COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

Why have I not been contacted by anyone about a vaccination?

If you are 70 or over or on the Shielded Patient List, then you it is likely that you have been contacted by the NHS already.. If you haven’t, this could be for a number of reasons, but is most likely to be because you are not registered with a GP or have recently moved, and we therefore don’t have your contact details.

If you have never registered with a GP or haven’t been to a GP for a number of years, we would recommend speaking with your local practice about registering.

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

More information on registering with a GP is available at https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/

What if I don’t live close to one of the large vaccination sites?

The National Booking Service also handles bookings for pharmacy-led vaccination services, of which there are around 200 across the country. Only a small number of people don’t live within travelling distance of at least one of these services.

Alternatively, you can also choose to wait to be contacted by your local GP services. If they haven’t been in contact already, this will be soon.

Can I still book if I previously had an appointment but didn’t attend or cancel it?

Yes. Only those who have had a vaccination recorded are marked on our system and are therefore unable to book again.

Does the NHS have the capacity and supplies available if lots of people now book?

The vast majority of people in these groups have already either had their first dose or are booked in to be vaccinated shortly.

The NHS is confident that the supplies and booking slots are available to accommodate the expected number of people who may now come forward.

Does this mean people can turn up at vaccination services without an appointment?

No. People will still need to make an appointment in advance before going to any vaccination service. This is important because booking slots are carefully managed to allow for social distancing and the number of appointments is based on the supply available that day.

Getting the vaccine

What vaccines for COVID-19 are 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 367 million doses. This includes:

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is due to start rollout early 2021

The most important thing is that the NHS aims to vaccinate as many people as safely and quickly as possible. We have made an excellent start to the programme, and having an additional vaccine will allow us to go further and faster over the coming weeks.

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.

Can I get a vaccine 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 online or by calling 112.

Can people pick what vaccine they want?

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.

How will healthcare workers get the vaccine?

The NHS will offer vaccinations using different models. For healthcare workers, dozens of NHS trusts will act as hospital hubs where NHS staff can get vaccinated on site.

If my job involves helping people with their health or care, but it's not CQC registered or a commissioned service, how do I get a vaccine?

The Vaccine Allocation Bureau is a dedicated programme team who are supporting the NHS with the identification of those that fit within the social care cohort eligible for vaccination . They need to identify those working in a health or care frontline role and who are not CQC registered or a commissioned service.

If you fit this criteria and have not yet been contacted by your employer, the Council or the NHS about getting a vaccine then please contact the mailbox: [email protected]

This includes:

All frontline social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in people’s own homes, day centres, care homes for working age adults or supported housing); whether they care for clinically vulnerable adults or children; or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS private sector or third sector employees)

If you are CQC registered and/or a commissioned service your contact details have already been noted by the Bureau and you will be contacted in the coming weeks.

Vaccine safety

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 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.

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.

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 on NHS.UK

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 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.

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.

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.

What are the vaccine ingredients?

Is one vaccine 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. Data from clinical trials does suggest the Pfizer vaccine offers marginally more protection, but both are classed as highly effective.

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 Oxford AstraZeneca 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.

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

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

Information on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available on GOV.UK

Information on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available on GOV.UK

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. You can find out more here.

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.

Priority group order

What is happening with people who are currently shielding and who is now added to that group?

New guidance from the Government has advised people who are shielding to do so until the 31 March. Letters and emails will be sent over the next few days.

There are now a further 1.7 million people added to this shielding group - you can view more on the Shielded Patient List here.

The newest vaccination group is people aged 65 and over and shielding patients: What should they do now?

From Monday the 15 February, if you are aged 65 and over or shielding you will receive an invite to have your first vaccination. You can also book an appointment online or call 119 as long as you are registered with a GP.

Will this approach also apply to the next priority groups when it is their turn to be vaccinated?

No. For the moment this only applies to people aged 65 and over and those advised to shield.

When the time comes to start vaccinating other priority groups, this will be by invitation only so that we can manage the supplies of vaccines available in the fairest possible way.

What should I do if I am 70 years old or over, or Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and haven't had my first vaccination yet?

If you are aged 70 and over and haven’t had your first dose yet, please come forward now and make an appointment at nhs.uk/covidvaccination, or by phoning 119 if you can’t use the internet. You can also get in touch with your GP.

The last invites to those aged 70 and over and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable who are yet to be vaccinated have now been delivered, and the NHS has been following up directly with those we haven’t heard from yet, as well as going out to housebound patients. If you are in that group, or you are a frontline health or social care worker, and you haven’t had your vaccine yet for whatever reason, it’s not too late to come forward.

Who gets the vaccine first?

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have published advice on the order that priority groups will receive the vaccine.

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. Employers have been asked to offer the vaccine to the most at risk healthcare workers first. With many more doses 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.

If you are a carer for someone, how do you register the fact so you can also get vaccinated and continue to care for them?

The guidance states that other groups at higher risk, including those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, should also be offered vaccination alongside these groups. The Council is working with Clinical Commissioning Group colleagues to map all health and social care staff, including domiciliary carers, to ensure effective communication with all eligible groups.

Delivering the vaccine

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 some care homes.

When the supply of doses allows, the NHS will also establish 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.

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.

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 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.

If you are a Bucks resident, but are registered at a surgery in another county, who deals with your vaccination?

The programme is based on which surgery you are registered with, not your home address.

Do I need my NHS number to get a vaccine?

No. You can book a COVID-19 vaccine, when it is your time to have it, without knowing your NHS number. You just need to provide your full name and date of birth.

If you want to find your NHS number (and are registered with a GP) you can look here: https://digital.nhs.uk/services/nhs-number

If you don't already have a GP, you can find out more about how to here: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

How does your GP know whether you took up the NHS offer or not?

Patient records will be updated so they know who is receiving their vaccine through the different schemes.

Can you mix and match i.e. accept the offer from NHS and then get your follow up jab through the GPs scheme, or vice versa?

No, you will receive your second dose from the same provider.

When you get your follow up vaccination, are you guaranteed to get the same type as the first one i.e. Pfizer or Astra Zeneca?

You will receive the same vaccine in both doses.