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COVID-19 Vaccinations – Public FAQs

(FAQs last updated 12/01/2021)

I’ve heard local vaccination centres are opening, and the public will receive a letter, will I need to book?

On Monday 11 January, the first seven vaccination centres became operational as the next step in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccinations.  Initially, there will be one centre in each region, with more centres opening over the course of the month.  Letters will initially go to people aged 80 and over who live in reasonable travelling distance of the active locations (currently up to 45 minutes), and who haven’t already been vaccinated through other NHS vaccination services.

The letter that people will receive also explains that you may have also been contacted by your GP services and if you have booked with them, you should take no further action. If you choose not to attend one of these centres due to transport difficulties you will not lose the opportunity to be vaccinated, you will still hear from your GP services with an appointment.

Information on which patients have not been vaccinated or booked in is drawn from GP records, so it is important that you keep these as up to date as possible.


If I had the Pfizer vaccine in the first jab, can I have the AstraZeneca vaccine for my second one?

Public Health England, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have all been very clear that in the absence of trial data to show it is safe and effective, doses should not be mixed. If you have a first dose of one vaccine, your second dose will be of that same vaccine too and that is what NHS organisations have been instructed to do.


Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines teach your immune system how to protect you from diseases. It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and attempting to treat them.

Vaccines can reduce or even eradicate some diseases, if enough people are vaccinated. Since vaccines were introduced, diseases like smallpox and polio that used to kill or disable millions of people are gone from the UK.

The long term response to the pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all who need it. It’s a way to keep friends and family safe, potentially leading to lifting of restrictions.


When will the vaccine be available?

Many primary care networks in our area are already dispensing the vaccine, with the rest becoming available during the week commencing 11 January.


Will there be enough vaccine available to vaccinate the whole population over time?

The UK government has placed orders for a number of candidate vaccinations, there is expected to be enough doses to cover the whole UK population over the coming year.


Will the vaccine be compulsory?

The UK operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations. There are no plans in place to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory.


Who decides who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.

JCVI guidance has identified the first priority groups to be people aged over 80, care home residents and staff and health and social care workers.

It is anticipated that further priority groups based on age and clinical vulnerability factors will be added to those eligible to receive the new COVID-19 vaccinations as supplies increase in 2021.


HOW will GPs be told who to vaccinate?

The JCVI will set criteria on an ongoing basis for who should get the vaccine when. GPs will be able to call in or go out to patients based on this, using their patient records. A national invite and recall system, drawn from GP patient records, may also be used.


When will clinics be running?

The NHS will be working hard to ensure the vaccine gets to those who need it, including on weekends and bank holidays – just as other vital services run 365 days a year.


Why are Care Home workers prioritised over NHS staff?

There is evidence that infection rates are higher in residential care home staff, than in those providing home care or in healthcare workers. Care home workers are therefore considered a very high priority for vaccination.


Who is vaccinating Care Home residents and staff?

Now that the AstraZeneca vaccine is being distributed, this group are a high priority and so as soon as it is possible for them to do so, GPs and local primary care networks will begin vaccinating care home residents.


Where are the mass vaccination sites?

We are not in a position yet to set up mass vaccination sites. These will be available and publicised when we are able to vaccinate large numbers of people.

As soon as they have been established we will make sure everyone is informed.


How will my GP know I have been vaccinated, if I have it done elsewhere?

All records are electronic and your information will be shared with your GP.


When will people in Bedford Borough be called for vaccinations?

Vaccinations started in Bedford Borough on 6 January 2021. However, at this stage we don’t know which GP Surgeries will be involved straight away, so please wait until you hear from your GP that an appointment has been made.


Are there any precautions I need to take before or after I receive the vaccine?

You should follow existing advice to reduce spread of COVID-19 as this will enable you to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, before and after vaccination. Wear a face covering when attending the Vaccine Clinic.


Which vaccine will I get?

You will be offered a vaccine which has been approved by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as safe and effective and recommended by the JCVI for persons of your age or risk group.


Is one vaccine better than another?

Each vaccine will have completed a full programme of research, including considerations of vaccine efficacy and safety. Each vaccine is reviewed by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which will grant approval and licencing of vaccines if they meet the required effectiveness and safety requirements. Any vaccine offered will be effective and safe.


Can I choose which vaccine I receive?

As people have to complete a course of two vaccinations and the programme will be delivered in a phased approach to ensure those most at risk are vaccinated first, it is not possible to choose one vaccine over another. Whichever vaccine is in your first dose will be the same for your second one.


Is it a live vaccine?

Neither of the first two vaccines being used in the UK are live vaccines. They are therefore suitable to use in those who are immunosuppressed.

 


Who can get the vaccine?

It is expected that all adults aged 18 years will be offered the vaccine in due course. However, because of some medical conditions, some people should not get some vaccines, or should wait before getting them.

These conditions can include:

  • Severe and life-threatening allergies. Any person with a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine. 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.
  • If you have severe illness and a high fever on the day of vaccination.

Vaccine recipients should be monitored for 15 mins after vaccination, with a longer observation period when indicated after clinical assessment.

These factors often vary for each vaccine. If you’re not sure if you should get the vaccine, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you make an informed choice about vaccination.


I’ve had COVID already/tested positive for antibodies, do I need to be vaccinated?

Vaccination should be deferred until clinical recovery from COVID-19, for at least four weeks after onset of symptoms or four weeks from the first PCR positive specimen in those who are asymptomatic.


I don’t know anyone who’s had COVID, so why do we need a vaccine?

The number of people worldwide who have died with COVID-19 has passed one million, with many regions still reporting surging numbers of new infections.

People continue to get infected, and once the virus starts to spread it can do so rapidly. Even if you, your family or friends haven’t experienced it firsthand, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a threat. Protect your family and others. Being vaccinated will help to protect you and reduce the spread of this deadly virus.


Will the vaccine be free if I’m in a priority group? Will it be free if I’m not?

The vaccine will be provided free to all UK residents. You will not be charged and can only get it through the NHS. Please do not agree to any vaccination where you will be charged. These are not genuine vaccinations and could cause harm.


Will other measures (social distancing/face coverings/lockdowns) still apply to me if I’ve had the vaccine?

Yes, you should still act to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community and stick to the regulations.


Once we get a vaccine, can we end restrictions and lockdowns?

An effective vaccine will be the best way to protect the most vulnerable from coronavirus and the biggest breakthrough since the pandemic began. It will be a huge step forward in the fight against coronavirus, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives. Once vaccinations begin, the Government will closely monitor the impact on individuals, on HSC pressures and on the spread of the virus.

The full impact on infection rates will not become clear until a large number of people have been vaccinated, but as larger numbers do get vaccinated, we will hopefully move further along the path back to a more normal way of life.

As large numbers of people from at risk groups are given a vaccine, the Government will be able to examine the impact on infection rates, hospitalisation and reduced deaths; if successful this should in time lead to a substantial reassessment of current restrictions. Given the numbers of people to be vaccinated it is likely to be many months before the full impact of the programme is seen in the community.


Will the vaccine become a yearly injection like the flu vaccine?

Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine are not yet recommended because the need for, and timing of, boosters has not yet been determined.


How effective is the first vaccine injection without getting the second one? 

It is important to have both doses of the vaccine to give you the best protection. While the first dose acts as an important immune response primer, the second dose is needed to boost your body’s immune response to the COVID-19 virus providing the best protection for you.


Have the vaccines been tested in people over 80 years old or just in younger populations?

The vaccines have been tested in people aged 80 years and above. SARS-C0V-2 vaccine trials have only just begun in children and there is therefore, very limited data on safety and effectiveness in this group at present.


Can I still spread the virus to others if I am vaccinated?

The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, this should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill. However, as the vaccine is new it is not been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated. Therefore, the best protection you can have is to have the vaccination when you are invited to attend.


If a person has received the vaccination and is subsequently notified that they have been in direct contact with a positive case – are they still required to isolate?

Yes. While the purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, which should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill; as the vaccine is new it is not been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated. Therefore, if you are a household contact of or are advised by the Contact Tracing App you are a close contact of a case of COVID-19 you need to self-isolate.


What percentage of the population needs to get the vaccine to have herd immunity?

When a high proportion of a population receive an effective vaccine it becomes difficult for the disease to spread, this gives protection to vulnerable people such as newborn babies and other people who can’t be vaccinated which is known as herd immunity. It is not clear what proportion of people would be required to be vaccinated to achieve this because the vaccines against the disease are new and COVID-19 is a global pandemic infection. Therefore, the best protection you can have is to have the vaccination when you are invited to attend.


Is there gluten in the vaccine as I am coeliac?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in certain cereal grains. COVID-19 vaccinations do not contain gluten.


Can the COVID-19 vaccine lead to people having a positive COVID-19 nose or throat swab test?

No. The vaccines being used produce a protective immune antibody response which can be measured by serology blood tests.

They do not affect a PCR swab test, which is the basis of diagnosing COVID-19 infection by detecting viral RNA in the nose and throat.

PCR tests will be used as part of the vaccine effectiveness assessment in those who are vaccinated and subsequently develop symptoms of COVID-19.


How the vaccine is given

How long is the course of treatment? How many injections and over what period of time?

This will vary between the vaccines which become available. The current vaccines are a two dose schedule up to 12 weeks apart.


How long do I have to wait between the first and second doses of the vaccine?

You will be given an appointment to receive your second dose up to12 weeks after the first, depending on which vaccine you received.


What happens if I don’t go for my second appointment?

As it requires completion of the two dose schedule to be fully protected against COVID-19 you will not be fully protected against the infection.


How long do I have to wait after getting the vaccine before I can leave the clinic?

Everyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine will be observed for any immediate reactions during the period they are receiving any post-immunisation information and confirmation of their second appointment, if required.

We advise that people being vaccinated should either be driven by someone else or, if this is not possible, should not drive for 15 minutes after vaccination.


Safety and effectiveness of the vaccine

Will the vaccine fully protect me against Covid-19?

The current vaccines have demonstrated a high level of protection against COVID-19 but no vaccine provides 100% protection. However, as more people in the population are vaccinated with an effective vaccine the risks of circulating virus should increase protecting those people who either do not respond fully to the vaccine or who are unable to have the vaccine because of allergic reactions.


If I have the vaccine will I be immune for life? Can I still catch COVID after I’ve been immunised?

Duration of protection remains unknown, and further doses may be necessary.


Has the vaccine been rushed? Is it safe?

For a vaccine to reach the general public it will have to work and be safe.

There may be a misconception that vaccine research takes a long time but it isn’t the research that takes the time – it’s all the steps beforehand, like getting funding and approval. What’s sped up in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is the funding. The UK Government funded trials to get them up and running quickly.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Medicines Research Authority have sped up the process of approval – things like administrative paperwork that used to take months is now being done in days. This is what’s brought down the time for delivery of the clinical trials.

Processes have been streamlined and run in parallel. The length of the trials themselves has not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place and high standards must still be met.

It has also been enabled by new technology, including the ability to rapidly manufacture vaccines. And supply – the vaccine is being produced already so that as soon as it’s known to be safe and effective it can be made available.


I have a health condition. How will I be sure the vaccine is safe?

The vaccines do not contain living organisms, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine. Any person with a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine. 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.

Vaccine recipients should be monitored for 15 mins after vaccination, with a longer observation period when indicated after clinical assessment.

Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding should read the detailed information here.


Do I have to wait after getting the flu vaccine before I can get the COVID vaccine?

Current recommendations are that you should wait for 7 days after having another vaccination before having the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to avoid incorrectly attributing any side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine.


Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or if I’m planning to get pregnant?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has amended its previous highly precautionary advice on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy or breastfeeding. Vaccination with either vaccine in pregnancy should be considered where the risk of exposure SARS-CoV2 infection is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that place her at very high risk of serious complications of COVID-19, and the risks and benefits of vaccination should be discussed.

Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination, and breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with either vaccine following consideration of the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19. The UK Chief Medical Officers agree with this advice.


What happens if I experience side effects/adverse or unexpected events, how do I report it?

Vaccines are very safe. As with all medicines, side effects can occur after getting a vaccine. However, these are usually very minor and of short duration, such as a sore arm or a mild fever. An uncommon side effect is swelling of the local glands. More serious side effects are possible, but extremely rare. Tests have been done in thousands of adults to ensure the vaccine is safe.

At the point of vaccination, you will receive information about how to report any adverse events. It is essential that any events are reported and investigated. The safety of patients/recipients is paramount.


What’s in the vaccines? Will they have any ingredients which are unsuitable for [religious group/vegan/ allergies etc]?

Patient leaflets explaining the different vaccines and ingredients have been developed and information made available to people prior to vaccination so they can make an informed decision.


Why aren’t there any Long Covid clinics in Luton?

We have developed a Post COVID-19 Assessment Service which went live on 1st December 2020.  The service is provided by Whaddon Healthcare who are based in Milton Keynes and is available to any patients registered with a Bedfordshire, Luton or Milton Keynes GP practice.  Patients can be referred into the service by their GP or any healthcare professional.  The service is delivered virtually for initial assessment, but future plans involve running more local clinics for face to face appointments where clinically appropriate.

There is also a self-management tool available online via – https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/


(FAQs last updated 12/01/2021)