Coronavirus Vaccination FAQ's

FAQs

Most popular

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.

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This includes:  

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine 
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by the MHRA but is not expected to be delivered to the NHS until Spring.

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe? 

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.   

The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.   

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.  

There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.   

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.

The place that you choose to have your vaccine will keep you safe from COVID-19 through a range of measures including cleaning and disinfecting and having social distancing in waiting areas. Please also wear a face covering to your appointment. You should also take the usual steps to minimise your risk as you travel to your appointment.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains?

There is no evidence currently that the new strains 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. 

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 after two weeks – 89% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 74% for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

Why are healthcare workers amongst the first groups to receive the vaccine?

The JCVI have put patient-facing health and social care staff into a priority group because of their heightened risk of exposure to the virus. Healthcare workers are not the top priority though, and with limited vaccine available up to now, employers have been asked to offer the vaccine to the most at risk healthcare workers first. With many more doses now expected over the coming weeks, employers will be widening this out and protecting staff as soon as possible.

The NHS is experienced in vaccinating hundreds of thousands of staff quickly and safely – we do it every year for the flu vaccine – and all local NHS employers will be responsible for ensuring that 100% of eligible staff have the opportunity to take it up over the coming weeks and months.

How will healthcare workers get the vaccine?

The NHS will offer vaccinations using different models. For healthcare workers, most will get vaccinated either at their own work or a local hospital.

What about the Moderna vaccine? Why is this available in the USA but not here? 

The MHRA have now decided – after extensive assessment – that the Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. The Government provisionally ordered several million doses of this vaccine ahead of it being approved, but we don’t expect Moderna to be able to make these available until Spring 2021.

Will you use the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine more because it’s cheaper and easier to store?  

The vaccines that the NHS uses and in what circumstances will be decided by the MHRA. Both vaccines are classed as being very effective. The Oxford/AstraZeneca is easier to store and transport, meaning we can deliver them in more places, and we expect to have more doses available as they are manufactured in the UK, so we would expect that most people are likely to receive this vaccine over the coming weeks and months.  

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 people pick what vaccine they want?  

No. Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while. 

If a household has a priority group member, such as an NHS frontline worker or vulnerable person, will everyone living in that household be vaccinated together?   

These decisions are for the JCVI. Their current prioritisation plan does not include household members of NHS staff or clinically vulnerable people automatically – although in some cases family members may be eligible in their own right.  

How much does each vaccine cost the NHS?  

The Government is securing vaccine stocks so they will not directly cost the NHS anything. 

Can I get one privately?  

No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.

- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.

- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.

- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.

- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. 

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by calling 101.

Does the NHS have capacity to deliver both vaccines or will one have to be prioritised?  

The NHS has already vaccinated more than a million people in the highest priority groups and has planned extensively to ensure that we can continue to ramp up the programme based on the number of doses that are available to us. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to transport and store, and is available in larger quantities, so it is likely that most people will receive this vaccine.

Is one better than the other?   

The important point for any vaccine is whether the MHRA approves it for use – if it does then that means it’s a worthwhile vaccine to have and people should have it if they are eligible. 

Is one easier to deliver?   

All vaccines present different logistical requirements, but the NHS has been planning for all eventualities, and people should be assured that the vaccine they will be offered is available because it has been assessed and approved by experts as being safe and effective.  

Who gets the vaccine first?  

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its detailed advice here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020

In line with this guidance, in this initial phase vaccines will be prioritised for those 80 years of age and over, those who live and work in care home, and frontline health and social care staff.

Our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccines to the most vulnerable 13 million people by the middle of February.

Has the MHRA approved care home jabs? 

Yes, this has been approved and the NHS has been working through the delivery mechanism to ensure we can safely break up batches, transport it and deliver it in care homes. The roll out to care homes has now started and our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccines to all residents, as part of the most vulnerable 13 million people, by the middle of February.  

Who is getting vaccinated now?  

Vaccinations in England started on 8 December, with Margaret Keenan becoming the first person to be vaccinated in Coventry.  Across the country, care home staff, those aged 80 years of age and over, as well as NHS staff considered to be a risk will be offered vaccination in line with JCVI recommendations, and we are now rolling out vaccines in care homes. Figures on the number of people vaccinated are published weekly and can be found here: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/healthcare

Our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccines to the most vulnerable 13 million people by the middle of February.

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. 

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. 

The NHS will provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, including working closely with BAME communities, to support those receiving a vaccine and to anyone who has questions about the vaccination process.

Throughout the pandemic increasing attention has been given to reducing health inequalities and we have invested more than £4 million into research into Covid-19 and ethnic disparities so that we can go further.

Vaccine safety and efficacy  

Is the NHS confident the vaccine is safe?   

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.   

The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said these vaccines are safe and highly effective, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.   

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.  

There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

The MHRA recommend that those with severe allergies to the ingredients of the vaccines should not receive them.

Are there any side effects?  

These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use.  

For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials.  

All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting them to the MHRA. 

More information on possible side effects can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/ 

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/ 

What about the allergic reactions that have been reported? 

These vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts.  

Any person with a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to the ingredients contained in the vaccines should not receive them. A second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination.

Everybody will also be screened for potential allergic reactions before getting vaccinated. All vaccinators will have the training they need to deal with any rare cases of adverse reactions, and all venues will be equipped to care for people who need it – just like with any other vaccine. 

Has the guidance on allergies changed? 

The original MHRA advice was that anybody with a known allergy to specific ingredients in the vaccine should not be vaccinated. This was temporarily widened but the guidance has now reverted to this. 

Checking for allergies is a routine part of the process before giving any vaccine or new medicine. Having these conversations – as well as being able to deal with allergic reactions in the rare case they do happen, is a central part of training for vaccinators. But these are new vaccines and so the NHS and the MHRA are being extra vigilant and responding quickly to ensure everyone across the NHS is totally clear on these requirements.  

How effective are the vaccines?  How long do they take to work?  

The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  

To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the OxfordAstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12 weeks apart.

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked in as soon as possible. Even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow social distancing and other guidance. 

What happens if a person has the first jab but not the second?  

Both vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of protection. 

To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12 weeks apart.

The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not being as protected as you otherwise would be. We would urge everyone to show up for both of their appointments for their own protection as well as to ensure we don’t waste vaccines or the time of NHS staff.  

How will you monitor safety?  Are we using the yellow card system? 

As will all vaccinations and medicines, patient safety is the NHS number one priority.  Public Health England have robust systems in place to monitor surveillance and will be following incident reporting protocols in the usual way.   

As a temporary authorised product what pharmacy 'supervision' or 'oversight' will be needed as part of the POD model? 

The prescriber takes responsibility for the delivery.  Further information on this is set out in a letter to NHS Trust Chief Pharmacists from Dr. Keith Ridge CBE Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England on 4 December 2020, which can be found here https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/covid-19-vaccination-governance-handling-and-preparation-of-vaccines-in-hospital-hubs-and-vaccination-centres/ 

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; 

  1. The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process; 
  1. 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; 
  1. clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer. 

 

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. 

Were the vaccines tested on high risk groups? 

For both vaccines trial participants included a range of those from various ages, immune-compromised and those with underlying health conditions, and both found the efficacy of the vaccine translates through all the subgroups. 

Details of trial participants for both vaccines are published online.

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

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin? 

No. There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

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

Can the vaccine alter your genetic material? 

There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine 

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection.  

The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection. 

How long will my vaccine be effective for? 

We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be constantly monitored. 

Are there any groups that shouldn’t have the vaccine? 

People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.

The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. 

Does the vaccine work on those taking immune suppressants? 

Although the vaccine was not tested on those with very serious immunological conditions, the vaccine has been proven to be very effective and it is unlikely that the vaccine will have no effect at all on these individuals.  

There may be a very small number of people with very complex or severe immunological problems who can’t make any response at all – but the vaccine should not do any harm to these individuals. Individuals meeting these criteria may want to discuss the vaccine further with their specialist doctor. 

What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in black, Asian, minority ethnic and other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible and are tailored to meet their needs.

This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other voluntary organisations.

Operational plans 

How is the NHS delivering vaccines?  

The NHS will offer vaccinations using three different models. In the first instance, dozens of NHS trusts are acting as hospital hubs where the vaccine can be stored safely and where many in the top priority groups – including the over 80s, care home workers and at-risk NHS staff – have been able to get vaccinated on site.

To make it as easy as possible for those who are eligible to access a vaccination safely, hundreds of Local Vaccination Services have been set up, with more due to start in the coming weeks.  These community and primary care-led services will vary based on local and logistical considerations but include GP practices, local authority sourced buildings or other local facilities, as well as roving teams who have started delivering it in care homes.  

The NHS is also now establishing vaccination centres, where large numbers of people will be able to go and get vaccinated. These could be in local venues such as sports stadiums, racecourses, and concert venues that offer the physical space to deal with large numbers of people while maintaining social distancing.  

Do vulnerable people travel to get the vaccine or does it come to them?  

We are planning a mixed approach to ensuring that people who are eligible can get the vaccine safely. For care home residents and those who can’t leave home, this will involve roving community teams coming to them. 

How is the NHS ensuring that the vaccine won't be wasted?  

Our plans are based around ensuring that waste is minimised. For example, this includes clustering vaccinations in one GP practice or high volume sites, and ensuring that the numbers of people each facility is able to see in one week is in line with the stock they receive. 

How will patients be invited for a vaccination? How/when will they go for the second? Will this be at the same place/what happens if there is a delay in between?  

When it is the right time people will be contacted to make their appointments. For most people they will receive a letter either from their GP or the national booking system; this will include all the information they need, including their NHS number. Some services are currently also phoning and texting patients to invite them in. 

We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we would ask people not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they are contacted.  The NHS is working hard to make sure those at greatest risk are offered the vaccine first. 

When you book your first dose you will also be asked to book your second too. For most people this will be within three months of your first dose. The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed this longer timeframe so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose offers a high level of protection. Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

How will GPs be told who to vaccinate?  

The JCVI have set criteria for who should get the vaccine in order of priority. GPs, working together with their partners at a local level, will call in or go out to patients based on the prioritisation of the JCVI, using their patient records and those of neighbouring practices. A national invite and recall system, drawn from GP patient records, will also be used.

Vaccination centres and the national booking service

What time will the opening hours of vaccination centres be?

Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a week.  To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.

What vaccine are the centres using?

Vaccination centres will be using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

When we will know what appointments are made for Monday?

Local systems are already on with making sure patients and staff are booked in for Monday.  Over the weekend, those who are eligible will start to receive a letter from the NHS and can call or book an appointment online.

Who will receive a letter to book a vaccine appointment and how will this happen?

People will start to receive booking letters from the NHS from Saturday 9 January, which will contain the details of how they can book online or by phone. Initially letters will be sent to people over the age of 80 that haven’t already been vaccinated and live within a reasonable travel distance of a Vaccination Centre. This will expand to other priority groups as more Vaccination Centres go live across the country.

Who chose the centres and based on what criteria?

The NHS local and regionally proposed sites based on a combination of geographical alignment to local health systems to ensure coverage, and the likelihood of the sites being ready in a timely fashion. In some cases, selections were made on population density within the region, and in other cases there was a consideration given to the number of existing vaccination services currently open and expected to open shortly in that area. This delivers a fair and equitable distribution of sites across the country.

How many people will be vaccinated each day?

All sites are different and some may be able to increase the volume of vaccinations they are able to deliver as they expand depending on supply of the vaccines and spread of vaccinators across the local area.

Which groups will receive vaccine appointments letters? 

Letters will initially go to people aged 80 and over who live in reasonable travelling distance of the active locations, and who haven’t already been vaccinated through other NHS vaccination services.  As more centres go live as supplies of the vaccine allow, we intend to open more Vaccination Centres and offer vaccines to the next priority groups.

What if people can’t get to the Vaccination Centre?

People who are housebound will be contacted by their GP services about alternative ways to get vaccinated. People can also wait until more locations closer to where they live become available. The NHS will follow up with people that haven’t booked their appointment, as a reminder.

What staff and volunteers will be working in Vaccination Centres?

The mix of staff will differ from site to site, but will broadly include vaccinators and clinical supervisors, as well as administrative staff and stewards to ensure the effective and safe operation of the service.

These will largely be new and existing paid NHS staff, but volunteers will also play an important role.

St John Ambulance are providing the following three volunteer roles to Vaccination Centres: Vaccinators, Post Vaccination Observation and Patient Advocate. 

Volunteer Stewards, deployed through the NHS Volunteer Responder programme, will alsp support the patient journey. 

What are the operating hours of the telephone booking system?

The telephone booking service will be open 16 hours a day (from 7am until 11pm), seven days a week. People will also be able to book online 24/7.

I’ve received a letter but someone I live who is the same age hasn’t yet. Can we get vaccinated together?

The NHS is inviting eligible people in a phased basis as supplies of the vaccine allow. It is important that you wait for your letter from the NHS, and you will not be able to book without one.

If you have received a letter and live with someone who is also eligible but has not received a letter, it is likely that theirs will follow shortly. If you like you can wait and book at the same time.

What should people do if they can’t get through to the phone line straight away?

At times, due to high demand, the phone line will get very busy, which may mean waiting on the line for a while or calling back later. People can alternatively book online.

If you need help to do this please ask someone in your support bubble.

Please do try the phone line again as well. We aim to speak to people as quickly as we can.

Does this service work for people who don’t understand English well or are deaf?

The phone line will have interpreters and a BSL facility available on request to help you book your appointments.

What information will I need to book?

You will need to provide your name, date of birth, postcode and ideally your NHS number, which will be included on your booking letter. If you have lost your letter or don’t have your NHS number, you may need to provide the name and postcode/postcode of the GP practice you are registered with – in this circumstance you should use the phone booking service.
 

Can people book without their NHS number or if they aren’t registered with a GP?

While the NHS will write to people based on their GP records, this doesn’t mean that people that don’t have an NHS number or aren’t registered with a GP won’t be able to get vaccinated through the programme.

It does however help to be registered with a GP to help the NHS check for any reasons that someone might not be able to have a vaccine, and ensure there is a record that both doses of the vaccine have been had. Details of how to register with a GP are available at: www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/

How is the service ensuring people don’t fraudulently book an appointment?

People will be asked to provide details of their identity at the time of booking, when they arrive for their appointment and before they are vaccinated.

 

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