COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs

As you would have seen in the news, there is a lot of interest in the new COVID Vaccines that the UK government plans to offer to everyone. At the moment, no vaccinations are available and when they are available there will be a very limited supply and offered to those people who need them most. Once the most at risk have been vaccinated and as more vaccine is manufactured, then it will be offered to the rest of us over the coming months.

The choice on who will receive the vaccine first will be based on clinical risk and this will be determined by the government. We will not have any say in these rules and the surgery cannot tell you when you will be offered the vaccination.

We are currently working very closely with our local CCG and other health stakeholders on the COVID vaccination to ensure that we are able to offer it to those most at risk as quickly as possible. Please do not contact the surgery about the vaccination at this stage. You will be sent a letter when it is your turn to be vaccinated and this will include information about how to arrange your appointment.

Further information is below in these FAQs that you may find helpful.

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. Most people have said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available.

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.

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

You should get vaccinated. We do not yet know the length of immune response in those who’ve had the disease. When you have the new COVID-19 vaccine, you will reduce the spread of this deadly virus and help to protect yourself and others.

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.

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 through the NHS. It may take a while to get to everybody, but, when you are invited, make sure you get yours.

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 that apply either nationally or locally.

Can we trust a vaccine that’s been rushed through?

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 have 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.

What is the recommendation if I’m pregnant or if I’m planning to get pregnant?

Advice isn’t available on pregnancy yet. When the very first vaccine becomes available, it is unlikely that there will be evidence yet from trials including pregnant women. Even if there are insights from women who become pregnant in the large trials, it’s still unlikely that pregnant women will be among the first to get the vaccine. By early 2021, more data will be available on COVID’s effects in pregnancy. That evidence is important because it tells us about risk. If the virus presents a major risk to pregnant women, then it’s possible that pregnant women might be offered a vaccine sooner.

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 will be developed and information made available to people prior to vaccination so they can make an informed decision.

When will a vaccine be available?

It’s hoped small quantities of a vaccine could be available for those at the highest risk before the end of the year. There may only be small quantities of a vaccine at first, so it will be offered to those who need it most. Getting enough doses for everybody will take a while after a vaccine becomes available.

Are people who were shielding included in the priority groups?

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation’s (JCVI) who advise the Government recommends that this will include some people within the broader ‘shielding’ group (over 80s for example) but, as it stands, shielded people are not in the first groups to be vaccinated. The JCVI strongly agrees that a simple age-based programme will likely result in faster delivery and better uptake in those at the highest risk.

Will black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) be among the first to get the vaccine?

There will be many people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the early prioritised groups. Research has shown that people in those groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with a higher mortality risk or higher likelihood of transmission. Every effort will be made to get good coverage in black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and in areas with outbreaks or high levels of community transmission. This includes identifying vaccine ingredients which may be a barrier to uptake in some groups.

Will I be able to get the vaccine at the surgery?

To begin with, NHS England thinks that areas will have one central mass vaccination centre. These will be within each Primary Care Network (PCN). This would roughly mean that for every 100,000 people, there will be a centre vaccinating the general population. However, it is still to be agreed and this may change. Likewise it may be that we are asked to vaccinate certain groups of patients such as the over 80yrs old, care home residents and staff as well as our own staff. Again there is a high level of uncertainty at the moment whilst we wait for more information.

What we can be sure of is that we are working very closely with our local PCN and CCG to make sure that we can help in anyway and get patients vaccinated as quickly as we can.

Should I still get a flu vaccination?

Yes, if this is recommended for you. You may need to wait between one to four weeks between receiving the flu vaccine and receiving any COVID vaccine. Do not put off your flu vaccination.