Covid-19 vaccine information & FAQs

Published on: Tuesday 22 December 2020

We are working to vaccinate everyone in the first priority group (those over 80 and at high risk) as quickly as possible. This will take time but we are committed to reaching everyone in this group by the end of February 2021.

The first four priority groups are:

  • residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  • all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  • all those 75 years of age and over
  • all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

We know it can be frustrating to see some people being offered the vaccine when you have not yet heard about your own; we are opening all our vaccination sites as quickly as possible and we will get to you soon.

GP, Dr Mandy Baum receiveing her vaccine.

Your appointment

The NHS will contact you when we are able to offer you an appointment, this will either be a letter or phone call from your GP.

If you miss the phone call please don’t worry, we will call again or send you a letter.

Some people may receive two invites. If this happens, please pick the location you would prefer to go to for your vaccination and follow the booking-in advice provided. You can ignore the second invite.

Travelling to and from a vaccination site is essential travel, but please remember to wear a face mask when visiting and adhere to social distancing measures.

Beware of scams

We are also aware of several reports of people being contacted by fraudsters offering the Covid19 vaccine. The reports show text messages being sent providing a link for people to register their details to apply for the vaccine, some of which require payment.

These text messages and links are not sent from, or linked to, the NHS. 

Please note the NHS will:

  • Never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text asking you to confirm you want the vaccine
  • Never ask for payment for the vaccine or for your bank details.

If you receive a text message from an unfamiliar number:

  • Do not respond to it or click on any links
  • Do not enter any personal or log on details
  • Do not make any payment​​​​​

Timescales

It will take time to vaccinate everyone in this first group. The phased vaccine supply means vaccinations will take place between January and April – so please be aware you may not be called until later in the year.

Questions? Read our FAQ

You may be apprehensive about receiving the new vaccination, find out more about why vaccines are safe and important with some answers to commonly asked questions below.

Thousands of people have already had the vaccine including local frontline NHS staff below is GP Dr Mandy Baum havin her vaccine and here you can watch GP Dr Genevieve Small explain her experience of giving and recieveing the vaccine recently herself. 

Who can get the vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

The first four groups are:

1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers

2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. all those 75 years of age and over

4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individualsThe vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible.

What is the government prioritisation list?

The NHS is following the guidance outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This committee advises that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of deaths due to COVID-19 and the protection of health and social care staff.

Following this those at an increased risk of hospitalisation and at increased risk of exposure will be prioritised.

This priority list is as follows:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals[footnote 1]
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.

How the COVID-19 vaccine is given

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm.

It's given as 2 doses, at least 21 days apart.

How do I get the vaccine?

The NHS will get in touch with you directly when it is your turn to be vaccinated.

  • Please don’t contact your doctor or the NHS asking about vaccination; this is not a service that you are able to book in advance.
  • The NHS will contact you when your turn comes in the months ahead. If you are contacted, please do attend the appointment.
  • We would encourage those over 80 and in the government’s priority list to be ready to accept their invite when called by their GP, reading the covid19 vaccination guide for adults leaflet is a god way to prepare – you can find this leaflet here.
  • You can also hear local GP Genevieve Small talk about her experience of having the vaccine.
  • In the meantime, it is vitally important that we all continue to follow the national public health guidance: wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and maintain safe social distancing. Covid-19 is still very prevalent and highly infectious: the risk of catching it is the same as ever for people who have not been vaccinated.

Will the vaccines work with the new strain?

There is no evidence currently that the new strain will be resistant to the vaccines we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal. Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.

Will vaccines still be provided/can I still attend my appointment during the national lockdown?

Yes. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. Vaccinations will continue as normal in all areas through the national lockdown and beyond. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it.

Why are you postponing second doses?

The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose still offers a high level of protection. This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

We recognise for some people a longer wait might be worrying, and clinicians have the discretion to vaccinate people sooner if they think this is needed. Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

Read more about why vaccines are safe and important, including how they work and what they contain.

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine approved for use in the UK was developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

It has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world.

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.

Read about the approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK

Should people who have already had Covid or are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ get vaccinated? 

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t, including those who have mild residual symptoms. Where people are suffering significant ongoing complications from Covid they should discuss whether or not to have a vaccine now with a clinician.

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having the Covid vaccine?

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and Covid vaccine but it is recommended that there should be a gap of a week.

We would always encourage anyone who is eligible but not yet taken up their flu jab to do so as soon as possible.

Can any member of the public be vaccinated? Can they just walk in to a service?

People will be offered vaccinations in line with recommendations from the independent JCVI. The NHS will contact people when it is their turn. People will need an appointment to get their vaccine; most people will be invited by letter from their GP practice or the national programme.

Where can I read more information?

It's really important you read trusted and accurate information, you can read more on the nhs website here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19...

There is also also an information leaflet available to read click here.

How were vaccines developed so quickly?

Medicines including vaccines are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccines.

There a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines;

  • The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process;
  • There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial;
  • clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

What vaccine for COVID-19 is currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

COVID-19 vaccine side effects

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

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection.

If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

It’s very rare for anyone to have a serious reaction to the vaccine (anaphylaxis). If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.

Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

After having both doses of the vaccine most people will be protected against coronavirus.

It takes a few weeks after getting the 2nd dose for it to work.

There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
This means it is important to:

  • wash your hands regularly
  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it's hard to stay away from other people

Advice if you're of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

You should wait to have the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • if you're pregnant – you should wait until you've had your baby
  • if you're breastfeeding – you should wait until you've stopped breastfeeding
  • If you're trying to get pregnant, you should wait for 2 months after having the 2nd dose before getting pregnant.

There's no evidence it's unsafe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But more evidence is needed before you can be offered the vaccine.

Read the latest COVID-19 vaccine advice if you're pregnant, may get pregnant or are breastfeeding on GOV.UK

Why aren’t BAME groups being prioritised?

There is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease and mortality. The reasons are multiple and complex.

There is no strong evidence that ethnicity by itself (or genetics) is the sole explanation for observed differences in rates of severe illness and deaths. What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

Prioritisation of people with underlying health conditions will also provide for greater vaccination of BAME communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions.

Tailored local implementation to promote good vaccine coverage in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within a vaccine programme in reducing health inequalities in these groups.

Were the trial participants reflective of a multi-ethnic population?

The Public Assessment Reports contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants.

For the Pfizer trial, participants included 9.6% black/African, 26.1% Hispanic/Latino and 3.4% Asian. For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine 10.1% of trial recipients were Black and 3.5% Asian.

There is no evidence either of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups.

When will you publish vaccine ingredients?

A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found at https://britishima.org/pfizer-biontech-covid19-vaccine/