Your questions answered on COVID vaccines

Almost 1.5 million people in the UK to date have received their first dose of the vaccine. But as this is a phased rollout - what does that mean for you and loved ones?
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When will I be invited for my vaccine?

The vaccination rollout is being operated on a phased basis prioritising those at the highest risk, the full list can be viewed here

Note - The NHS has a clear vaccination plan and will contact you when it is your turn as quickly and easily as possible. 

What logistics are involved in getting vaccines to surgeries?

GPs have so far been given only 24-48 hours notice of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arriving. They come in batches of 975 and are delivered defrosted, from their initial -70 degrees Celcius storage, so they must be given to patients within three and a half days of arriving at vaccination sites.

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine can be delivered and stored in fridges at temperatures 2-8 degrees Celcius for up to six months unopened.

Who takes top priority in getting the vaccine?

Doctors have been told to initially vaccinate patients in the following order:

  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
  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

Have the vaccines been rushed through?

All vaccines must meet strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness before they can be approved for use in the UK by the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

How are the vaccines given?

A registered professional such as a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist must prepare and administer it (or oversee a non-registered, trained person doing it). They will inject the vaccine into the top of your arm. For both types of vaccine, a second dose is needed for full effects.

Is one vaccine better than the other?

The committee which advises the government on vaccines says both are effective and it has no preference on which vaccine is used for any of the priority patient groups. It says people who are invited for vaccination should come forward regardless of which type their surgery is giving.

Clinical trials have also not yet directly tested the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca against each other.

How long will my vaccination take?

While the injection can be given very quickly, all patients must wait on-site for 15 minutes afterwards to check they do not experience a severe reaction.

GPs are also urging patients not to arrive too early, as they did on the launch day in Reading, which led to elderly people queuing for a long time outside.

If I have had the Flu vaccine can I still have the COVID vaccine? 

It is recommended that there should be at least seven days between the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, such as flu.

There aren't any problems known about given them closer together but, as this is a new vaccine, we are being extra careful. Both of these vaccines can cause a mild fever, headache, or other symptoms, and leaving this gap means that we know which effects are coming from each vaccine.

We don't anticipate this being too much of a problem as the majority of COVID vaccines are being given to patients over 80 at the moment and the flu to patients aged 50-64. When we move on to vaccinating patients aged 50-64 against COVID the flu season will have largely passed.

However, please mention any recent vaccinations when booking an appointment for either COVID or flu.

Do the vaccines contain animal products?

No, there are none in both makes of the vaccine.

Will I experience any side-effects?

Most side-effects of both makes of the vaccine are mild and short-term, and not everyone has them. They include a sore arm at the injection site, tiredness, or a mild fever. Paracetamol can help.

Serious reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine occurred in people with a history of severe allergies shortly after the UK launch but those people recovered.

Updated guidance now says people with a history of anaphylaxis (e.g. after food) can get either make of the vaccine unless they have previously experienced a severe reaction to either of the vaccine's ingredients. 

If you do have an unexpected, immediate, and severe reaction to a vaccination, clinicians would be on-site to administer treatment for this.

Can I have the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID?

There is no evidence of any safety concerns in vaccinating people with a past COVID-19 infection, or with a COVID-19 antibody.  You're also unlikely to be harmed if you are vaccinated but test positive for COVID shortly afterward. If you have just tested positive for COVID, your vaccine should be deferred for at least four weeks.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. You must give your consent before getting any vaccine.

Can I buy a COVID vaccine to get it quicker?

No - the government is only making it available for free on the NHS in the order of your clinical priority.

Will there be enough vaccines for the whole population?

The UK has ordered 357 million doses from seven different developers, including 40 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 100 million of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca type.

Information in this article is from the MHRAPublic Health England, government press briefings, GP websites.

If you have any queries in relation to the vaccine, you can email the BSW CCG vaccine query inbox to which you will initially get this response:

Thankyou for your email to bswccg.vaccinequery@nhs.net

This an automated response to confirm that your email has been received. We will respond to your query as soon as possible.

For further information regarding the covid vaccine programme, please visit:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

Bswccg.vaccinequery@nhs.net  

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