Covid vaccine FAQs

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Covid-19 vaccine. These will be updated as new vaccines and information becomes available.

FAQs

Updated March 2022

If you can't find the answer below, please email us at  communications.ccg@sthelensccg.nhs.uk and we'll answer the question and add it here.

  

SPRING BOOSTER JABS FOR OVER 75s AND PEOPLE WITH WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEMS

Q: Why are some people being invited for a spring booster?

COVID-19 is more serious in older people and those with a weakened immune system. Protection from the vaccine may be lower and may decline more quickly in these people. For this reason, people aged 75 years and over, those in care homes and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system are being offered the spring booster.

 

Q: When will people be able to book their spring booster?

JCVI’s advice is that people should wait until around six months since their last dose for maximum effectiveness, and people are asked to wait until they are invited by the NHS to book. People should wait to be contacted by the NHS. The NHS will begin inviting people from the week beginning 21st March and will offer a top-up dose to all who are eligible during Spring and early Summer.

 

Q: How do I get my booster dose of the COVID vaccine?

For spring boosters, you should wait until the NHS contacts you. For an initial booster dose (the first dose following your primary course), you can visit www.nhs.uk/covid-booster to find your nearest walk in option or book an appointment. You can also call 119 free of charge which also offers translators on request.

 

Q: What happens if someone who has yet to be called forward for a booster had their last jab more than three months ago turns up at a vaccine centre – will they be turned away? If so, why?

The JCVI advice is that people should wait until around six months since their last dose for maximum effectiveness, and people are asked to wait until they are invited by the NHS to book. However, provided they are in one of the eligible groups and they attend a site that accepts walk-ins for booster doses, they will not be turned away if it has been more than three months since their previous dose and they have not had COVID recently (see next answer).

 

Q: I have recently recovered from COVID-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes. You still need to get a booster dose of the vaccine for extra protection, even if you have recently recovered from COVID-19.

If you have recently recovered from the virus, you will need to wait before getting any dose of the vaccine. People will need to wait:

  • 4 weeks (28 days) if they are aged 18 years old or over, or aged 5 to 17 years old and at greater risk from COVID (as defined in UKHSA’s Green Book – see table 3 and table 4 here)
  • 12 weeks (84 days) if they are aged 12 to 17 years old and not at greater risk from COVID (as defined in UKHSA’s Green Book – see table 3 and table 4 here)

 

Q: Why should I still get the vaccine now that restrictions have been lifted?

Vaccines have enabled the gradual and safe removal of restrictions on everyday life over the past year.

Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, we are able to get back to doing the things we love. However, COVID-19 is still out there and there are still people in hospital unwell with the virus.

Make sure you stay up to date with your vaccines for the best possible protection and for extra reassurance that you’re keeping yourself and others safe.

 

Q: Will I get side-effects from a booster dose?

You may experience some mild side effects from the booster dose, regardless of how you reacted to previous COVID-19 vaccines. Side effects are very mild, do not last for very long and not everybody will get them. Side effects can include a sore arm, feeling tired, a headache, feeling achy, and feeling or being sick. If you do get these, a pain killer such as paracetamol is recommended.


Q: Will I be expected to get more doses of the COVID vaccine in the future?

The NHS is also preparing to deliver an autumn dose of the vaccine, but whether this happens will depend on future recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

 

Q: Can I still come forward for a first or second dose if I’ve not yet done so?

It’s never too late to come forward for your first, second or (if you were immunosuppressed at the time of one of these) a third dose of the vaccine. You do not need to be registered with a GP and can find a walk-in option, book an appointment or more information at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccine or by calling 119 (translators are available into different languages on request).

 

Q: Why are no other groups of people being invited to come forward for a spring booster?

The NHS vaccinates people in line with recommendations on who is eligible from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), as accepted by government.

 

CHILDREN AND THE COVID VACCINE

If your child is aged over 12, you can book an appointment for them if they have not had one at their school for any reason.

More information on vaccines for 12-15 year olds here

  

My child is under 12 and clinically vulnerable - how do they get their Covid vaccine?

The JCVI have advised that 5 to 11 year olds who have an underlying health condition or are a household contact with people (of any age) who are immunosuppressed will be called for vaccination.  These children will be offered two 10 micrograms doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with a minimum interval of eight weeks between doses.

Both hospital specialists and GPs have been asked to identify those children who are eligible and letters to their parents will start arriving w/c 7 February  from GP practices giving details of how to get vaccinated.  Booking via the National Booking Service is not currently possible for this cohort.

For children age 5-11 eligible as a household contact, the NHS will write directly to the person who is immunosuppressed.

 

Are vaccines going to be given to all other 5-11 year olds like in other countries?

The Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI) advises a non-urgent offer of two 10 mcg doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine  to children aged 5 to 11 years of age who are not in a clinical risk group. The 2 doses should be offered with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses (and not prioritised over other age groups or other immunisation programmes).

This will be delivered from April 2022.  More information on this will be available on our website in due course.

 

I am under 18 - do I need my parents’ consent to be vaccinated?

We would always encourage young people to discuss having a Covid vaccine with their parents/guardian before attending for a vaccine. However, you do not require specific parental consent if the clinician assessing you prior to your vaccination believes, following a conversation with you, that you understand the information you are given regarding the vaccine.

 

BOOSTER JABS

What is the current guidance on booster jabs/how long do I need to wait to get a booster jab?

Booster doses in general can be given 3 months / 91 days after the completion of the primary course of 2 Covid vaccines (or 3 vaccines for those people with underlying conditions who were offered a 3rd primary course vaccine).

 

I recently had Covid - how long should I wait before I get my booster jab?

Booster doses in general can be given 3 months after the completion the primary course of 2 Covid vaccines (or 3 vaccines for those people with underlying conditions who were offered a 3rd primary course vaccine).

For people who have had a Covid infection OR an asymptomatic positive Covid test, the JCVI guidance states that you can have your booster 4 weeks after the onset of your Covid symptoms or 4 weeks from the first confirmed positive Covid test for that episode in people who are asymptomatic.

For children under the age of 18, the recommended gap is 12 weeks.

Guidance states that the gap may be reduced for ALL patients if a new variant appears or there is a big local surge in positive Covid cases.

 

Do I need a booster jab if I recently had Covid - won’t I have natural immunity to the Omicron variant now?

Although you may have developed some natural immunity, the recommendation is that you still would benefit from a booster dose, which you should get 4 weeks after your symptoms first appeared or after your positive Covid test, if asymptomatic.

 

I am immunosuppressed so have had my third primary dose - how do I get my booster jab?

Your booster jab can be given 3 months after your 3rd primary course vaccine. 

The National Booking System (NBS) has been updated to enable the booking of boosters (fourth dose) for severely immunosuppressed people aged 16 and over and people are now able to book appointments via 119 and the National Booking System website. 

Severely immunosuppressed individuals will be required to provide at their appointment a referral letter from their GP or specialist confirming their eligibility and the optimal timing of their booster.

Those aged 16 and 17 years old will be directed by the NBS to vaccination sites that have been approved and assured to vaccinate this cohort

 

I had my Covid vaccines abroad and am now back in UK so they are not recorded on my GP record which means I can’t get a booster jab.  What do I need to do?

Appointments can be booked via the 119 helpline or online on the National Booking System: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/tell-nhs-about-coronavirus-vaccinations-abroad/

This will give you an appointment at a designated vaccination site who will go through the details of which vaccine you received and where. This will then be added to your vaccine record and allow you to have a Booster.

On Monday 7 February, the overseas vaccine verification service goes live at Saints meaning people no longer have to travel to the Etihad mass vaccination centre in Manchester to access this service.  This service is not available for walk-ins but appointments can be booked on Mondays and Tuesdays.

 

I am 16 - can I get a booster jab now?

Yes. 16 and 17 year olds can receive a booster 12 weeks after their primary course of vaccines (i.e. first two doses).

Younger children (12-15) and young people with underlying health conditions or who live with an immunosuppressed person should also have a booster 12 weeks after the primary course of vaccines.

 

Will another booster jab be needed at some point?

We don’t have any information on this at the moment, but it is likely that the JCVI will issue guidance on this at some point in the future.

 

COVID VACCINE AND PREGNANCY

I’ve just found out I’m pregnant and don’t want to get the vaccine as I think it might harm my baby - what should I do?

Please go and book your Covid vaccine!

As the pandemic continues it is now internationally recognised and accepted that people who are pregnant are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 compared to people who are not pregnant. The Covid vaccine used in pregnancy is an inactivated vaccine – this means the virus does not replicate in the mother or baby and therefore cannot cause Covid.

There is now significant data available from the USA on vaccine safety with regards to pregnant women and there are no safety concerns for the mother to date.

In England, data shows that over 80,000 pregnant women have now received a Covid vaccine, with reported birth outcomes in this group showing no differences with regards to prematurity, stillbirth and low birthweight from the unvaccinated population.

Therefore, the JVCI continue to recommend that all pregnant women should be vaccinated against Covid (or should complete a vaccination course if they fall pregnant between doses).

 

OTHER VACCINE QUESTIONS

How can I prove I have had my Covid vaccinations for travel?

You can download the NHS app which contains your Covid pass.  With this app, you can then access a QR code you will need for travel - you can also print off a hard copy of this to show.  Further information on the app is available here: www.nhs.uk/nhs-app/about-the-nhs-app/

If you don't have access to a smartphone or tablet, you can request a letter proving your vaccination status by calling 119 - please note, this can take around 2 weeks to arrive and you will need to quote your NHS number.

Most countries consider someone 'fully vaccinated' to have had their second dose at least 14 days before travel.  If you are not fully vaccinated, you may need to take a PCR or antigen test before travelling abroad. 

Information on the requirements of individual countries can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice and then selecting the country you are travelling to.

Anyone travelling abroad needs to complete a passenger locator form (PLF) for arrival back in the UK.  This is for everyone over 18.  Children under 18 can be included on an adult form: www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk

 

I'm being asked for my NHS number when I try to book my vaccine online, how do I find this out? 

You can find your NHS number online by visiting https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/find-nhs-number/, you must be registered with a GP and the GP must have either a mobile number or email  in your record so that your NHS number can be text or emailed back to you. If you don't have these registered with your GP you'll have to phone your practice to ask them for your number. 

 

Can I just get my jab from my pharmacist like I did for flu?

There are currently two pharmacies in St Helens borough offering vaccinations:

Allied Pharmacies in Bold

Hollowood Chemists in Haydock

These two sites are bookable via the National Booking Service website or by calling 119.  You can also walk-in - please check our page on walk-in vaccinations for more information on dates and times.

 

HAVING THE VACCINE

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are 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, have said these vaccines are 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. 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. 

 

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.

 

 Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly?

Yes, the vaccines do not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products.

 

Do the vaccines contain foetal material?

  • No foetal material is present in the final vaccine; it is all removed during the manufacturing process.
  • Some vaccines are made by growing cultures of the target virus (including modified viruses such as found in the AstraZeneca vaccine) in cells and so some vaccines can be grown in cell-lines derived from mammals, including humans. Such cell lines used to grow the virus are derived from a primary culture of cells from an organ of a single animal which has then been propagated repeatedly in the laboratory, often over many decades.
  • The best-known human cell line is MRC5. These cells derive from a pregnancy that was terminated for medical reasons in 1966. This cell-line is used to grow viruses for vaccines against rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A. Other foetal cell lines have been used for other vaccines, including influenza vaccine and some of the new COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The HEK293 cell line which is used in the manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine was derived in Holland from a single aborted foetus in the early 1970s.
  • The issues around the use of vaccines grown on foetal cell lines have been discussed within the Catholic church. In 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome issued a statement that said: “We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion.” http://www.academyforlife.va/content/pav/en/the-academy/activity-academy/note-vaccini.html
  • The Catholic church re-confirmed this position in a statement in December 2020 clarifying the original statement as follows: “When ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted foetuses in their research and production process”.

  

Can I go back to work after having my vaccine?

Yes, you should be able to work as long as you feel well. If your arm is particularly sore, you may find heavy lifting difficult. If you feel unwell or very tired you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.

The vaccine cannot give you Covid-19 infection, and two doses plus a booster will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. However, you will need to continue to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the any necessary personal protection equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.

 

How effective is the Covid-19 vaccine?

This is all included in the information published by the MHRA, and Public Health England will also be publishing more resources for patients and professionals. People can be assured the NHS will ensure that they have all the necessary information on those vaccines that are approved by the MHRA before they attend for their vaccination.  

  

What is the evidence to show the vaccine is safe for BAME communities?

The phase three study of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated a vaccine efficacy of 95%, with consistent efficacy across age, gender and ethnicity. Overall, among the participants who received the Covid-19 vaccine 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan.

   

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

As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration.

  

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.  You can have them either together if that is on offer or you can have them separately.

 

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.