Coronavirus and COVID-19

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.

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna.

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.

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?

The order people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The purpose of this first phase of vaccination is to prevent as many deaths as possible. 

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. 

The vaccine is currently being offered to:

  • People aged 50 and over
  • People who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • People with other medical conditions that put them at higher risk. This includes COPD, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, and severe asthma
  • People who live with adults who are immunosuppressed 
  • Carers
  • People who live and work in care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers

The advice for everyone who is not yet eligible is to wait until you’re invited. Find out more about who can get the vaccine and book if you are eligible on the NHS website.

People who, after being identified by the new risk tool, are being newly added to the clinically extremely vulnerable list will also be prioritised for a vaccine. You can read more about this risk tool on our page outlining who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you have asthma, take a look at this blog on our sister charity Asthma UK's website, explaining the priority groups and what this means for people with asthma. 

JCVI has advised that the next phase of vaccination should also be focused on age. This means that the next order of vaccinations will be:

  • all those aged 40 – 49 years
  • all those aged 30 – 39 years
  • all those aged 18 – 29 years.

It is thought the second phase of vaccinations should begin in the middle of April.

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.

I live with someone who is shielding – will I be allowed to get the vaccine early, to protect them?

At the moment, you will only be able get the vaccine when you fall into the category of people being vaccinated. If the person you live with is immunosuppressed, then you are now eligible for the vaccine. 

Everyone will be offered a vaccine in due course. Whether or not you have been offered a vaccine, it’s very important you continue to protect yourself from catching the virus.

I’m a carer under the age of 65 – when will I be offered the vaccine?

Unpaid carers who get Carer’s Allowance or who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person (adult or child) 6 are now being prioritised for the vaccine. 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.

If you are a carer over the age of 65, you should have been offered the vaccine earlier in the initial priority groups.

Why aren’t all people with lung conditions being prioritised now?

The purpose of this first phase of vaccination is to prevent as many deaths as possible. Data has shown age to be the most important factor influencing a person’s individual risk, which is why the priority groups have been ordered by decreasing age. All people over the age of 50 will be included within these first nine priority groups

People with certain underlying conditions will also be prioritised. People with severe lung conditions, including COPD, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis and interstitial lung disease , will be included within this first phase of vaccination. People in certain professions, such as health and social care, will also be included.

If your age and condition does not include you within this first phase of vaccination, this is because data has shown you are not at an increased risk of death should you get coronavirus. All adults across the UK will be offered the vaccine in due course, and it is expected that all UK adults will be offered their first dose by the end of July. But at this stage of the vaccine programme, it’s important those who need the vaccine the most get the vaccine first.

What you need to know about the vaccine

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. All approved coronavirus vaccines have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, as set out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). All approved coronavirus vaccines must go through all the clinical trials and checks all other licensed medicines go through.

Make sure you’re only reading trusted information about the coronavirus 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. 

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.

How long will the vaccine protect me agains 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 get the vaccine?

At the moment, the approved coronavirus vaccines are only for use in adults. This is because there is very limited data on the use of vaccines in children, as the trials were focused on adults. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is authorised for use for people aged 16 and over. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Moderna vaccine is authorised for people aged 18 and over.

Young people aged 16 or over who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable will be vaccinated within priority group 4. Young people aged 16 or over with clinical vulnerabilities specified by the JCVI will be vaccinated within priority group 6. 

Data has shown that age is by far the most important factor influencing a person’s risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. It’s thought that although children can develop COVID-19, very few children develop severe symptoms, even if they have an underlying health condition. 

Trials have begun to test the vaccines on children. This data is essential to establish the safety and effectiveness of the use of vaccines in children, to help clinicians discuss the vaccine with children and their parents. It’s important the vaccine programme roll-out is guided by evidence and that those who need the vaccine the most get the vaccine first. 

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.

Adults who live with adults who are immunosuppressed are now being prioritised for their vaccine. This is because data has shown the virus doesn’t pass as easily in those who are vaccinated. By vaccinating close contacts of immunosuppressed people (who may not benefit fully from vaccination) this will help reduce the risk of infection in them.

If you are immunosuppressed, you should be contacted by your GP by letter explaining that your adult household contacts are now eligible for their vaccine. Any adults that fall into this category will use this letter, as well as an additional proof of matching address, to prove they are eligible – this will be requested at the vaccine appointment.

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.

If I’m not considered to be in a priority group, can I pay to be vaccinated sooner?

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. 

It’s not known to what extent 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.

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 30 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.

Travel to a vaccine appointment is considered essential, and so you can go to it using public transport. If you do take public transport, 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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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 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.

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 it’s not known yet how much the vaccine prevents transmission and 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 8 April 2021

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Last medically reviewed: April 2021. Due for review: April 2021

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.