy on the Asthma UK website.

All approved vaccines have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. All approved coronavirus vaccines must go through all the clinical trials and checks all other licensed medicines go through. Other vaccines are being developed and will only be available to the public once they’ve been thoroughly tested. 

You should only look at reliable sources of information about coronavirus vaccine that are updated regularly, such as this webpage and the NHS.

What you need to know about the vaccine

How have the vaccines been developed so quickly?

The speed at which the vaccines have been developed is a credit to the scientists and vaccine trial volunteers who helped develop them. It is not something to be concerned about. The approved coronavirus vaccines have had three stages of clinical trials and have been tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. There are extensive checks required at every stage of the development of any vaccine, and this is no different for a coronavirus vaccine. No stages in the development process have been bypassed.

The vaccines were developed so quickly because the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) made it their top priority. This meant that plans could be made for trials without having to wait for investment. Additionally, companies made decisions to begin large scale production of the vaccines while they were still being trialled. This has meant that if the vaccine is approved to be safe and effective, the company would quickly be ready to start distribution.

Time was also saved by running trials in parallel with one another. All vaccines are tested through three phases of clinical trials, to ensure they meet the gold standard. In an effort to find a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as possible, the trials were run in parallel once safety had been established. This sped up the overall time of vaccine production, but not the crucial research time.

How effective is the coronavirus vaccine? Is protection instant?

All approved coronavirus vaccines are very effective. But protection from any vaccine takes time to build up and, in general, the older you are the longer it takes. It’s thought that it will take at least 2 weeks in younger people and at least 3 weeks in older people before you can expect a good antibody response. 

A recent study has shown that fully vaccinated people are three times less likely to be infected with coronavirus. The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will give you some protection from the virus. But you need to have 2 doses of the vaccine to give you the best protection. Therefore, it’s really important you continue to protect yourself and others from catching or spreading the virus.

Does having the vaccine prevent me from catching the virus? Or just becoming ill with it?

All coronavirus vaccines are very effective at reducing your risk of becoming ill with the virus should you get COVID-19. 

It’s also now known that being vaccinated reduces your risk of becoming infected with the virus. A recent study has shown that fully vaccinated people are three times less likely to be infected with coronavirus. But no vaccine can be perfect so there is a small chance you can still get and spread the virus. So, it’s important after being vaccinated you continue to follow the guidance on social distancing for the area you live or work in, as well as continuing to regularly wash your hands.

Does having the vaccine stop me from giving the virus to other people (transmission rate)?

Data has now shown that being vaccinated prevents you from passing on the virus to others, if you were to catch COVID-19 after having the vaccine. It’s thought that having one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine cuts transmission rates by as much as half.

While this is encouraging news, it’s important that even after being vaccinated you continue to do what you can to prevent yourself from getting the virus. This includes following the social distancing guidance for where you live, wearing a face covering and continuing to regularly wash your hands.

How long will the vaccine protect me against the virus?

This isn’t known yet and will become clearer as time moves on and the volunteers who have had the vaccine are monitored.

Who can't get the coronavirus vaccine?

Most people can get the coronavirus vaccine.

You shouldn’t have the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients, or experience anaphylaxis after the first dose. 

Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. The vaccine is only being given in safe health care environments with facilities to treat allergic reactions if they happen. For advice specific to you and your condition, it’s best to speak to your GP who knows your medical history.

Can children (people under 18) get the vaccine?

Young people aged 16 to 17

All 16 and 17-year-olds can now get two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. 16 and 17-year-olds can get their second vaccine 12 weeks after their first dose. You can book your jabs in different ways, depending on where you live:

All young people aged 16 or over are now eligible for a booster vaccine once three months have passed since their second coronavirus vaccine. It's currently unclear how 16 and 17-year-olds will be offered their booster vaccine. 

Read more about the coronavirus booster vaccine on the NHS website.

Children aged 12-15

All children in the UK aged 12-15 can now also get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. In England, 12-15-year-old children will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school, but walk-in centres are now becoming available. If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 they need to wait four weeks before they can have their vaccine. All second doses will be given once 12 weeks have passed since their first dose.

Some children aged 12-15 are also eligible for a booster vaccine, once three months has passed since their main doses: 

  • Those who are in a clinical risk group (have a health condition that puts them at a higher risk of being seriously ill with COVID-19).
  • Those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed (someone with a weakened immune system, for example, someone who has had a transplant or is on certain treatments). 

Parental, guardian or carer's consent will be needed by vaccination health care staff prior to vaccinating. There may, rarely, be a situation where the parent does not consent, but the child wants the vaccine. In this case, a child who is considered by a health care professional to be capable of making an informed choice about vaccination can have the vaccine without a parent’s consent.

Children aged 5-11  

The JCVI has said some children aged 5-11 should be offered coronavirus vaccinations:

  • if they are in a clinical risk group
  • if they live in a household of someone who is immunosuppressed

If they are eligible, children can get two smaller doses of the Pfizer vaccine, given 8 weeks apart.

It’s not clear yet how children of this age group will be offered the vaccines.

What is in the coronavirus vaccines?

The approved coronavirus vaccines do not contain any components of animal origin. 

A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the vaccines can be found:

You shouldn’t have the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients, or experience anaphylaxis after the first dose.  For advice specific to you and your condition, it’s best to speak to your GP or a health care professional who knows your medical history.

I’m immunosuppressed – is it safe for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s safe for people who are immunosuppressed to get the vaccine, but it’s not clear yet how effective it will be for this group of people. So, if you’re immunosuppressed, it’s very important you continue to take steps to protect yourself from catching the virus, even after you’ve had the vaccine. It’s worth asking those you live with to do these as well.

The JCVI is advising that some people with a severely weakened immune system (immunosuppressed people) should be offered a third vaccine dose as part of the initial vaccine programme. The third dose will be offered to people over the age of 12 who (at the time of their first or second dose) were severely immunosuppressed. This includes those with leukaemia, advanced HIV and recent organ transplants. This is because these people may not respond fully to vaccination, and might therefore be less protected than the wider population. This third dose is separate to any booster campaign.

If I’ve had COVID-19, can I have the vaccine?

If you’ve had a confirmed case of COVID-19 you should wait around 4 weeks after you had symptoms, or 4 weeks since your positive test if you didn’t have any symptoms, and until you have recovered from your COVID-19 infection, before having the vaccine. If you’re unsure, you should speak to your health care professional.

Vaccine trials have been focused on people who haven’t been exposed to the virus. However, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has said that getting vaccinated is just as important for people who have had COVID-19 as it is for people who haven’t. Therefore it’s advised everyone should get the vaccine when they are invited to do so.

If you have symptoms that could be coronavirus you should get a test and not get your vaccine until your period of self-isolation has ended. Have a look at what to do if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

Can I have the vaccine if I’m experiencing symptoms of long COVID?

There isn’t any evidence to suggest the vaccine will cause symptoms of long COVID to be made worse. If you’ve had a confirmed case of coronavirus you should still have the vaccine when you are invited to do so. Although it is hoped people who have had the virus will have some level of immunity, this isn’t guaranteed, and it is thought that vaccine-induced immunity will be stronger.

You should still be vaccinated when you have the opportunity and are fully recovered. If you are experiencing persisting symptoms of COVID-19 and are offered the vaccine, you should speak to your health care professional. Having persisting symptoms should not stop you having the COVID-19 vaccine. But, if you are experiencing these, your vaccination may be delayed until you are feeling better. This is so you know how you feel isn't a side effect of the vaccine.

What are the side effects?

Most side effects are mild and shouldn’t last longer than a week. These are:

  • sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • feeling achy

If you need to, these can be treated with painkillers like paracetamol.

Serious side effects from the coronavirus vaccines are extremely rare. But if you experience any of the below, 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination, seek medical advice urgently:

  • a new, severe headache that isn’t helped by painkillers, or is getting worse
  • a headache that seems worse when lying down or bending over
  • an unusual headache accompanied by:
    • blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
    • difficulty talking
    • weakness, drowsiness or seizures
  • new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain.   

Even after a vaccine is approved, scientists continue to monitor its safety to identify any rare or long-term side effects.

Blood clots and the vaccine

There have recently been reports of a very rare condition involving blood clots after vaccination. While this condition remains extremely rare, there appears to be a higher risk in people shortly after the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. Around 4 people develop this condition for every million doses given. It’s seen as slightly more in younger people (under the age of 30) and tends to occur between 4 days and 2 weeks following vaccination.

The benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh any risks  and you should still get your vaccine when invited to do so. All approved vaccines are very effective and will save lives.

If you have already had your first dose of the AZ vaccine and haven’t had any serious side effects, you should complete the course and come forward for your second dose, which will still be the AZ vaccine. It’s important to have both doses to give you the best protection from COVID-19.

Is one vaccine better than the other? Will I have a choice in the vaccine I get?

All approved vaccines are very effective and will save lives. They will have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). You will not be able to choose which vaccine you have, but you can be assured the vaccine you get will be highly effective and will protect you from coronavirus.

While the MHRA is not recommending age restrictions in the AZ vaccine use, JCVI has said that people under the age of 40 who are having their first dose should be offered another vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine, if it’s available to them.

How do I know if information I have seen is accurate?

With inaccurate or misleading information being shared about the vaccine, it can be confusing to know whether or not something you’ve read is accurate. Make sure you are only getting your information from trusted sources, such as our website or the NHS. The SHARE checklist is a useful tool to help you spot false information. You could also take a look at the online game Go Viral, a 5 minute game helping to protect you against COVID-19 misinformation from social media.

It’s important for everyone to stop the spread of misinformation when it comes to coronavirus.

Is having the vaccine compatible with my religion?

Religious leaders and organisations across the world have accepted and endorsed the coronavirus vaccines to encourage as many communities as possible to have the coronavirus vaccine when they are offered it.

The British Islamic Medical Association has recommended the use of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccines for eligible people in Muslim communities.  The approved coronavirus vaccines do not contain any animal products and are halal. 

Christian leaders have come out in support of the COVID-19 vaccines.  

The BBC has produced a coronavirus vaccine Q&A in five South Asian languages: Gujarati, Punjabi, Sylheti, Tamil and Urdu.

What you need to know about getting the vaccine

Protecting yourself while you wait for the vaccine

Even though vaccines are being rolled out, you may not get yours for a while. This makes it very important you continue to protect yourself from catching or spreading the virus while you wait for yours. This includes:

  • following the government guidance that’s applicable to you (where you live and how vulnerable you are)
  • washing your hands often, with warm water and soap, or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • staying at least 2m apart from people you don’t live with, or are in your support bubble
  • wearing a face covering, if you can wear one. 

You should continue to follow this government guidance even after having your vaccine.

Read our guidance on understanding your risk of catching or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 if you have a lung condition. 

How will I know when I can get my vaccine?

You'll be invited to get a vaccine as soon as it's your turn, probably by letter, text or email. Sometimes the NHS will call you at short notice if a vaccination slot becomes available. It will be explained to you how you can book your slot over the phone, or online through the NHS booking service. It will not be possible to use the NHS booking service if you haven’t been invited for your vaccine.

You might be contacted by your GP surgery, a hospital or care home if you work there, or through vaccination hubs, which are being set up around the country. You will only be contacted to attend a vaccination by the NHS.

You will not be asked to give any bank details or any form of payment for the coronavirus vaccine. If you get an email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS and you’re asked to provide financial details, this is a scam.  

The NHS will not ask for your bank account or card details, or your PIN or online banking passwords. The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to give you the vaccine.

For more information on understanding coronavirus vaccine scams, take a look at the Action Fraud website.

Where will my vaccine be given? What happens if I can’t make it to a centre?

The COVID-19 vaccine programme is the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS. Because of this, there are now many different places that can offer the vaccine. This includes dedicated local vaccination centres, hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies, as well as other less traditional settings, like cinemas and a mosque.

The NHS will contact you when it’s your turn to get the vaccine. It will be explained to you how you can book your slot over the phone, or online through the NHS booking service. It will not be possible to use the NHS booking service if you haven’t been invited for your vaccine.

If you take public transport to get to your vaccine appointment, make sure you follow the government advice on face coverings for your area.

It’s expected that everyone in England should live within 10 miles of a place where they can be vaccinated. For a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to you by mobile teams. If you can’t go to one of the large vaccination centres, you’ll be able to choose whether you’ll have your vaccine at your GP surgery when it’s available there, or at a pharmacy.

You can see an up to date map of COVID vaccination centres in Wales on the government website.

In Scotland, vaccines are being delivered in GP practices, health centres, local clinics and mass vaccination centres, including at Edinburgh International Conference Centre and Aberdeen’s P&J LIVE. For some remote communities, a mobile vaccination unit may be set up to offer immunisation. You can read updates on the vaccine delivery programme in Scotland on the government website. 

In Northern Ireland, vaccines are being delivered by Trust vaccination sites and GP practices. You can read more about the vaccination programme on the NIDirect website.

What do I need to bring with me on the day of the vaccine?

On the day of your vaccinations, you should bring with you a face covering (unless if you are exempt) and your booking reference numbers, if your appointment is at a vaccination centre. If you need a carer, they can come with you on the day of your vaccine appointment.

If you take medication, you should bring a list of these with you to the vaccination centre. Don’t bring the medicines themselves. 

If you are on a blood thinner caller warfarin (used as treatment for pulmonary embolism) you should be going for regular blood tests to monitor the thickness of your blood. On the day of your vaccine appointment, make sure you know your latest reading and when you were last checked. If you don’t know your reading, you can get it from your GP surgery. If your reading is unknown, it could mean your vaccination might not be able to go ahead. Vaccination centres don’t have access to your medical records and so can’t look up your reading on the day.

If I feel ill on the day of my vaccine, what should I do?

If you have a minor illness without fever, you should still go to your vaccine appointment. If you feel very unwell, your vaccine might be postponed until you’ve recovered. 

If you feel unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, do not attend your appointment. You should self-isolate and book a test. You should contact the vaccine centre where you were due to get your vaccine to let them know.

I feel ill after having my vaccine – what should I do?

Experiencing mild side effects after having the coronavirus vaccine is common and isn’t anything to worry about. They can happen up to a week after having the vaccine but are more common in the first couple of days. These symptoms can be treated with paracetamol if you need to. 

If your symptoms get worse, or you are worried, call NHS 111 or your GP for advice. You can also report suspected side effects through the Yellow Card scheme. You can do this online by searching Coronavirus Yellow Card or by downloading the Yellow Card app. 

A mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination. But if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, you should take appropriate steps by staying at home and arranging a test. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature 
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

The coronavirus vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. But it is possible to catch the virus and not realise you had symptoms until after your vaccine appointment.

Is the vaccine available across the UK?

Yes. The government is working closely with the devolved administrations to make sure there’s an aligned approach to the delivery of the vaccine across the 4 nations.

I am pregnant or breastfeeding and have a lung condition – should I have the coronavirus vaccine?

The JCVI has advised that pregnant people should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based their age and clinical risk group.

After testing, there have been no specific safety concerns with any brand of coronavirus vaccine in relation to pregnancy. In the US, around 90,000 pregnant people have been vaccinated, mainly with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, with no reported safety concerns. Therefore, the JCVI has advised that it would be preferable for pregnant people to be offered these 2 vaccines where available.

It’s still advised that pregnant people should discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination with their clinician, including the latest evidence on safety and which vaccine they should receive.

People who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk.

How long do I have to wait before I have the second injection for the vaccine?

The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for most people for up to 3 months. Therefore, it’s advised people should have their second dose 8 - 12 weeks after the first. You can read more about this on the NHS website.

What should I do once I’ve had the vaccine?

Once you’ve had your vaccine, it’s really important you continue to follow the government guidance for wherever you live or work. This is because you could still carry the virus and pass it onto others . Take a look at the current guidance for:

It’s important everyone continues to take steps to prevent the spread by stringently following government guidance, even after they’ve been vaccinated.


What you can read next:

Last updated: Thursday 23 December 2021

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Last medically reviewed: January 2022. Due for review: January 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.