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Covid-19 Vaccine, Current Update

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

UPDATED 18 January 2021

• The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They will give you the
best protection against coronavirus.

• The vaccines are part of our defence – we need to continue with hands, face,

• The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have a vaccine. It is important not
to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

Who will get it when
• The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its detailed
advice here

• In line with this guidance, in this initial phase vaccines will be prioritised for those 80
years of age and over, those who live and work in care home, and frontline health
and social care staff.

• Our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccines to the most vulnerable 13
million people by the middle of February.

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

• When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most
people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the national NHS.
This letter will include all the information you will need to book appointments,
including your NHS number. Please do not contact the NHS to get an appointment
until you get this letter.

• Information on the vaccine is available on the NHS.UK website.
Where the jabs will be administered.

• In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at
hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres.
More centres are opening all the time.

• Over the coming weeks we will continue to build capacity across the system to offer
more vaccinations with additional local vaccination services, hospital and vaccination
centres coming on-line.

What vaccines 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 357 million doses. This

* 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
*100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
* 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by the
MHRA but is not expected to be delivered to the NHS until Spring.

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

Can I get one privately? 
• No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the
NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine.
Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.

o The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
o The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
o The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the
o The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of
personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

• 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.

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
OxfordAstraZeneca 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.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains?
• There is no evidence currently 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.

I am confused about my second dose of the vaccine? Can you explain it this to me?
• 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

• 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.

What about the Moderna vaccine? Why is this available in the USA but not here?
• The MHRA have now decided – after extensive assessment – that the Moderna
vaccines are safe and effective. The Government provisionally ordered several
million doses of this vaccine ahead of it being approved, but we don’t expect
Moderna to be able to make these available until Spring 2021.

Can people pick what vaccine they want? 
• No. 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.

Will you use the Oxford 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.

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin?
• No. There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients
are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

o For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here.

o For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

COVID-19 vaccine 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
Is it mandatory?
• There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory.
Why do I have to wait?

• The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as
each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest
risk. The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine.

• Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a
local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This
is because only some vaccines can be transported to people’s homes.
Advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

• 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.

How does the vaccine work?
• The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating

• 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.

What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in black, Asian, minority ethnic and
other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

• We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more
hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with
partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible
and are tailored to meet their needs.

• This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other
voluntary organisations.

What time will the opening hours of vaccination centres be?
• Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a
week. To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most
vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.

Who will receive a letter to book a vaccine appointment and how will this happen?
• People will start to receive booking letters from the NHS from Saturday 9 January,
which will contain the details of how they can book online or by phone. Initially letters
will be sent to people over the age of 80 that haven’t already been vaccinated and
live within a reasonable travel distance of a Vaccination Centre. This will expand to
other priority groups as more Vaccination Centres go live across the country.