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COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

What vaccine for COVID-19 is currently available? 

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.  

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This includes:    

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine   
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. 
  • 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also being assessed by the MHRA. 

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

Who is being vaccinated now?

In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres. More centres are opening all the time.

It's being given to:

  • people aged 80 and over
  • some people aged 70 and over
  • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers

You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.

The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Read the latest JCVI advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK

What counts as a frontline social care worker?

The government has said:

“All frontline social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COIVD-19 who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in people’s own homes, day centres, care homes for working age adults or supported housing); whether they care for clinically vulnerable adults or children; or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS private sector or third sector employees).” 

Is the NHS confident the vaccine is safe?   

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.  The MHRA, the official UK regulator, has said this vaccine is very safe and highly effective, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.   

 As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. Vaccines go through several stages of lab tests and clinical trials before they can be approved for use. 

There is continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population. 

Vaccines are designed to prevent people from getting serious infectious diseases. It is much safer for your immune system to learn how to fight illnesses through vaccination than by catching and treating them. 


Can people pick what vaccine they want?   

Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while. 


How will patients be invited for a vaccination?  

When it is the right time people will receive an invitation. For most people, this will be in the form of a letter from either their GP or the national booking system. This will include all the information they need, including their NHS number. 

This is the biggest vaccination programme in UK history, which means it will take time to vaccinate all the eligible people.  

We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we are asking people not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they get their letter. 


Am I at increased risk from COVID-19 infection?  

Coronavirus can affect anyone. If you are an older adult and have a long-term health condition, COVID-19 can be very serious and in some cases fatal.  

You should have the COVID-19 vaccine if you are:  

  • An adult living or working in a care home for the elderly 
  • A frontline healthcare worker  
  • A frontline social care worker  
  • A carer working in domiciliary care looking after older adults  


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

This is the biggest vaccination programme in UK history, which means it will take time to vaccinate all the eligible people. 

The 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 the supply of the right type of vaccine. This is because only some vaccines can be transported between people’s homes. 


How long does the vaccine take to become effective? 

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of your suffering from COVID-19 disease. You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.  

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe 

We don’t yet know whether it will stop people from catching and passing on the virus, but we do expect it to reduce this risk. So, it is still important that people continue to follow social distancing rules for the time being.  


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

Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe 

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.  


Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly/ suitable for Muslim and Jewish people? 

Yes, the Pfizer vaccine does not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products. 

If, and when, further vaccines are approved we will publish information about known allergens or ingredients that are important for certain faiths, cultures and beliefs.  


Who cannot have the vaccine? 

The vaccines do not contain living organisms and are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine.  

A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies. Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding should read the detailed information on www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination. 

People who are suffering from a fever-type illness should also postpone having the vaccine until they have recovered.  


How effective are the vaccines?  How long do they take to work?  

The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  

To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the OxfordAstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12 weeks apart.

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked in as soon as possible. Even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow social distancing and other guidance. 

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection.  

 The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection. 

Can I give COVID-19 to anyone, after I have had the vaccine?  

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and two doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. 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:  

  • Practise social distancing 
  • Wear a face mask  
  • Wash your hands carefully and frequently  
  • Follow the current guidance www.gov.uk/coronavirus  

After I have had the vaccine will I still need to follow all the infection control advice?  

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and two doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. No vaccine is completely effective and it will take a few weeks for your body to build up protection. So, you will still need to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the correct personal protection equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.  

To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:  

  • Practise social distancing 
  • Wear a face mask  
  • Wash your hands carefully and frequently  
  • Follow the current guidance www.gov.uk/coronavirus  

Should people who have already had Covid get vaccinated?    

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t.  

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having the Covid vaccine?  

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and Covid vaccine but it is recommended that there should be a gap of a week. We would always encourage anyone who is eligible but not yet taken up their flu jab to do so as soon as possible. 



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NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

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