What vaccines will be available?
The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine are now available across the UK.
How many people have been vaccinated?
Please visit this link for the latest vaccination statistics:https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/healthcare
Who can get the COVID-19 vaccination?
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus, in line with the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Priority Groups 1-4 are:
- people aged 80 and over
- people who live or work in care homes
- health and social care workers at high risk
- people aged 70 and over
The vaccine will be offered more widely as soon as possible.
How will I know it’s my turn to get a vaccine?
The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to have the vaccine. Do not contact the NHS for a vaccination before then. Once you have received your letter you can book your vaccination appointment online, or for those who cannot access the online booking service, they can book by calling 119.
You will need your ten-digit NHS number, it will be on the letter sent to you. You can also find it on your prescriptions or through your GP online service.
If a patient cannot go to one of the large vaccination centres, they can choose to have their vaccination at their GP surgery when it’s available there or a pharmacy.
Are there any side effects?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, lasting no longer than a week, and not everyone gets them.
These may include:
- a sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
- feeling or being sick
I have heard it can make people infertile – is this true?
There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. The theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by any evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibodies to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after COVID-19 disease.
Can pregnant women have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines?
The latest advice, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that the vaccine should be considered for pregnant women when their risk of exposure to the virus infection is high and cannot be avoided, or if the woman has underlying conditions that place her at a very high risk of complications of COVID-19. Women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances. Women who are breastfeeding can also be given the vaccine.
Why are you changing the interval between the first and second doses?
One dose of either vaccine provides a high level of protection from COVID-19. The decision to update the dosing interval is based on advice from the JCVI and UK Chief Medical Officers. Having studied evidence on both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines the JCVI advised that we should prioritise giving as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing two doses in as short a time as possible.
Can I do what I want after I have been vaccinated?
It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home if possible whether they have had the vaccine or not.
This means it is important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance social distancing guidance
- Wearing a face mask and remembering hands, face, space
How were the vaccines developed so quickly?
These vaccines have had three stages of clinical trials and have been tested on tens of thousands of people around the world.
The trial phases were run in parallel, speeding up the overall time of vaccine production, but not the critical research time.
Time has also been gained because:
- Vaccine trial volunteers were recruited at the start of the process, so they were ready to go once the vaccine was ready to trial
- The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) made this their top priority
- Plans were made for the next phase of trials by the companies without having to wait for investor decisions.
- Companies made decisions to begin large scale production of vaccines which are still in trials. So, if vaccines were found to be safe and effective, they would be ready to be distributed.
Are there animal products in the vaccine?
The MHRA has confirmed that the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine do not contain any components of animal origin.
How do I know it has been tested on a wide range of people?
Each of the vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, representative of the UK population and of all ages between 18-84.
The Pfizer/BioNTech trial participants were 51.5% were male and 48.5% were female, 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan native.
Pfizer/BioNTech trials took place in the US, Europe, Turkey, South Africa and South America.
The AstraZeneca trial participant group comprised of 90.3% aged 18 to 64 years and 9.7% aged 65 years or older. The those who took part in the trial were White (75.5%), 10.1% were Black and 3.5% were Asian; 55.8% were female and 44.2% male.
AstraZeneca also included a trial in South Africa of 2,130 participants, and another in the US including African American, Hispanic and Native American participants.
In the AstraZeneca trials, the non-white demographic in the UK trial was 8% in the Brazil trial it was 34.2% and in South Africa it was 87.5%.
How do we know the vaccines protect people from COVID-19?
The Pfizer / BioNTech and Astra Zeneca / Oxford vaccines have been shown to provide a high level of protection from symptomatic COVID-19. We do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission and so we will vaccinate those who are at highest risk of serious illness and death. This includes older people and care home residents.
As vaccination programmes roll out globally, our understanding of the safety and effectiveness of each vaccine will increase, and these data will be used to develop advice on the next phase of the programme.
Every single vaccine authorised for use in the UK has been authorised by the MHRA and the three parts of authorisation are a safety assessment, an effectiveness assessment and a manufacturing quality assessment.
What is government doing to stop vaccine fraud?
The vaccine is only available free from the NHS. At no point will a patient be asked to pay.
Advice from Action Fraud:
- 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 license, bills or pay slips.
Useful links and additional information
Why you are being asked to wait
Daily data summary
Government vaccination programme information
Vaccination deployment plan
Joint letter from four CMOs
Green book - Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information for public health professionals
Age UK FAQs
British Society for immunology, how vaccines work
British Islamic Medical Association on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and on the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine
Bristol University – Global experts urge everyone to talk about COVID-19 vaccines responsibly
National Institute for Health Research – COVID and me video series of short dramas of people’s experience in taking part in COVID research.