Safety and side effects

All medicines, including vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Their safety continues to be checked while in use.

NHSScotland will only use a vaccine if it meets the required standards of safety and effectiveness. The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved COVID-19 vaccines for use in the UK and they continue to monitor the safety profile.

View MHRA information about vaccines and vaccine safety (external website).

There is an NHSScotland explainer video about the safety and side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine (external website). 

The COVID-19 vaccine surveillance programme monitors the uptake and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) have produced a statement for healthcare professionals about how COVID-19 vaccines are regulated for safety and effectiveness (external website).

AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots

Guidance on the recommended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine (external website) was updated by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on 7 May 2021.

Further information on the change in recommended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is provided in the CMO letter dated 7 May 2021 (external website).

A patient information leaflet on the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots (external website) is also available.

Guidance for the public

NHS inform provides COVID-19 vaccine safety information (external website).

We have also compiled additional resources, which can be used to help people understand more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility

The JCVI has advised that pregnant women of any age should be prioritised as a clinical risk group for COVID-19 vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended in pregnancy.

Vaccination is the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy.

NHS inform provides information about pregnancy and breastfeeding (external website).

There is also a Public Health Scotland animation about the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy (external website).

There is an NHSScotland explainer video about pregnancy and breastfeeding (external website) and the COVID-19 vaccine, and additional shorter videos on pregnancy (external website), and fertility (external website).

The Scottish Government has also created resources which include:

  • a stakeholder toolkit
  • videos
  • social media assets

View the Scottish Government pregnancy resources (external website).

Guidance for getting the vaccine if people have recently had COVID-19 infection

Even if someone has already had COVID-19, they could still get it again. The vaccine will reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.

If someone does get it again, the vaccine can reduce how serious the symptoms will be.

If someone has recently tested positive for COVID-19 – even if they have no symptoms – they should wait 4 weeks after the date they were tested to get any dose of the vaccine if they are:

  • aged 18 years or over
  • aged 5 to 17 years and are at higher risk from COVID-19
  • aged 5 to 17 years who share living accommodation on most days with someone with a weakened immune system

All other children and young people aged 5 to 17 years should wait 12 weeks from the date they were tested before getting the vaccine.

Reporting side effects

The MHRA runs the Yellow Card scheme which collects and monitors information on suspected safety concerns or incidents involving vaccines. The scheme relies on voluntary reporting of suspected safety concerns or incidents by healthcare professionals and members of the public.

Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines can be reported on the Coronavirus Yellow Card website (external website) or by phoning 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm).

Last updated: 07 April 2022