COVID-19 vaccine FAQ's

The NHS team in South West London have put together some helpful frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. The page includes information such as what is in the vaccines and how they work.

If you have any questions that are not answered here, please speak to your GP. 

You can also drop into one of the NHS walk in sessions to ask questions, with no pressure to have the vaccine. 


Sutton council held some open question and answer sessions with local Drs and clinical experts about the vaccine. Below are some of the questions Sutton residents asked, with the response from the Drs and specialists on the panel. 

Vaccine and fertility / pregnancy questions from Sutton residents

Can having the vaccine affect my fertility now or in the future?
There is no link between the COVID-19 vaccines and fertility. The recorded levels of ‘accidental’ pregnancy for those who have had the vaccine and those who have not are similar. There is​ ​no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women's fertility.

Is the vaccine safe in pregnancy/what data do we have?
COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women. There is less data available for the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy as the virus is relatively new. However, we do have real-world data from the United States where around 100,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna these cases have not raised any safety concerns. 

Have there been any recorded side effects for pregnant women or babies?
The data we have so far shows there is no more risk to mother and baby from having the vaccine. There have been no increase in birth defects or misccariage recorded from those who have had the COVID-19 vaccine. There is however a small risk of complications from contracting covid-19 while pregnant. 

What long term impact will there be on the child?
We do not have long term data as the vaccine is new, but the vaccine works in a similar way to other vaccines and there have not been long term effects from those.  

When is the right time to have the vaccine when I am pregnant?
Many people choose to have the vaccine after the 12 week period, as during this time the baby is developing. It would be good to consider having the vaccine earlier, to reduce the chances of getting COVID-19 in the later stages of pregnancy. This is a personal decision and should be considered on a case by case basis, please speak to your healthcare team to assess the options based on your personal medical history. 

Will I automatically be offered the vaccine if I am pregnant?
No, being pregnant does not automatically put you into the high priority groups, you will be offered the vaccine based on age, or if you are classed as higher risk due to other medical factors. However once your age group has been offered the vaccine, you can tick the ‘pregnant’ option on the NHS national booking website, this will then class you as a higher priority within your age group. 

I have had the first dose before I was pregnant, should I get my second dose? 
All individual cases should be discussed with your healthcare team but in general yes. You will get more immunity from 2nd vaccination, so you should go ahead with your second vaccine. 

Should I have the vaccine if I have had complications in pregnancy?
Please speak to your medical healthcare team, but in general yes. Pregnancy complications are more likely to occur if you catch covid, and there is no evidence that the vaccine will increase complications. 

Which vaccine will I be offered? 
Anyone under 40 will be offered Pfizer or Moderna and most pregnant women, regardless of age are likely to be offered one of these, unless there is a reason to be offered a specific vaccine. Please speak to your GP about this if you have concerns. 

Should I take the vaccine if I plan to have IVF? 
The vaccine does not interfere with IVF treatment. Please speak to your GP and the IVF team who will know more about your medical history if you are planning IVF. 

Why should pregnant women have the vaccine?
The vaccine is our best defence against the virus. There are slightly increased risks in later pregnancy if you catch COVID-19 so the vaccine would protect you. It is a personal choice that should be made in consultation with your medical team. 

Should I stop Breastfeeding if I have the vaccine?
Although there is a lack of data for these specific vaccinations in breastfeeding, there is no plausible mechanism by which any vaccine ingredient could pass to your baby through breast milk. You should therefore not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Should I wait until I give birth to take the vaccine?
Please speak to your healthcare team, there are slightly increased risks in later pregnancy if you catch COVID-19 so the vaccine would protect you. It is a personal choice that should be made in consultation with your medical team. 

I am pregnant and on immune suppressants, should I avoid the vaccine?
This is a discussion you should have with your healthcare team. If you are on immunosuppressants you are likely to be classed as rigger risk and as such should consider taking the vaccine unless specifically advised not to by your specialist healthcare professional.

Are pregnant women at higher risk of serious illness if they catch COVID 19?
Although it's very rare for pregnant women to become seriously ill if they get COVID-19, it may be more likely later in pregnancy. If this happens, there's a small chance your baby may be born early or you may be advised to give birth earlier than your due date.

It's important to follow social distancing advice throughout your pregnancy and especially when you're more than 28 weeks pregnant (in your 3rd trimester). Speak to your healthcare team about vaccine options. 

Questions from Sutton's African and Caribbean communities

Does taking vitamin D and sunshine reduce the risks of the virus?
Taking vitamin D supplements, especially for those with darker skin, and during the winter months, is very important for your overall health. Being in good overall health will help your body to better fight off any virus or infection. However, it will not stop you getting Covid-19 and you should still have the vaccine when you are offered it. 

I have had my first dose, I know this gives me some coverage, do I need to take the 2nd dose? 
You need both doses to get maximum coverage, to reduce transmission and reduce the potential of other variants developing.  Protection against the Delta variant (now the predominant variant in the UK), in particular, is much stronger after two doses than one.

Is the vaccine safe? Has it been tested for long enough? 
The global pandemic has focused minds across the globe, which is why we have been able to produce this vaccine. This area of vaccine research has been around for many years, so it has been a case of adapting it to our current needs. The testing and quality assurance  process has been held to the same high standards as any other vaccine development programmes.

I heard the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting or passing on the virus so why should I take it? 
The vaccine stops you from getting seriously ill from the virus. The most recent data demonstrates that the vaccines are preventing over 90% of hospitalisations.

How do we know what the long term impacts are?
We do not have long term data as the vaccine is new, but the vaccine works in a similar way to other vaccines and there have not been long term effects from those. At the same time we know that if you do get COVID then you run the risk of long-term complications which can include damage to your heart, lungs and chronic fatigue.

If I am not in a high risk category why should I take the vaccine? 
Taking the vaccine prevents ourselves and others from serious illness. Your parents or grandparents could be at high risk. We need to protect London by taking the vaccine to build community resilience.
How do I reassure an elderly relative about the vaccine?
Listen and be respectful. Provide accurate information and be understanding. 
There are some helpful videos from experts that may be useful to share with them. 

What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Millions of people have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and the safety of the vaccines continues to be monitored. Reports of serious side effects are very rare. Like all medicines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You may also get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after your vaccination. You can take painkillers such as paracetamol if you need to. If your symptoms get worse or you're worried, call 111.

What specific research has been done on the vaccine and conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell etc.
The vaccine works in a similar way to some existing vaccines. Having an existing illness could put you at higher risk from serious illness if you catch COVID-19, the vaccine will reduce this risk and protect you. Please speak to your GP if you have specific medical concerns.