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What is COVID-19 or Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus, known as SARS-Cov-2. It was first identified in late 2019. It is very infectious and can lead to severe respiratory disease.

Many people who are infected may not have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. These commonly start with cough, fever, headache and loss of taste or smell.

Some people will feel very tired, have aching muscles, sore throat, diarrhoea and vomiting, fever and confusion. A small number of people then go on to have severe disease which may require hospitalisation or admission to intensive care.

Overall less than 1 in 100 people who are infected will die from COVID-19, but this is closer to 1 in 10 of those over 75 years of age. There is no cure for COVID-19 although some newly tested treatments do help to reduce the risk of complications.

Which vaccine will I get? 

In the UK, we will only use COVID-19 vaccines that meet the required standards of safety and effectiveness. All medicines, including vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used.

Each vaccine was tested in tens of thousands of people in several different countries and shown to be safe and effective. You will be given one of these vaccines depending on which one is available. These vaccines may not have a full UK marketing authorisation (license) yet but will have been authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) based on a full assessment of their safety and effectiveness. The MHRA will only approve a vaccine for supply in the UK if the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.
The vaccines currently available require two separate doses to provide the best longer-term protection

Who should have a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.

This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.

Coronavirus can affect anyone. If you are an older adult and have a long-term health condition, COVID-19 can be very serious and in some cases fatal.

You should have the COVID-19 vaccine if you are:
  • an adult living or working in a care home for older adults
  • a frontline healthcare worker
  • a frontline social care worker
  • a domiciliary carer providing personal care
  • aged 65 years and over
  • in the clinically extremely vulnerable group

Everyone who is in the clinically extremely vulnerable group will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Whether you are offered the vaccine may depend on the severity of your condition. Your GP can advise on whether you are eligible.

The vaccine will also be offered to those aged 16 years and over with conditions such as:
  •  blood cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  •  diabetes   
  •  a heart problem
  •  a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
  •  kidney disease
  •  liver disease
  •  lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as HIV infection, steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
  •  having had an organ transplant
  •  having had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  •  a neurological or muscle wasting condition including epilepsy and dementia
  •  severe or profound learning disability
  •  Down’s syndrome
  •  a problem with your spleen, e.g. sickle cell disease, or having had your spleen removed
  •  being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
  •  severe mental illness
At the same time as those aged 16-64 years with long term health conditions the vaccine will also then be offered to: 
  • those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
  • younger adults in long stay nursing and residential settings, and staff

After these groups, those aged 50-64 will be offered vaccination.

When more vaccine becomes available in 2021 it will be offered to more groups of the population.

I am pregnant or breastfeeding, or might be pregnant, can I have the vaccine? 

COVID-19 vaccines are not currently recommended during pregnancy. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not have the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. If you think you may be pregnant or are planning a pregnancy within three months of the first dose you should wait until your pregnancy is completed before you are vaccinated. You should have the vaccine as soon as possible afterwards if eligible. You should avoid becoming pregnant until at least two months after the second dose of the vaccine.

This advice is precautionary until additional evidence is available to support the use of this vaccine in pregnancy and breast feeding. Many vaccines can be safely given in pregnancy, further information on the use of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy is expected and the guidance will be reviewed as soon as it becomes available.

Who else cannot have the vaccine?

If you have ever had an immediate-onset anaphylaxis to any medicine, vaccine or food you should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. A small number of people cannot have COVID-19 vaccines – this includes people who have had an anaphylactic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine.

The vaccines do not contain living organisms, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine.

If you are currently unwell with a fever, or have had another vaccine in the 7 days before your planned appointment, or a positive COVID-19 test in the last 28 days you should book a later appointment.

Will the vaccine protect me?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a week or two after your second dose for your body to build up protection from the vaccine.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is 100% effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

Will the vaccine have side effects? 

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.

Very common side effects include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection for several days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

A mild fever may occur for two to three days after vaccination but a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection. You can take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) and rest to help you feel better. Do not exceed the normal dose. A less common side effect is swelling of the local glands.

Rarely, some people have an allergic reaction soon after a vaccination. This may be a rash or itching affecting part or all of the body. Even more rarely, some people can have a severe reaction soon after vaccination, which causes breathing difficulties and may cause them to collapse. This is called anaphylaxis and can happen with other medicines and food. These reactions are rare and nurses are trained to manage them. People who have an anaphylactic reaction can be successfully treated and usually recover within a few hours.

Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, look at 111.wales.nhs.uk online, and if necessary call NHS 111 Wales on 111 or your GP surgery. If 111 is not available in your area, call 0845 46 47. Calls to NHS 111 Wales are free from landlines and mobiles. Calls to 0845 46 47 cost 2p per minute plus your telephone provider’s usual access charge.

If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them your vaccination card if possible) so that they can assess you properly.  

You can also report any side effects through the Yellow Card scheme.

Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. But it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:
  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • some people also have a sore throat, headache, nasal congestion, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting 

If you have any of the symptoms above, stay at home and arrange to have a test. If you need more information on symptoms visit https://111.wales.nhs.uk/

What should I do next? 

You will receive information about when and where to get vaccinated. On the day of your appointment, wear practical clothing so it’s easy to access your upper arm. If you have a fear of needles or feel anxious, let the person giving you your vaccine know. They will be understanding and can support you.

What should I do if I am unwell on the appointment day? 

If you are acutely unwell with a fever, call to cancel and wait until you have recovered to have the vaccine. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating or waiting for a COVID-19 test or result.

Can I give COVID-19 to anyone, after I have had the vaccine?

Two doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not know yet whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. So, it is important you continue to follow the COVID-19 guidance to protect those around you.

To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:


COVID-19 is spread through droplets breathed out from the nose or mouth, particularly when speaking or coughing. It can also be picked up by touching your eyes, nose and mouth after contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.

More Information

You can find out more information about COVID-19 vaccines, including their contents and possible side effects athttps://111.wales.nhs.uk/coronavirus(2019ncov) and www.gov.uk/government/collections/mhra-guidance-on-coronavirus-covid-19

You can report suspected side effects online at https://coronavirus-yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/ or by downloading the Yellow Card app.

To find out how the NHS uses your information, visit www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/lifestylewellbeing/yourinfoyourrights

To order more copies of this leaflet, visit www.publichealthwales.org/HealthInformationResources

DL Leaflet Covid-19 vaccination: A guide for adults (Bilingual)
This leaflet explains about the COVID-19 vaccination, who is eligible and who needs to have the vaccine to protect them from Coronavirus.