Booster vaccine dose for people most at risk from COVID-19
People aged 50 years and over, care home residents, frontline health and social care workers, and those aged 16 to 49 years with specific underlying health conditions will be offered a booster vaccine dose.
Third dose for severely immunosuppressed people over 12
This third dose should be offered to people over 12 who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose, including those with leukaemia, advanced HIV and recent organ transplants. People with severe immunosuppression are more likely to be severely ill if they do catch COVID-19.
The JCVI advises that for adults aged 18 and older, either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines be administered for the third dose, as a number of studies have reported an increased immune response in some immunosuppressed people after a third dose of an mRNA vaccine. For those aged 12 to 17, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is preferred.
In the event of a booster programme, it is expected that severely immunosuppressed people will also be offered a booster dose, at a suitable interval after their third dose. A third primary dose is an extra ‘top-up’ dose for those who may not have generated a full immune response to the first 2 doses. In contrast, a booster dose is a later dose to extend the duration of protection from the primary course of vaccinations.
When can I get the vaccine?
- All young people aged 12 to 15 will soon be offered a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- If you belong to any of the following groups, you can book a vaccine online click here or by calling 119:
- you're aged 12 or older
- you're at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable)
- you have a learning disability
- you're a carer for someone who would struggle to cope if you became unwell (If you have not already been invited speak to your GP if you to get added to their list)
How will I know when I can get a vaccine?
If you are eligible you can book the vaccine now online (here) or by calling 119. You don't need to wait to be contacted.
If you are not yet eligible, the NHS will contact you and invite you to book a vaccine appointment when it’s your turn. You may receive a phone call, letter or text message from your GP practice or a letter from the national booking service, so it’s useful to:
- make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information so that your notification comes to the right place
- register with a GP if you are not already registered. To find your local surgery visit: www.nhs.uk/register
- keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message. If you're not sure about following a link in a text message or giving your details to someone who calls you then you can book online click here or call 119.
- let your GP surgery know if you are caring for someone with underlying health conditions who would struggle to cope if you became unwell as this will make you eligible now. You can help the vaccination effort by emailing your GP practice or using its website to make sure your local surgery knows you are an unpaid carer.
People may receive 'multiple invites' for coronavirus jabs due to a cross-over between national and local vaccination programmes. When you do get contacted to attend you may receive multiple invitations with different options and you can choose where to get your vaccine, if you receive a letter from the national booking service for the large vaccination centres or pharmacy services then you can wait to be contacted by your local GP service if a more local service is more accessible. If you’ve already had a vaccine or booked an appointment, then you don’t need to respond. You may receive a phone call, email, text message or letter. So it’s useful to keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message. If your contact details have changed lately, now’s a good time to make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information.
To find out about what to expect at your vaccine appointment please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/what-happens-at-your-appointment/
Where will the vaccine be administered?
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.
Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a week. To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.
What vaccines are currently available?
The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available.
The Janssen single-dose vaccine has been approved by the MHRA with doses expected to be available later this year.
How safe are the vaccines?
The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that all of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population. As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. No medication is completely safe but the risks of serious side effects from these vaccines is very low and over 35 million people in the UK have already had a vaccine
Once the MHRA determined the vaccine was safe, it was given emergency approval which allowed it to be used immediately however, under this approval companies and healthcare professionals are immune from civil liability as long as the vaccine is used correctly. Nevertheless, the government has taken the precautionary step to ensure that, in the very rare possibility where someone is severely affected as a result of the vaccine, they can access financial assistance through the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS).
For the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has risks for about ten in a million people, we have more detailed information which you can find here.
Can people choose what vaccine they receive?
Any vaccines that the NHS provides has passed strict tests on their safety and effectiveness. However, the JCVI has advised that for adults under age 40 without underlying health conditions should receive an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated.
Can the vaccines be mixed?
At the moment, people are offered the same vaccine for both of their doses. The Oxford Vaccine Group’s Com-Cov vaccine trial is currently testing how well people’s immune systems respond when they are primed with one type of vaccine, then boosted with another. They are also looking at how good the response is when the second dose is separated from the first dose by different periods of time. More information is available here – https://comcovstudy.org.uk/home.
How effective are the vaccines?
The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection. There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
- This means it is important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance
- if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it's hard to stay away from other people
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.
What ingredients are in the vaccine? What if I have allergies/dietary requirements?
There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.
- For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here
- For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here
- For the Moderna vaccine information is available here
Anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine should not receive it, but those with any other allergies such as a food allergy can now have the vaccine.
The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation is a UK-based charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals, they have published recommendations for people who are vegan and considering having a vaccine (https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/vegans-covid-19-vaccine/)
When and where will I get my second vaccine?
It is important to have both doses of the same vaccine to give you the best protection, so make sure you keep your next appointment to get your second dose. All vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of protection.
You do not need to do anything to arrange your second dose. The NHS will contact you with your appointment details. Wait to be contacted. The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not being as protected as you otherwise would be. The second dose completes the course and is likely to be important for longer-term protection. It's important to get both doses to protect yourself against coronavirus.
You may have a second appointment booked already and you should have a record card with details of your next appointment written on it, this will be around 12 weeks after your first appointment and at the same location where you received your first dose.
Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?
- No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.
- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
- If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by calling 101.
What are the potential side effects?
- These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use
- For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials
- All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting them to the MHRA.
- More information on possible side effects can be found here
Can I have the vaccine if I am pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding?
The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. JCVI has updated its guidance to say that people 39 and under who are eligible and pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Although clinical trials on the use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy are not advanced, the available data do not indicate any harm to pregnancy. JCVI has therefore advised that women who are pregnant should be offered vaccination at the same time as non-pregnant women, based on their age and clinical risk group.
If a woman finds out she is pregnant after she has started a course of vaccine, she may complete vaccination during pregnancy using the same vaccine product (unless contraindicated). Alternatively, vaccination should be offered as soon as possible after pregnancy.
There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility, and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby Covid-19. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College Midwives (RCM) issued a joint statement to reassure around the misinformation shared about the impact of Covid-19 vaccines on fertility. In the statement, Dr Edward Morris, President at RCOG, said: "We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility." RCM Chief Executive Gill Walton added: "Women who are eligible for the vaccination should consider discussing any concerns they have with their midwife or healthcare professional." The full statement can be read here.
What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in BAME and other disproportionately affected communities/groups?
We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible and are tailored to meet their needs. This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other voluntary organisations.
The Covid-19 vaccination programme is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status. In line with published national guidance, migrants to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will be eligible for a vaccine when it is their turn. An NHS number is not needed to be eligible for a Covid vaccination. However, it is helpful to be registered with a GP so that the NHS can invite patients to book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment when it is their turn. Registration with a GP also enables the vaccinator to check for safety issues or medical reasons why the person should not be vaccinated at that time, and to check for previous vaccinations. Patients do not need to show proof of address, ID or immigration status to register with a GP. This also applies if you are an asylum seeker, refugee, a homeless patient or an overseas visitor, whether lawfully in the UK or not.
If I have already had Covid-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
The NHS recommends that people go ahead and get the vaccine when it’s their turn, even if they’ve already had Covid-19 and recovered. 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. Also, experts don’t yet have a good understanding of how long natural immunity might last and whether you are protected against the various strains of the virus. A vaccine can boost your protection without causing harm and is the best form of defence against the virus.
People who have had COVID-19 infection can be vaccinated after around four weeks of symptoms starting, or four weeks after a positive test in someone who had no symptoms.
If you are invited for your vaccination during this period, please let your GP practice know or book an appointment through the National Booking Service after this time.
If you are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ and you are eligible for a vaccination, you should discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.
Are the vaccinations safe for people with long-term conditions?
Vaccines will be approved if it is considered safe for people with long-term conditions. These 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. Your GP can advise on when you are eligible and will contact you with an appointment when it’s your turn.
A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies. Everybody will also be screened for potential allergic reactions before getting vaccinated. All vaccinators will have the training they need to deal with any rare cases of adverse reactions, and all venues will be equipped to care for people who need it – just like with any other vaccine.
The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, or breastfeeding should read the detailed information available on NHS.UK.
Is it safe to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine?
Less than 0.03% (i.e. 1 in 3000) of people with Covid infections aged under 44 dying 0.5% (i.e. 1 in 200) of those testing positive for covid dying at ages 45-65. Whilst the risks from the vaccine are in the region of 1 in 250,000. The very low risks from Covid-19 to under 30s means that it is preferable to offer them an alternative vaccine where possible - and indeed they are still able to take the Astrazeneca vaccines if it is available sooner.
There is no evidence that those with a prior history of thrombosis or known risk factors for thrombosis are more at risk of developing this immune-mediated condition of thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopaenia after the AstraZeneca vaccine. For most of these individuals, the risk of recurrent thrombosis due to COVID-19 infection, remains far greater than the risk of this syndrome.
People under 40 will be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca, however if they have already had the first dose of AstraZeneca, they will complete this with the second dose of the same vaccine. You must have both doses of the same vaccine.
Will the vaccines work with the new strains?
Scientists continue to look carefully at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. There is no evidence currently that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines we have, and vaccination remains the best protection we have against Covid-19. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.
Why are some second doses being brought forward?
People at greater risk of getting seriously ill due to Covid-19 are being offered their second vaccine earlier as part of plans to tackle the spread of the variant first identified in India. The NHS will contact those who should bring their appointment forward when they are able to do so – nobody needs to contact the NHS, wait for us to contact you.
How do I change my 2nd vaccination appointment?
It is really important that you get your 2nd vaccine but not everyone will be able to make the date that they're given for the 2nd appointment. If you can't make your appointment then cancel it and rebook another appointment.
You can do this either by the details that you get on your appointment confirmation, by contacting your GP (if they arranged your appointment) or through the NHS Book or manage your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination page.
Changing your appointment online is easy:
- Click this link
- Cancel your existing vaccination appointment
- Book a new vaccination at a date that you can make
You'll need to answer some questions when you click through like giving your NHS number - this is a 10 digit number you can find on any letter the NHS has sent you. For example, 485 777 3546
If you do not know your NHS number you can still book your vaccination appointments.
Vaccinations for under 18s
Any Covid-19 vaccine that is approved for use in the UK, must meet strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have advised that all 16 and 17 year olds should receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The vaccination can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them. Typically side effects for individuals aged 12 to 17 years are injection site pain, fever and headache. These reactions are generally mild and short-lived, typically lasting 1-2 days.
Extremely rare side effects, which usually occur within a few days of the second dose include; myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart).
Can 16-17 year olds consent without their parents?
16 and 17-year-olds who are considering taking the COVID -19 vaccine will not need parental consent to do so. Current UK guidance states that at 16 years of age a young person is presumed in law to have the capacity to consent, so young people aged 16 or 17 years should consent to their own medical treatment.
Do I need a COVID Pass and how can I access one?
An NHS COVID Pass shows your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination details or test results. You may be asked to show your pass to travel abroad, or at events and venues in the UK when asked for proof of your COVID-19 status.
You can get the NHS Covid Pass either:
- two weeks after your second vaccine dose
- if you've had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours - and have reported it on the NHS website (this pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
- if you have had a positive PCR test result within the past six months, and have finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days after the result)
My religion does not recommend having the COVID-19 vaccination; is there further information?
Most religious groups and faith leaders in the UK and throughout the world have been working to address concerns about the COVID-19 Vaccine, provide people with evidence-based information, and support individuals in making an informed decision about whether to have the vaccine.
If you have religious concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, please discuss them with a trusted faith leader and have a conversation with a clinician at one of our walk in vaccination clinics.