Last updated – 23 March 2021
(Guidance may be subject to future updates)
HOW YOU CAN HELP THE NHS – Key Messages
- Please don’t contact your GP practice or Community Pharmacy to seek a vaccine, the NHS will contact you
- When you are invited, please be sure to attend your booked appointments.
- Please attend your appointment on your own. If you need assistance, please bring only one person with you. If we have more people attending, it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
- Even after having a Covid-19 vaccination, please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives – that means staying at home as much as possible and following the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance when you are out.
We have outlined answers to some frequently asked questions below:
GETTING THE VACCINE
How will patients be invited for a vaccination?
When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be a letter or phone call, either from their GP or the national NHS. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments. 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.
Some people who have been vaccinated by their GP may still get an invitation to a mass vaccination centre or a community pharmacy. This letter can be disregarded if you have already had your vaccine from you GP. This letter is not an invitation for a second dose of your vaccine and remember you can wait for an invitation from your GP if you would prefer to be vaccinated at a local designated hub rather than at a mass vaccination centre.
Why is the NHS vaccinating some groups before others?
Independent analysis suggests that one life is saved for every 20 vaccines given to care home residents. For other over-80s, 160 vaccines have to be given to save a life.
The numbers needed to vaccinate per life saved go up as we move down the priority groups. These figures come from actuarial analysis of the pandemic so far, and are completely independent. Getting our most vulnerable vaccinated as quickly as we can while transmission rates are high will undoubtedly save lives.
Why have I been invited to a vaccination centre outside my area?
The NHS has opened a number of large-scale vaccination centres and community pharmacies across the region. Invitations to book an appointment are being sent to people in the relevant priority groups who have not yet been vaccinated and live up to 45 minutes’ drive from a centre.
You are free to choose to accept this invitation, by following the instructions on the letter, or wait to be contacted by your local GP services for an invitation to a locally designated site.
Why do I have to wait for my vaccination?
The NHS is offering vaccinations to those at greatest risk from Covid-19 first, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee for Vaccinations & Immunisations (JCVI).
As more vaccine becomes available, appointments will be offered to a wider group of people in the priority groups.
Why are people in younger age groups e.g. in their 50s, in areas such as London, getting vaccinated? Is this because supplies to our region were reduced when we were ahead of other areas?
The vaccination programme is the largest mass vaccination programme that the country has ever seen and has been started in waves to allow the set up and expansion of the required vaccine supply chain.
Around the country GP practices are working together in groups called Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and these sites and hospital hubs came on stream first and have now been followed by large vaccination centres and community pharmacy sites, that invite patients to book appointments via the national booking system.
PCNs are now calling patients forward in turn from the recommended cohorts for priority vaccination. Those with higher numbers in the at-risk cohorts will take longer to move through those groups.
At a local and regional level services plan for the numbers of patients they have in their at-risk cohorts and are working together to cover those at greatest risk first.
Vaccine supplies are allocated nationally alongside these plans and North Cumbria and the North East are continuing to make really good progress and met the national target for all the top 4 cohorts to be offered a vaccine by 15th February 2021.
Why has someone in a priority group not been offered their vaccine yet when someone they know, sometimes in the same household, who is younger but not in a clinically vulnerable group, has had theirs?
GP led Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are calling patients forward in turn from the recommended cohorts for priority vaccination.
If individuals in a household are registered with different GP practices, within different PCNs they may be called at slightly different times, but everyone will be called in time.
Younger patients who are frontline health and social care staff have also been vaccinated earlier as part of priority cohort 2.
I work for the NHS / in social care, when will I receive the vaccination?
Vaccination of patient-facing health and social care workers will be co-ordinated through your employer. You will receive an invitation to attend for your vaccine as soon as possible and in line with national guidance on priority groups.
I am housebound, can I get the vaccine?
Your local NHS services will contact you directly to arrange an appointment but please be aware that we will vaccinate people in age order, i.e. starting with those aged 80 and over.
Can I get one privately?
No. Vaccinations will only be available through the NHS for the moment. Anyone who claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee is likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police 101 service and/or Local Trading Standards.
I have been told to pay for a vaccine
The vaccine is only available on the NHS for free to people in priority groups, and the NHS will contact you when it is your turn. Anyone offering a paid-for vaccine is committing a crime.
The NHS will never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and never ask for payment or for your bank details.
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.
Can I have the vaccine during Ramadan/does the vaccine invalidate fasting?
The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, drawing on analysis from Islamic scholars which says that injections for non-nutritional purposes do not invalidate the fast.
ABOUT THE VACCINES
What vaccines for Covid-19 are currently available?
The Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna vaccines are now available. All vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Can people pick which vaccine they want?
To ensure that we vaccinate as many people as soon as we are able to choice of vaccine is not given. Any vaccines that the NHS provides will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy. People should be assured that whatever Covid-19 vaccine they get will be effective.
A specific vaccine will only be selected where there is a clinical reason to do so related to severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. The NHS would not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it was safe to do so.
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have 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 MHRA follows international standards of safety.
Millions of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.
A very small number of individuals have experienced a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) when vaccinated with Covid-19 vaccine. Following close surveillance of the vaccine roll-out, the MHRA has advised that individuals with a history of allergic reactions to food, an identified drug or vaccine, or an insect sting can receive any Covid-19 vaccine, as long as they are not known to be allergic to any ingredients of the vaccine.
I’ve heard through the media that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots?
The UK Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe, have said that evidence DOES NOT suggest that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is linked to blood clots- DVT ( clots in the leg) or PE (clots in the lung)
This follows a detailed review of reported cases as well as data from hospital admissions and GP records. This has been confirmed by the Government’s independent advisory group, the Commission on Human Medicines, whose expert scientists and clinicians have also reviewed the available data.
The MHRA’s advice remains that the benefits of being vaccinated with the available vaccines continue to outweigh any risks and that the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.
Will the vaccines work with the new strains?
There is currently no evidence 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.
Do the vaccines include any parts from foetal or animal origin?
There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine currently in use. All ingredients are published in the 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-biontechvaccine-for-covid-19
For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccineastrazeneca
Are there any side effects?
Like all medicines, the vaccine can cause side effects. Most side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine 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
Should people who have already had Covid get vaccinated?
The MHRA have advised that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19. It is advised that if you have had Covid you need to wait four weeks before you can be vaccinated.
Will the Covid-19 vaccine protect me from flu?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu.
Are there any people who shouldn’t have the vaccine?
People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.
If you have a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergy) with an unknown cause, you should discuss this when attending your vaccination.
What about pregnancy and breastfeeding?
The MHRA has updated its guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine. Pregnant women can discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks should they wish. Similarly, advice for women planning a pregnancy has also been updated and there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.
I’m currently ill with Covid-19, can I get the vaccine?
People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered. The guidance says this should be at least four weeks after the start of symptoms or from the date of a positive Covid-19 test.
GETTING THE SECOND DOSE
Why have second doses of the vaccine been rescheduled?
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.
The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine provides protection for most people for up to three months.
Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time which will be between 10 and 12 weeks from the first dose.
Will I be at greater risk if I don’t get a second dose after three weeks?
The science suggests that protection comes 10-14 days after the first dose. Trials show that at three weeks, the Pfizer vaccine is 89% effective and the Astra Zeneca vaccine is 73% effective.
In the Astra Zeneca vaccine trial, second doses were given after varying time periods, with no suggestion that a delayed second dose gave inferior protection. There is no immunological reason why protection should wane between 3 and 12 weeks. Scientists are watching very carefully for any evidence that protection reduces between 3 and 12 weeks, and none has been found.
Will I have less long-term protection if I receive the second dose after 12 weeks?
There is no reason to think that a second dose at 12 weeks will give inferior long term protection, and lots of science to suggest this may actually give better long term protection.
For most vaccines, the best time for a booster dose is well beyond three weeks after the primary dose. In fact, a second dose too close to the first dose often means there is a lesser immune response in the long run.
I’m in a vulnerable group. Can I get a second dose after three weeks?
There is no evidence that people in clinically vulnerable groups get any lesser protection from the first dose of vaccine than the general population. Giving people in these groups a second vaccine would delay the first dose for other vulnerable people. We do not have the option of making exceptions.
Does the second dose of vaccination need to happen at the same place as the first dose?
People using the National Booking Service (booking into a vaccination centre or designated community pharmacy) are given their closest available appointment locations. While most people will book both appointments at the same location, there is an option for the second dose appointment to be booked at a different location. This applies to the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine only.
People who had their first dose through a GP service should be invited for their second dose through the same GP service.
People who had their first dose at a Hospital Hub site should be invited or be able to book their second dose at the same location.
There are other circumstances in which it may be appropriate for a patient to receive their second dose in a different location to their first dose, for example, discharged outpatients, students, doctors in training on rotation to hospitals, people who have become housebound or moved into a care home since their first dose, or patients who have moved to a new house to somewhere a long way away from where they had their first dose.
Can different vaccines be used for first and second doses?
The NHS has said that the same vaccine used for the first dose must be used for the second, except in very exceptional circumstances. These exceptional circumstances are:
If the first product received is unknown or if they received a brand that is not available in the UK. In these circumstances every effort should be made to determine which vaccine the individual received for their first dose and to complete the two-dose course with the same vaccine.
If the patient initially had the Pfizer Vaccine and has since become housebound. In these circumstances as the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca can be transported, a second dose with this vaccine can be given.
People who experienced anaphylaxis reactions with the first dose of one brand of vaccine may be offered another vaccine if advised by an allergy specialist.
How will any surplus vaccine doses be used?
If there is surplus vaccine, following second dose clinics, this will be used for first doses in the priority cohorts, for those patients who have been vaccinated prior to starting immunosuppression and who need a shorter interval between doses.
Where can I find out more?