Coronavirus vaccine - your questions answered
As at the December 27, around 1 million first doses of a vaccine have been given. The Government has advised that groups 1-4 are expected to be completed within the next two months.
When will I get a vaccine?
The vaccination rollout is the biggest mass vaccination campaign in NHs history – the UK has a population of around 66.6 million and people will be vaccinated according to a priority list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI).
Overall fewer than 1 in 100 people who are infected will die from COVID-19, but in those over 75 years of age this rises to 1 in 10 which is why the priority list focuses on age.
Priority is based on each person’s risk of being seriously affected by the virus and as at the 2nd December the priority list, with the estimated number of people in each group, is as follows:
- Group 1. Older care home residents - 0.4 million / their carers - 0.7 million
- Group 2. Over 80 years - 3.4 million / frontline health and social care workers - 1.6 million
- Group 3. 75-79 - 2.3 million
- Group 4. 70-74 - 3.3 million / clinically extremely vulnerable 2.2 million
- Group 5. 65-69 - 3.4 million
- Group 6. 60-64 - 3.8 million
- Group 7. 16-54 with underlying health condition, 8.5 million
- Group 8. 55-59 - 4.4 million
- Group 9. 50-54 4.7 million
Why do I have to wait for the vaccine and how will I know when my appointment is?
When it’s your turn to receive your vaccination, you will receive an invitation. This may be via the phone, or through a letter either from your GP or the national booking system.
The vaccinations may not take place at your GP practice, but rather a local vaccination service (led by GPs, practice nurses and community pharmacists) who are responsible for delivering the vaccine to people in your community.
Lots of us are eager to get protected but we are asking people to wait to be contacted and not to put further strain on our hardworking NHS staff.
I am in the shielding group - how soon will I receive the vaccine?
People in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are in one of the priority groups. This doesn’t mean that you will be the first to receive it, but you will still be among the first groups (as can be seen above). Age is the biggest factor in prioritisation, because that’s the single most important factor that affects your risk of dying from coronavirus.
Why is only one dose of the vaccine being given?
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Medical Officer, in a letter to colleagues in the medical profession advises that waiting 12 weeks between jabs rather than the initially proposed three will protect those most at risk of dying from COVID-19.
We must aim 'to deliver first vaccine doses to as many people, in the shortest possible time frame.
Why are older people being prioritised over younger people who are going to work?
Priorities are based on reducing the risk of harm and death. The working population is less likely to become severely ill, or die, if they are infected by the virus. The biggest risk of death from COVID-19 is amongst those over 80 with risk decreasing in younger age groups.
How many approved vaccines are there in the UK?
The Government has secured access to six different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses, including the two approved vaccines:
- BioNTech/Pfizer alliance (40m doses)
- University of Oxford/AstraZeneca partnership (100m doses)
How many people have been vaccinated in the UK?
The Government collates all the data from around the country and publishes a report once a week, as at the week ending December 27 around 1 million people had been vaccinated, the majority of which were over 80 years of age.
Do I need to get the vaccine if I have had COVID-19 and recovered?
Yes. There isn’t enough data to tell us how much immunity a person gains after natural infection – so it is recommended that you take the vaccine even if you have had the virus.
Why should a young person have the vaccine when the risk of COVID-19 mortality is so low?
While younger people are usually at the less severe end of the spectrum this does not mean that the illness is not harmful to their health. It is also important to vaccinate the entire community to help protect those who are most at risk.
There is COVID-19 at my child’s school. Why aren’t my children being given the vaccine?
Initial vaccine testing was not done on children as children are at extremely low risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. So the benefits of vaccinating children are not yet clear but certainly children would not be a priority given the very low risk of severe disease.
Does the vaccine being developed so quickly mean that it is less safe than other vaccines?
No, it doesn’t. Tens of thousands of volunteers took part in the safety trials and the randomised control trials and every vaccine is assessed through a rigorous and independent approval process before being allowed to be used.
Are there any side effects from the vaccine?
There can be, but these are generally mild.
As with all vaccines, because you are stimulating the immune system you may experience some mild flu-like symptoms, but these are temporary. The most common reactions are fatigue, headache and pain at the injection site. Some people might also get chills, joint pain or fever. Younger people are more likely to get these reactions than older people.
The organisation that approves the vaccine in the UK says it hasn't identified any "serious adverse reactions" during vaccine trials. As a precaution, people with a history of significant allergic reactions are advised to double check with their NHS health provider before having the vaccine.
Should people with allergies take the vaccine?
In most cases yes – however people who have a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food are advised to seek medical advice in response to this question. You will be asked a series of health questions as part of the vaccine process - this will ensure you are only given the vaccine if it is safe to do so.
Who should not get the vaccine?
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been tested on pregnant women or children so these groups should not be vaccinated, unless explicitly advised to do so by their NHS health provider.
Who was the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine tested on?
There were 43,448 people in the phase 3 clinical trial, 21,720 of whom had the COVID-19 vaccine and the rest were given a placebo (ineffective) injection.
Of the COVID-19 vaccine recipients, 58% were aged between 16 and 55, 42% were aged over 55 (the oldest being 89). 35% were classified as obese, 17% were BAME, 51% were male. People characterised as high risk due to underlying conditions (e.g. autoimmunity, hypertension; diabetes; asthma; pulmonary, liver, or kidney disease) or due to high risk occupations were also included.
How long after the vaccine will I be immune from getting COVID?
The vaccine is designed to reduce the severity of impact from COVID-19 and at present there is limited information about how long any vaccine will stay active. The fact is that you should continue to take care to avoid infection by following the hands, face space advice. Some people will get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination but they should be less severely affected than if they hadn’t had it.
Do I still need to wear a mask or observe social distancing if I’ve had the vaccine?
Yes. We know the vaccine can protect people from getting sick from the disease COVID-19 that is caused by the viral infection. However, we do not yet know if it will stop you getting the viral infection so you could be an asymptomatic carrier who could pass the infection onto others who may be vulnerable.
Will the vaccines work against new strains of the virus?
It is thought that the vaccines will work – but this cannot be known for a fact yet. Scientists are investigating this and more will be known over the coming weeks, but this is not a reason to refuse the vaccine now.
Is it mandatory to have a vaccine?
No it is not mandatory to have a vaccine.
Is the vaccine vegan and or vegetarian friendly?
There is no material of animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.
Can I pay to get the vaccine sooner?
No. At the moment, national governments are the customers of the vaccine providers. It may be in future that it becomes possible to have the vaccine privately. For now, the best thing you can do is to wait your turn, and in the meantime follow all the coronavirus guidance to reduce your risk of catching the disease or passing it on to others.