Coronavirus FAQs: vaccine

We know that people have a lot of questions about the new vaccinations for Coronavirus.  Many people are naturally keen to be vaccinated as quickly as possible so that they can get on with their lives, but there is a clear rollout strategy and your GP will contact you when it is your turn to be vaccinated, do not contact your GP about this.

The first group is the over 85s, care home residents and staff, NHS frontline staff.  Then the over 80s, over 75s, over 70s, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.  It will then continue to work down the age groups, with the Government expecting to have given a first dose to everyone in high risk categories by April 2021.

Those under 50, with not underlying conditions, will be the last group as they are the least at risk.

You can visit the NHS website for further information on the vaccine.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve had about the vaccines.

What vaccine for Coronavirus is currently available?

In the UK, there are three types of Coronavirus vaccine which have been approved for use:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Moderna vaccine

The Coronavirus vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. They all require two doses to provide the best protection.

The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the vaccine provides protection for up to three months for most people. As a result of this, there has been a change to length of time between the first and second dose of the vaccine.

The second dose was previously 21 days after having the first dose, but this has now changed to three months after.

Who should have the Coronavirus vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the vaccine to people most at risk from Coronavirus. This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccination?

The NHS will get in touch with you directly when it is your turn to be vaccinated. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

For information about vaccines, visit the NHS website.

I’ve had my first Coronavirus vaccine, where can I find more information on what to expect next?

If you have already had your first dose and were due to have your second dose after Monday 4 January 2021, the NHS will contact you about when you'll have your second dose.

When you are contacted by the NHS for your second dose of the vaccine, please attend your appointment.

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes, the vaccines have been proven to be safe. The NHS will not offer any Coronavirus vaccinations to the public unless independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said the three types of vaccine are safe and highly effective. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and monitoring continues after authorisation.

Will the vaccine protect me?

The vaccine will reduce the chance of you suffering from Coronavirus. Each vaccine has been tested in more than 20,000 people in different countries and shown to be safe. It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions after vaccination to avoid infection. Some people may still get Coronavirus despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

Will the vaccine have side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you long-lasting protection against the virus.

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

During national lockdown, will vaccines still be provided/should I still attend my appointment?

Yes. Getting the Coronavirus vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and vaccinations will continue as normal. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it. The place that you choose to have your vaccine will keep you safe from Coronavirus through a range of measures including cleaning and disinfecting and having social distancing in waiting areas.

Please also wear a face covering to your appointment. You should also take the usual steps to minimise your risk as you travel to your appointment.

Will the vaccine work with the new strain?

Yes, there is no evidence currently that the new strain will be resistant to the current vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu, branch into different strains, but these small variations rarely make vaccines ineffective.

Should people who have already had Coronavirus get vaccinated?

Yes, you should get vaccinated if you are offered the Coronavirus vaccine by the NHS. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Coronavirus as it is for those who haven’t.

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and Coronavirus vaccine but it is recommended that there should be a gap of a week. There has never been a more important time to make sure you – and those you care for – are protected against serious illnesses such as the flu. If you haven’t already received your flu jab and are eligible for the free vaccine, please contact your GP or Pharmacist to book your appointment.

Can I get the Coronavirus vaccine privately?

No. Coronavirus vaccinations are currently only available through the NHS. Anyone who claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee is likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police 101 service and/or Local Trading Standards.

I’m pregnant/breastfeeding, should I get the vaccine?

You can take the vaccine.  Whilst there are no data on the safety of Coronavirus vaccines in breastfeeding or on the breastfed infant, the vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant, and the benefits of breast-feeding are well known.  Because of this, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that the vaccine can be received whilst breastfeeding. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation. 

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

What about the allergic reactions that have been reported?

The Coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts. Tell staff before you are vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction

(anaphylaxis). You should not have the vaccine if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction to a previous vaccine. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

Can I catch Coronavirus from the vaccine?

You cannot catch Coronavirus from the vaccine, but it is possible to have caught Coronavirus and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

For more information on Coronavirus symptoms, visit the NHS website.

Can I give Coronavirus to anyone, after I have had the vaccine?

We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. So, it is important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you. To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:

  • practice social distancing
  • wear a face mask
  • wash your hands carefully and frequently
  • follow the current Government guidance for your local area