Coronavirus vaccine: what people with lung conditions need to know
We’re working hard to get more information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to you as quickly as possible. Please check back regularly – we will be updating this page as soon as new information is available.
Two approved COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out in the UK. The vaccines approved for use in the UK have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca. The Moderna vaccine has also been approved for use in the UK, with doses available in the Spring.
The vaccines are being offered in stages and you’ll be contacted when it’s your turn to get the vaccine. You can find out more about the coronavirus vaccine on the NHS website.
On this page:
- When can I get the vaccine?
- Is the vaccine safe for people with lung conditions?
- Who can't get the coronavirus vaccine?
- I’m immunosuppressed – is it safe for me to get the vaccine?
- I’ve had COVID-19 – can I have the vaccine?
- Can I pay to get vaccinated earlier?
- I live with someone who is shielding – will I be allowed to get the vaccine early?
- I’m a carer under the age of 65 – when will I be offered the vaccine?
- How can I protect myself while I wait for the vaccine?
- How will I know when it’s my turn to get the vaccine?
- Is the vaccine available across the UK?
- How effective is the coronavirus vaccine?
- How long does it take for the vaccine to work?
- What are the side effects of the vaccine?
- Can I get the coronavirus vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine?
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding and the vaccine
- How long do I have to wait before I have the second injection?
- Is one vaccine better than the other? Will I have a choice in the vaccine I get?
The order people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The main criteria used to decide how soon you get a vaccine is your age. This is because the older you are, the higher your risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
- if you’re aged 80 and over, you’ll be in priority group 2
- if you’re aged 75 and over, you’ll be in priority group 3
- if you’re aged 70 and over, you’ll be in priority group 4. You’ll also be in this group if you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group and aged under 70
- if you’re aged 65 and over, you’ll be in priority group 5
- if you’re aged 16 – 64, have a long-term lung condition but aren’t clinically extremely vulnerable, you’ll be in priority group 6
There isn’t a set timescale for when all the priority groups will be vaccinated. The NHS has begun vaccinating people in priority group 4, but it may be a little while until you’re invited for yours. When you will get your vaccine is dependent on various factors, like capacity in the NHS and the amount of people in your local area who fall into the priority group.
The advice for everyone is to wait until you’re invited and not to contact the NHS. We will keep this page updated as and when we learn more.
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.
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.
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.
The approved coronavirus vaccines do not contain animal products or egg.
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.
If you’ve had a confirmed case of COVID-19 you should wait until at least 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.
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.
No. Because supplies are limited, the vaccine is only available through the NHS, to make sure that people who need it the most get access to it first.
The JCVI recommendations are focused on protecting those most at risk of dying or becoming seriously ill. It’s not known yet if the coronavirus vaccines stop the virus from being passed on, so the aim of the vaccination programme is to protect those who are at highest risk of illness.
You will only be able get the vaccine when you fall into the category of people being vaccinated. This is because it’s not known if the vaccine stops the virus being transmitted to other people. Until this is known, it’s best to focus on vaccinating people who are at highest risk of becoming ill.
Everyone will be offered a vaccine in due course. Until you’re invited to get yours, it’s very important you continue to protect yourself from catching the virus.
Unpaid carers who get Carer’s Allowance or who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person (adult or child) will be in priority group 6. This is to help prevent the person’s care being interrupted, should the carer become ill.
If you fall into this category, it’s important your GP practice knows you are a carer so they can invite you for your vaccine along with priority group 6.
If you are a carer over the age of 65, you should be offered the vaccine earlier in the initial priority groups.
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.
Read our guidance on understanding your risk of catching or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 if you have a lung condition.
You'll be invited to get a vaccine as soon as it's your turn, probably by letter. Don’t contact the NHS for your vaccine, the NHS will contact you.
This could be through 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.
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.
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.
This isn’t clear yet, but it’s thought protective immunity builds within 4 weeks of the first dose of the vaccine (but it could be earlier than that). We will keep this page updated when we learn more about this.
Most side effects are mild and shouldn’t last longer than a week. These are:
- sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- feeling achy
If you need to, these can be treated with painkillers like paracetamol.
Even after a vaccine is approved, scientists continue to monitor its safety to identify any rare or long-term side effects.
It’s recommended you leave at least 7 days between getting your flu (or any other) vaccine and your COVID-19 vaccine. It’s very important that you get your flu vaccine, especially if you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group, as catching coronavirus and flu this winter could be very dangerous.
There isn’t any evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But as the vaccines haven’t yet been tested on people who are pregnant, more evidence is needed before people who are pregnant are routinely offered the vaccine.
The JCVI has recognised that for some pregnant people, there are potentially strong benefits of being vaccinated now, rather than waiting until pregnancy is over. This includes people who are at very high risk of either catching the virus, or becoming seriously ill with the virus (clinically extremely vulnerable). If you fall into this category it’s advised you talk to your health care professional. They’ll be able to discuss with you the benefits and risks of having the COVID-19 vaccine. You can read more about pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccines on the government website.
There isn’t any data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding, or on the child being breastfed. However, the vaccines are not thought to be a risk. Because of this, and that the benefits of breastfeeding are well known, the JCVI has recommended the vaccine can be given to people who are breastfeeding.
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 now advised people should have their second dose 12 weeks after the first. This extended gap between the first and second dose will mean that more people will be able to have the first dose of the vaccine sooner. You can read more about this on the NHS website.
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.
What you can read next:
- Coronavirus and living with a lung condition
- Guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable
- Should I wear a face covering?
- What if I have symptoms of coronavirus?
- What’s the difference between self-isolation and social distancing?
Last updated: Friday 22 January 2021
Help us offer advice and support to everyone who needs us
As a charity, British Lung Foundation provides free health advice to millions of people through our website and our specialist helpline - a team dedicated to offering life-changing advice over the phone.
As the UK's leading respiratory charity, now more than ever before people need our help, yet COVID-19 has devastated our ability to raise vital funds.
Your support can help us to continue being there for everyone who needs us. If you've benefited from this advice today, if you can, please make a small donation to help ensure we can give you the support you need now and in the future.