Page updated: Friday 09 April 2021
The COVID-19 vaccination programme is continuing at pace, but we know many of you are understandably concerned and have questions about coronavirus vaccines. In this section we have put together answers to some frequently asked questions.
An effective vaccine is the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives.
Following extensive safety trials and authorisation by the independent regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), effective COVID-19 vaccines are available in the UK for free.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable and don't have an appointment to receive the vaccine, you can book an appointment over the phone or online. Details on how to book an appointment can be found on the NHS website.
Are the vaccines safe for people with bowel cancer?
The vaccines are safe for people with bowel cancer who are having cancer treatment and/or on clinical trials.
You'll be contacted directly by the public health team or your GP practice when it's your turn to be vaccinated. They'll give you the full details of where you should go and what you need to do to receive the vaccine.
It's recommended that you don't receive the vaccine on the same day as your cancer treatment, if:
- you're experiencing severe side effects from treatment
- you're within seven days before a scheduled surgery and until full recovery after being discharged.
All vaccines go through robust clinical trials, safety checks and quality controls to make sure they're safe and to maximise patient benefit. The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world and the MHRA is globally recognised for requiring the highest standards for quality, safety and medicines regulation.
The trials for the vaccines involved lots of different people with underlying health conditions so that researchers can see if the vaccines have an effect on them. There's no indication that there should be any difficulty in giving the vaccines to people with underlying conditions.
If you have any worries or questions, speak to your healthcare team.
Will the vaccines protect me from getting COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved in the UK are effective at protecting against coronavirus. The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection. Having two doses of the vaccine will protect you against COVID-19 for longer.
On 11 March, a small-scale research study suggested that cancer patients may be less protected against COVID-19 than other people after one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The vaccine may be less effective in some cancer patients. This might be because their immune systems are weaker due to treatment, such as from chemotherapy, radiotherapy or targeted therapies. More research is needed to fully understand why the vaccine is less effective after one dose in people with cancer and what happens after the second dose.
The vaccines do still give some protection against the virus and so it is important that people continue to have the vaccine.
There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. This is why it is important to continue to follow social distancing guidance.
You can't catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. The Government is closely monitoring the impact on individuals, on NHS pressures and on the spread of the virus.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of the side effects are mild and don't usually last longer than a week. Not everyone will get side effects.
The side effects can include:
- having a sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
- feeling or being sick.
If you have a history of serious allergic reactions to the ingredients in the vaccines, you shouldn't get the vaccine. A list of ingredients in the vaccines can be found here:
If you have a history of serious reactions to other allergens such as foods and certain medicines, you can have the vaccine.
When will I get the vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccines the UK should use and give advice on who should be offered the vaccine first.
All clinically extremely vulnerable people and people with conditions that put them at higher risk of severe symptoms of coronavirus can book an appointment to receive the vaccine. Anyone over the age of 16 and living with adults who have weakened immune systems are also able to have the vaccine. People with weaker immune systems are more likely to have a serious reaction to COVID-19, and growing evidence suggests that people who have had the COVID-19 vaccine may have a lower chance of passing on the virus. Vaccinating people over the age of 16 who live with adults with weakened immune systems will help limit the spread of the virus to this vulnerable group.
People who have weakened immune systems include:
- people who are having, or are planned to have, chemotherapy, some radiotherapies or targeted therapies
- people who have genetic disorders affecting the immune system
For the full list of who can have the vaccine, visit the NHS website.
You can book an appointment over the phone or online. Details on how to book an appointment can be found on the NHS website.
More information about when you can get the vaccine can be found below:
Some vaccination sites that have enough vaccines and capacity to vaccinate people in lower priority groups are allowed to invite these people in. This is why in some places some people are getting vaccines at slightly different times to others.
Speak to your healthcare team if you have any questions about the vaccine and your treatment.
Ramadan and the COVID-19 vaccine
If you're observing Ramadan and have an appointment during this time, you can still have the vaccine. Getting the jab does not break the fast during daylight hours over Ramadan.
Some NHS vaccination sites across England are extending their opening hours so that Muslims can receive the jab after they have eaten and make it easier for people to find a convenient slot.
I'm not having cancer treatment at the moment, can I still get the vaccine?
If you're planned to have treatment for cancer soon, you may be offered the vaccine before your operation or before the start of your treatment. This can depend on different factors, for example how safe it is to delay your cancer treatment by around a couple of weeks, to allow time for you to have the vaccine. Urgent treatments shouldn't be delayed by vaccination.
You may also have the vaccine if you have finished cancer treatment and are having regular follow up appointments.
Ask your healthcare team if you can have the vaccine or have any questions about the vaccine and your treatment.
If I've had my vaccination against COVID-19, should I still follow guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people?
Yes. Even if you have had both doses of the vaccine, you should continue to take extra precautions to keep yourself safe and follow government advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people. This is until further notice as experts continue to assess the impact of vaccination among all groups.
The people you live with should continue to follow the public health rules and guidance as long as they are in place, including if you have received the vaccine and if they have received the vaccine.
For more information and advice if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, visit our webpage.
Can I choose which vaccine I have?
No. All of the vaccines that are available have been approved because they pass the MHRA's tests on safety and are effective in protecting you against COVID-19.
Are the vaccines compulsory?
There are currently no plans in place to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory. The UK operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations.
For full information about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the government websites for your nation.
Listen to Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Professor Mark Saunders answer a range of questions about the coronavirus vaccine and bowel cancer in the video below.