Coronavirus vaccine - your questions answered
I'm in regular communication with all our local health providers and can report that Barnsley and Sheffield are making great progress with their vaccination programmes, and across the country around 3 in 5 adults have received at least one vaccine.
A daily report on vaccine deployment is available here.
Whilst the vaccine is a key tool in the fight against coronavirus, it is still vital that every single one of us continues to follow the hands, face, space fresh air, guidelines.
Q. When will I get a vaccine?
The vaccination rollout is the biggest mass vaccination campaign in NHs history and everyone will be vaccinated according to a priority list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI). The list takes account of the fact that people over 75 have a much greater risk of dying when they get COVID than those who are younger.
The priority list, is as follows:
Phase 1 is now complete with all those in groups 1-9 having been offered a vaccine
- Group 1 - residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- Group 2 - all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- Group 3 - all those 75 years of age and over
- Group 4 - all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable people
- Group 5 - all those 65 years of age and over
- Group 6 - all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- Group 7 - all those 60 years of age and over
- Group 8 - all those 55 years of age and over
- Group 9 - all those 50 years of age and over
Q. If I am in priority group 1-9 and have not been contacted what do I do?
You should have been contacted, but if you do not think that this is the case, then you can book your own appointment at a national centre. The national booking service can be accessed at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination. Or you can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
Q. Why do I have to wait for the vaccine and how will I know when my appointment is?
When it’s your turn to receive your vaccination, you will receive an invitation. This may be via the phone, or through a letter either from your GP or the national booking system. if you are 45 or over (or in groups 1-9) you can book at a national booking centre. The vaccinations may not take place at your GP practice, but at a local vaccination service (led by GPs, practice nurses and community pharmacists) who are responsible for delivering the vaccine to people in your community.
Q. I have had a letter from a national centre but I can't get to it - what do I do?
You can ignore the letter and choose to wait until your local GP service invites you for your vaccine.
Q. What if I am not registered with a GP?
You need to ensure you are registered. If you are not currently registered with a GP you will not be able to be provided with a vaccine appointment.
Q. Will I have to have a jab every year?
We don't know yet. There are ongoing studies looking at how long immunity lasts in those who have been vaccinated.
Q. Why is there a delay between the two doses?
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Medical Officer, in a letter to colleagues in the medical profession advises that waiting 12 weeks between jabs rather than the initially proposed three will protect those most at risk of dying from COVID-19. As the vaccine is rolled out the data will be reviewed. We must aim 'to deliver first vaccine doses to as many people, in the shortest possible time frame.
Q. How long after the vaccine will I be immune from getting COVID?
The vaccine will reduce the severity of impact from COVID-19 - it is very important to understand that you can still catch the virus but it should be less severe than if you had not had the vaccine. At present there is limited information about how long any vaccine will stay active. The fact is that you should continue to take care to avoid infection by following the hands, face space advice. To reiterate, some people will get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination but they should be less severely affected than if they hadn’t had it.
Q. I've had the vaccine can I go about my daily life normally now?
That's great news but no. You can still catch the virus, but should be less severely affected and you might still be able to transmit the virus.
Q. I've had the vaccine can I still have a coronavirus test?
Q. I've had coronavirus - can I go about my daily life normally now?
No. Whilst the latest evidence does suggest you are much less likely to catch it again, if you do you are still able to transmit the virus.
Q. Why are older people being prioritised over younger people who are going to work?
Priorities are based on reducing the risk of harm and death. The working population is less likely to become severely ill, or die, if they are infected by the virus. The biggest risk of death from COVID-19 is amongst those over 80 with risk decreasing in younger age groups.
Q. Why are some people who aren't in priority groups being given the vaccine?
There have been cases when vaccines have been left over at the end of the day, for example where people have not turned up for their appointment, in the case of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine - the vaccine has to be mixed with saline and delivered within 6 hours or it cannot be used. Where this is the case then the vaccine should, of course, not be wasted and be used on the most appropriate patient available.
Q. How many approved vaccines are there in the UK?
The Government has secured access to six different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses, including the two approved vaccines:
- BioNTech/Pfizer alliance (40m doses)
- University of Oxford/AstraZeneca partnership (100m doses)
- Moderna (17 million doses)
Q. Do I need to get the vaccine if I have had COVID-19 and recovered?
Yes. There isn’t enough data to tell us how much immunity a person gains after natural infection – so it is recommended that you take the vaccine even if you have had the virus.
Q. Do I still need to wear a mask or observe social distancing if I’ve had the vaccine?
Yes. We know the vaccine can protect people from getting sick from the disease COVID-19 that is caused by the viral infection. However, we do not yet know if it will stop you getting the viral infection so you could be an asymptomatic carrier who could pass the infection onto others who may be vulnerable.
Q. Should I still get a flu vaccine?
Yes. The flu vaccination programme for the 2020/21 flu season has been extended, with more groups eligible than ever. As COVID-19 is likely to be co-circulating with flu, protecting those at high risk of flu, who are also those most vulnerable to hospitalisation as a result of COVID-19, is vitally important.
This year more people than ever have had a flu jab - if you are 50 or over you are entitled to a free flu vaccine.
Q. Why should a young person have the vaccine when the risk of COVID-19 mortality is so low?
Whilst younger people are usually at the less severe end of the spectrum this does not mean that the illness is not harmful to their health. It is also important to vaccinate the entire community to help protect those who are most at risk.
Q. Why aren’t my children being given the vaccine?
Initial vaccine testing did not include children as children are at extremely low risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. So the benefits of vaccinating children are not yet clear but certainly children would not be a priority given the very low risk of severe disease.
Q. Does the vaccine being developed so quickly mean that it is less safe than other vaccines?
No. Tens of thousands of volunteers took part in the safety trials and the randomised control trials and every vaccine is assessed through a rigorous and independent approval process before being allowed to be used.
Q. Are there any side effects from the vaccine?
There can be, but these are generally mild. As with all vaccines, because you are stimulating the immune system you may experience some mild flu-like symptoms, but these are temporary. The most common reactions are fatigue, headache and pain at the injection site. Some people might also get chills, joint pain or fever. Younger people are more likely to get these reactions than older people.
The organisation that approves the vaccine in the UK says whilst it had not identified any "serious adverse reactions" during vaccine trials, recent evidence suggests there may be some very rare blood clotting side effects. As a precaution, people with a history of significant allergic reactions are advised to double check with their NHS health provider before having the vaccine. Once you have had the vaccine you should stay alert to any side effects particularly those listed here.
Q. Should people with allergies take the vaccine?
In most cases yes – however people who have a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food are advised to seek medical advice in response to this question. You will be asked a series of health questions as part of the vaccine process - this will ensure you are only given the vaccine if it is safe to do so.
Q. Will the vaccines work against new strains of the virus?
Yes. Though there early studies suggest that at least one vaccine is less effective against one variant. Most importantly the vaccine is still effective at preventing hospitalisation and death. Scientists continue to research all the vaccines for efficacy against new strains.
Q. Is it mandatory to have a vaccine?
No it is not mandatory to have a vaccine.
Q. Is the vaccine vegan and or vegetarian friendly?
There is no material of animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.
Q. Can I pay to get the vaccine sooner?
No. At the moment, national governments are the customers of the vaccine providers. It may be in future that it becomes possible to have the vaccine privately. For now, the best thing you can do is to wait your turn, and in the meantime follow all the coronavirus guidance to reduce your risk of catching the disease or passing it on to others.
Please be aware that you will not be asked to pay for the vaccine provided via Government approved providers - there have been a number of scams reported where criminals have sought to benefit from the pandemic so please be alert.
Other information and leaflets
My first vaccine FAQ video can be found here.
- Government information your coronavirus vaccine
- Why do I have to wait for my vaccine?
- What to expect after you’ve had a vaccine?
- Advice about the vaccine for pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Guide to the vaccine for healthcare workers
- Guide to the vaccine for social care workers