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COVID-19 Vaccinations – Public FAQs

(FAQs last updated 20 /09/2021)

What is the COVID-19 booster programme?

The COVID-19 booster programme is the rollout of an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection for those most at risk from COVID-19.

Why is the COVID-19 booster programme needed?

We want to provide the people that are most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and those who care for them with the best possible protection for this winter. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reviewed available data and provided advice that COVID-19 boosters are first offered to the most vulnerable in order to provide maximum protection during the Winter months. The flu vaccination programme is now running which protects people from serious complications from getting flu, so we would also encourage people that are eligible for a COVID-19 booster to also get their flu vaccination. More information on the flu vaccination is at

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine

Independent experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), have said that for the 2021 COVID-19 vaccination programme, the following people who received vaccination in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine.

the following people should be offered a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the same order as the first part of the vaccination programme.

  • those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 50 years or over
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 (as set out in the green book), and adult carers
  • adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals

The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination.

I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?

JCVI have advised that individuals who are severely immunosuppressed get an additional third dose of vaccine as part of their primary course of immunisation. This offer is separate to the booster programme. More information is available here: JCVI issues advice on third dose vaccination for severely immunosuppressed – JCVI issues advice on third dose vaccination for severely immunosuppressed – GOV.UK (

Is there anyone that shouldn’t have the booster vaccine?

There are very few people in the eligible groups who should not have a booster.  If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor.

If I’m eligible when and where can I get my vaccination?

The NHS will let eligible people know to have their booster vaccine when it is their turn. The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than six months after having the second dose of the vaccination. Like your previous doses, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm. People will be offered the vaccine through a range of services. Primary care teams will vaccinate care home staff and residents. Health and social care staff will be directed to book their appointments through employers and members of the public will be invited to get their booster through a GP-led service and/or be contacted by the NHS to book through the national COVID-19 vaccination booking service to get their vaccination in a designated pharmacy, vaccination centre or GP-led service.

Why aren’t most younger people being offered a booster?

As most younger adults will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time when more information is available. In general, younger, healthy individuals may be expected to generate stronger vaccine-induced immune responses from primary course vaccination compared to older individuals.

What type of vaccine will the COVID-19 booster be? What if it’s different to the one I have had?

After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech (vaccine to be offered as the booster dose irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule). There is good evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response. Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, which should be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response. A half dose of Moderna vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of reactogenicity (side effects) seen following boosting with a full dose in clinical trials. Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in the primary course. More detail is available in the green book

Will there be any side effects from the booster vaccine?

As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection. Although a fever can occur within a day or 2 of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.

Can you still catch COVID-19 after having the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

Can I have the booster if I haven’t completed the first vaccination course?

No, you need to finish the first course of your vaccination.

Can I get the flu and COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time?

The COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day and for people that are eligible for both, there may be opportunities to have both together. We would encourage you to get your vaccinations as soon as possible and get fully protected rather than waiting as it may not always be possible to get them together.

I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?

Everyone that is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the COVID-19 booster programme begins. This may be through a GP-led service or by booking through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination national booking service. Everyone aged 18 and over can book their initial COVID-19 vaccination through the NHS booking service (call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week).

Can I get the booster if I am pregnant? If you are pregnant and in one of the groups that the JCVI has recommended for the boosters, you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn.

FAQs – 12 – 15 year olds

How can 12-15 year olds get vaccinated?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. 2 doses are being offered to children aged 12 to 15 to give them the best protection against COVID-19. Children can get a 1st dose of the vaccine from the day they turn 12. Most children can get a 2nd dose from 12 weeks after they had their 1st dose. If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 and is not at high risk from COVID-19, they need to wait 12 weeks before they can have a COVID-19 vaccine. This starts from the date of their positive PCR test.

18 and over 

People who are 18 and over will begin to receive texts from the national booking service inviting them to make an appointment at one of the large vaccination centres. They may also receive an invitation from their GP. These do not cancel each other out. Please choose which is most convenient for you and book either through your GP or the national booking system by ringing 119 or visiting

Advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

If you’re pregnant, or think you might be, you can have the COVID-19 vaccine. You’ll be invited when your age group are offered it or earlier if you have a health condition or reason that means you’re eligible.

It’s preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. This is because they’ve been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues.

You can book your COVID-19 vaccination online. If you’re under 40, you’ll only be shown appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. If you’re 40 or over, you’ll be asked if you’re pregnant to make sure you’re only shown appointments for these vaccines.

At your appointment, you’ll be able to discuss the benefits and potential risks of having the vaccine in pregnancy. This is so you can make an informed decision about having it. You can also speak to a GP or your maternity team for advice.

It’s recommended you have the same vaccine for both doses.

If you had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for your 1st dose and did not have any serious side effects you should have it for your 2nd dose.

You can also have any of the COVID-19 vaccines if you’re breastfeeding. You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine and cannot pass it to your baby through your breast milk.

There’s no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There’s no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

Read the latest COVID-19 vaccine advice if you’re pregnant, may get pregnant or are breastfeeding on GOV.UK

Read the latest Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives statement on the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility

Astra Zeneca update and FAQs

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation states “JCVI has weighed the relative balance of benefits and risks and advise that the benefits of prompt vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of adverse events for individuals 30 years of age and over and those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

JCVI currently advises that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 years without underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, to be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine, if available. People may make an informed choice to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to receive earlier protection.”

Information is available on the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccination in relation to blood clotting:

Can patients with drug allergies be given the vaccine?

Patients with common drug allergies such as to penicillin, aspirin and other non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids CAN be given the AZ vaccine. There are no drug components in the AZ vaccine and as such, would not contain the drugs that the patient is allergic to.

Only patients who are allergic to any of the ingredients of the vaccine should not be given the vaccine. The ingredients of the AZ vaccine are listed below;

  • L-Histidine
  • L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
  • Magnesium chloride hexahydrate
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Ethanol
  • Sucrose
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Disodium edetate dihydrate
  • Water (for injection)

Can patients with food allergies be given the vaccine?

There are no egg, nut or any other food components in the vaccine. It is also gluten free. As such, patients with food allergies can safely be given the vaccine.

Can patients on anticoagulation medicines e.g. Warfarin, Apixaban and Rivaroxaban be vaccinated? Are there any special considerations?

Taking anticoagulation drugs is not a contraindication itself. People can be given the vaccine if the International Normalised Ratio (INR) figure is stable in the weeks leading up to the vaccination or their Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs such as apixaban) therapy has been stabilised for more than a week. Precautions such as using a finer gauge needle should be used to minimize the chance of bleeding. The patient should be advised that bruising is expected at the site of vaccination.

However, patients whose INR is unstable or higher than 4, may need to come back for the vaccination once their INR has stabilised. Patients who have just started their DOAC therapy may also need to come for their vaccination later.

Patients taking Warfarin are encouraged to bring their yellow book for the vaccination appointment.

Can somebody who has recently had the flu vaccine or another vaccine a few days ago receive the AZ vaccine?

The ideal period between different vaccinations is seven days. This is to avoid confusing any adverse effects that may result from the two different vaccines. If the patient presents to the centre having had the other non-COVID vaccination at least 5 days ago and very much want to have the vaccination, please call the Pharmacy for a consultation.

Can a person who has recently had a Covid-19 infection be vaccinated?

There are no safety concerns from clinical trials that prevent the vaccination of people with previous history of COVID-19 infection. However, there should be a minimum of a 28 days gap between the last positive COVID-19 test result and the vaccination. The reason for this is not to overwhelm the patient’s immune system, which would have been fighting off the COVID infection.

Can immunocompromised patients be vaccinated?

There is no live virus in the AZ vaccine and it is safe for the immunocompromised patients. However, these cohorts of patients will likely have to have had some specific advice from their relevant Consultant. If there is doubt as to whether they should have the vaccine, they should be asked to speak with their Consultant or GP first and given instructions on how to rebook their appointment. If the patient is acutely unwell, then vaccination should be postponed until they have fully recovered.

Can patients who have had surgery recently be vaccinated?

Unless the patient have been specifically advised by their Surgeon to not have the vaccine, they can receive the AZ vaccination if they are clinically stable with no current febrile illness as per the exclusion criteria of the PGD.

Can I take my regular medicines after vaccination?

There are currently no known contra-indications with medicines and patients should be advised to continue taking their medications as prescribed or advised by their health care professional.

Do patients need to be observed after vaccination and can they drive?

Whilst all recipients of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines should be kept for observation and monitored for a minimum of 15 minutes, there is NO such requirement for the Astra Zeneca vaccine.

Does drinking alcohol impact on how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is?

There is no evidence to indicate that drinking alcohol within the recommended weekly limits will have any impact on the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Does the vaccine work against the new mutated variants of COVID? 

Yes, the vaccine has been shown to be effective against the current British and S African variants of COVID. If a variant were to evade the vaccine, the new technology means that a new vaccine can be developed very quickly (potentially within 6 weeks), and it is anticipated that the current vaccine would most likely have some benefit against other new variants even if not fully protective. This is an area that will continue to be researched.

Second dose reminders

We are reminding people to come forward for their second dose of the vaccine when they are contacted or if they have an appointment booked.

People who received their first dose in a hospital hub or through a GP service will be contacted to receive their second dose, if they haven’t already. You do not need to contact the NHS.

People who booked their appointments through the national booking service (online at or by ringing 119) will have booked both their first and second appointments at the same time.

People who rang 119 will have been given details of their second appointment over the phone.

People who booked online can remind themselves of the place and time of their second dose using the ‘manage my appointments’ section on

I have heard that some countries have withdrawn the Astra Zeneca due to concerns about blood clots. Should I still have my vaccine?

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation states “JCVI has weighed the relative balance of benefits and risks and advise that the benefits of prompt vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of adverse events for individuals 30 years of age and over and those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

JCVI currently advises that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 years without underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, to be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine, if available. People may make an informed choice to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to receive earlier protection.”

Information is available on the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccination in relation to blood clotting:


Text Messaging from the NHS

The NHS nationally is sending text messages to some people to invite them to book a vaccine appointment.

You can trust your text message is genuine if it comes from ‘NHSvaccine’, includes a link to the website and gives you the option of phoning 119.

FAQs regarding text messaging from the NHS can be found here.

I need to cancel my appointment.

It is vital that every vaccination is completed and all appointments are used. If you need to cancel or change your appointment please do so as early as possible so that it can be offered to someone else.

To change your appointment, please use the original method for booking it. If you booked on the national web booking service log in again, cancel and rebook. If there is not an appointment immediately available, please keep trying. If you booked by calling 119, call them back and they will help you cancel and rebook. If your appointment was through your GP Practice, please call them. They can then use your appointment for somebody else.

It is important that no appointments are wasted.

Unpaid Carers

Anyone who is providing personal care for someone who is at high risk from coronavirus is eligible to be vaccinated now.

This means that the other person relies on you for their care and they have had, or been offered, a vaccination because they are most at risk from coronavirus.

If you are in receipt of carer’s allowance or have a carer’s flag on your GP record, you can book via the national booking system.

If you cannot book via the NBS but believe you should be eligible under the definition above, please speak to your GP practice to discuss how to be vaccinated.

I am not registered with a GP practice – how can I book my vaccine?

If you are eligible for the vaccine (currently priority groups 1-11) you can call 119 –  a manual record will be completed so that you can access the vaccine (calls to 119 are free of charge, call anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week).

You can also register with a GP practice.  You will then receive a letter inviting you to book your vaccination.  Details of how to do this can be found here:

What is being done for the over 70s who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID and who would like to be?

To ensure absolutely everyone is offered the vaccine, people aged 70 and over can now contact the NHS so they can be vaccinated by the middle of February.

The easiest way to arrange a vaccination is through the national booking service which can be accessed at

The system allows patients to choose a time slot and location that suits them. Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

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 –

Do the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccine include animal products or egg?

The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg.

What is the advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding?

There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can be routinely offered the vaccine.

The JCVI has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you’re pregnant and:

  • at high risk of getting coronavirus because of where you work
  • have a health condition that means you’re at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus

You can have the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding. Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine with you. You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19. Further information is available from Public Health England.

What is the impact of Covid-19 vaccines on fertility?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said: “ We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data.”  Further information and more detail on this can be found on their website.

How can I find my NHS number?

You can find your NHS number using the NHS Number Access Service which is available on the NHS website. It requires users to enter their name, DOB and Post Code to receive a copy of their NHS number. You will then receive your number via text assuming all of your details match those registered.

I am a housebound patient and I’m in the criteria of those currently being vaccinated, how will I get my vaccine?

Residents who are housebound will be contacted by their local GP and invited to make an appointment for a local GP or clinician to visit to administer their Covid vaccination at home. The over 80 year olds are the priority for the BLMK CCGs, in line with JCVI guidance.  This is to ensure that our most vulnerable patients are given vaccinations, before progressing to vaccinate our over 70s population.