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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme
The NHS has started the delivery of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination programme, in Berkshire West in began on 15 December 2020. This short video, with local GP Dr Amit Sharma talks about the importance of getting your vaccination. 

Following extensive safety trials and authorisation by the independent regulator (the MHRA), effective COVID-19 vaccines are now available for free in the UK.

Vaccines approved to date for use in the UK:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech (Germany) vaccine: approved 2 December 2020
  • Oxford University and AstraZeneca (UK) vaccine: approved 30 December 2020
  • Moderna vaccine (US): approved 8 January 2021

Watch this video of a local GP discussing the three vaccines.

We understand lots of people are very eager to get protected but please don’t contact your GP practices, the wider NHS or any of the community venues that are hosting clinics to seek a vaccine. Please be assured the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn.

If you've already received your first vaccination at your GP practice or Primary Care Network site (listed in the table here) please wait to be contacted about your second jab.
If you had your jab at a Mass Vaccination site, you most likely already have a second dose booked. 

  • When you are contacted you, please attend your booked appointments
  • Please continue to follow all the rules to control the virus and save lives

Frequently asked questions

A useful video with local GP, Dr Amit Sharma answering some of the commonly asked questions is available here.

In February, Healthwatch Reading held a public Q & A about Covid vaccines - giving local residents, especially Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, a chance to put questions to frontline professionals. Further details are available here.

How will patients get the vaccine?
Groups of GP practices (known as Primary Care Networks) are working together to vaccinate patients, so you might not be contacted by your usual practice, and you might need to go to a different location for the vaccination itself. You will be told where to attend when you are invited.

You might know others who have been invited for their vaccination already, but that doesn’t mean that you are a lower priority or have been missed.

This is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history and it will take time to work through everyone.

How will patients be contacted?

  • When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward.
  • Networks of local GP practices are working together and using the usual range of communications methods (calls, text messages, letters) available to them to make contact with patients.

I have received an NHS letter inviting me to book an appointment at one of the new mass vaccination sites
The NHS has sent out a letter inviting some people to book an appointment at one of the new mass vaccination sites. These letters have come from the national NHS computerised system so you may have been offered the option of a site that is some distance from where you live.

You have the choice of going ahead and booking an appointment at one of these sites. Or alternatively, you can wait to be contacted by your own GP practice. They will be in touch as soon as an appointment slot is available at a vaccination site closer to your home. The surgery will either ring, text or write to you offering an appointment.

The NHS has drawn up a list of priority groups* and our surgeries are working through patients in these groups. If you’ve not heard from your GP yet, please don’t think you’ve been forgotten. You will be contacted as soon as it’s your turn and over the next few weeks everyone in Berkshire West will be offered the vaccine.

Information for carers - 15 March 
Carers are one of the groups of people identified within Cohort 6 for priority vaccination.

All eligible carers will be contacted by the NHS when it’s their turn to get the vaccine and will be given the information they need to book a vaccination. We are currently working from lists of ‘known’ carers to do this. Not all carers will be eligible at this stage.

Eligible carers are those that care for someone who is more at risk of death or serious illness if they contract COVID-19. It does not include those that care for children unless the child has severe neuro-disabilities.

The following carers are currently being invited as a priority for vaccination as part of Cohort 6:

  • Carers who are known to GPs and have a ‘carer's flag’ on their primary care record. These carers will be invited for vaccination by their GP practice.
  • Carers who are eligible to receive carers allowance. These carers will be invited to book a vaccination at one of the mass vaccination centres.
  • Carers who are known to Local Authorities who are in receipt of support following a carers assessment. These carers will be invited to book a vaccination at one of the mass vaccination centres.

Please see further information here.

It is important that people caring for someone who may be a vulnerable person but not in relation to COVID-19 should wait to be contacted when their age group is invited for vaccination.

*How are you choosing who to vaccinate?

  • Patients are being prioritised for the vaccine according to the national prioritisation criteria below. More information about the prioritisation criteria is available on the NHS website and in this video.
    • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers 
    • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
    • All those 75 years of age and over
    • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
    • All those 65 years of age and over
    • All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. This also includes carers - those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
    • All those 60 years of age and over
    • All those 55 years of age and over
    • All those 50 years of age and over

I am in one of the listed priority groups, why do I have to wait?

  • Covid-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest risk. You will be called in as soon as there is enough vaccine available.
  • Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This is because only some vaccines can be transported between people’s homes.

I’ve called my GP practice about the vaccination but they say they don’t know anything, why?

  • Single GP practices don’t have the capacity to roll out a programme like this alone. That is why they have come together to pool resources and work with other partners in the community to get the clinics up and running quickly. As a result, individual practices are still managing all their usual day-to-day business and may not have answers to your questions about vaccinations. That is why we are asking people to wait to be contacted by the specific teams who are concentrating on the vaccination programme.

Where are the clinics delivering vaccinations?

  • Vaccines will be offered in a range of community settings. Some teams will visit people to offer the vaccine, for example in care homes, other people may have to go to the nearest centre. Because some of the vaccine has to be stored in a very low temperature freezer, it is not possible to deliver it from all GP practices.

What if the centre I am offered is not easy to get to?

  • Please try to attend the vaccination centre you are offered. If you cannot attend that centre, you may have to wait to get the vaccine. More clinics will open in the coming weeks and months.

Should I still go to my vaccination appointment in lockdown?

  • Leaving the house for medical reasons, including a Covid-19 vaccination appointment, is allowed in all local restriction Tiers. So if you are contacted by the NHS to book a vaccination appointment, it’s crucial that you attend. Each service is carefully planned with strict safety measure in place.

The vaccines have been developed quickly. Is the NHS confident they are safe? 

  • Although vaccines have been developed quickly, they have passed all the tests needed for any new drug or medicine to ensure they are safe. The vaccine developers followed the well-established processes of testing the vaccine in clinical trials. This has involved thousands of people who have been closely monitored for side effects, with no serious ill effects noted. The vaccines were then thoroughly assessed by the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which is the UK medicines regulator. This is a well-established process for all new medicines and vaccinations, and we confident that the vaccines are safe to be rolled out in the UK. More information is available on the WHO website.

    The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.  

Do I have the option about which vaccine I have?
No, both are equally effective and safe and neither have products in that certain religious groups are forbidden from accepting.

How long will my vaccination take?

  • While the injection can be given very quickly, all patients must wait on site for 15 minutes afterwards to check they do not experience a severe reaction.
  • Patients are also urged not to arrive too early, to avoid queuing outside for too long.

Once you’ve had the vaccine
Please remember that you must still adhere to the social distancing and hands, face space rules as this will go a long way to preventing the spread of the virus.

Second vaccine doses
The vaccination is given in two doses, three to 12 weeks apart. It is very common for vaccinations to be given in more than one dose as this ensures it is most effective. The reason there has been some change to the exact timing is that the UK has decided to offer as many people as possible their first dose before following up with the second. The means more individuals will receive the first dose, which provides a good level of protection, this protection is then further increased with dose 2.

At this point we do not know whether regular vaccination will be required (e.g. such as for flu where it is given every year) or whether a one-off will suffice for decades. We will advise people on this when we know if future vaccinations will be needed or not.

Do the vaccines contain animal products?

  • No, there are none in any of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK.

Why is it important to get your COVID-19 vaccination?

  • Getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you can, should protect you and may help to protect your family and those you care for.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives and will therefore reduce pressure on the NHS and social care services.

I’m currently ill with COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?

  • People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until they have recovered.

Do people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated?

  • Yes, they should get vaccinated. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody. It is recommended that you wait for 28 days after becoming unwell/ testing positive with Covid.

Are there any known or anticipated 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. You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.
  • Very common side effects include:
    • Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
    • Feeling tired
    • Headache 
    • General aches, or mild flu like symptoms

Can I have the vaccine if I'm 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 routinely be offered it. See the latest advice here.
Current advice recommends 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.
  • You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19

Can the vaccine affect my fertility?
No there is no evidence that the vaccine has any negative impact on people’s fertility.

I have had my flu vaccine, do I need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?

  • The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but separated by at least seven days.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from flu?

  • No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu. If you have been offered a flu vaccine, please try to have this as soon as possible to help protect you, your family and patients from flu this winter.

Easy read Covid leaflets

COVID vaccination information in many languages
Information in many languages, for adults about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found via the links below on the GOV.UK website.

A British sign language video is also available here.

How do I find my NHS number?
If you are having difficulty locating your NHS number, you can find it using one of the two pathways below.

  • NHS App: This can be downloaded from the Play and Apple Stores. Once your account has been verified you will be able to access you record, including your NHS number.
  • NHS Correspondence: You will be able to find your NHS number on any letter or document you have received from the NHS, including prescriptions, test results, and hospital referral or appointment letters.

Please be aware of scams. The NHS will NEVER ask you for your bank details, personal passwords, or PIN numbers when offering you a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. Covid vaccinations are being provided free of charge.