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 August 2021

Do I need a Covid booster jab?

Further information on booster jabs for those in cohorts 1-9 as listed below will be made available as soon as we have it - both here and on our home page.

 

How can I prove I have had my Covid vaccination 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

 

What vaccines for Covid-19 are currently available in the UK?

The Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are currently available for use in the UK and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

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

  • BioNTech/Pfizer alliance (40m doses)
  • University of Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership (100m doses)
  • Moderna (17m doses)

 

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 soon will I be vaccinated?

Broadly, vaccines are being given to the most vulnerable first, as set out in a list of nine high-priority groups, covering around 30 million people.

They are thought to represent 90-99% of those at risk of dying from Covid-19.

  1. Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
  2. 80-year-olds and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. 75-year-olds and over
  4. 70-year-olds and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. 65-year-olds and over-olds
  6. Those aged 16-64 with serious underlying health conditions; carers
  7. 60-year-olds and over
  8. 55-year-olds and over
  9. 50-year-olds and over

Everyone aged over 18 can now get a vaccine including 16 and 17 year olds as of August 2021.

People aged over 90 were the first to get the Pfizer jab at our mass vaccination clinic in St Helens – as well as our larger care homes.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is better suited to protecting people who are housebound and in smaller care homes because it's easier to store and transport.  This is only used for those aged over 40 because of a small risk of blood clots in those aged under 40.

The second dose of the vaccine will follow approximately 10-11 weeks later.

 

I received a letter from the NHS inviting me to book an appointment for my vaccine but I want to have the vaccine from my GP.  Will I miss my chance if I don't book on the weblink in the letter?

If you have received a letter from the NHS nationally inviting you to book your vaccine please don't worry if you are struggling to get through on the phone or have gone online and find that the sites on offer are too far to travel to.

A number of mass vaccinaton sites have been set up by NHS England along with a number of pharmacy sites and are running seven days a week alongside local GP-led vaccinations with the aim of offering as many options to people as possible to get vaccinated. In St Helens, the GP-led vaccination clinics and the mass vaccination site are both located at the Saints stadium.

If you don’t want to attend the mass vaccination site, or you can't find a suitable slot, you will still be able to have your vaccine from the local GP-led service and will be contacted directly by your GP practice by phone or text message (giving you a link to book your appointment online) when it is your turn.

 

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. 

 

I’m housebound so can’t get to a vaccination clinic – how will I get my vaccination?

GP surgeries have a list of their housebound patients and as soon as enough supplies are received of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, they will contact you to arrange to come and vaccinate you in your home.

Supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are now starting to become available and St Helens will receive them in batches via the national supply chain. This vaccine is able to be transported far more easily than the Pfizer vaccine.

We are aiming to vaccinate many of our care home residents and housebound patients using supplies delivered w/c 11th January and complete these the following week.  If you are housebound and have not heard from us by 22nd January, please contact your GP practice.

 

Why do I have to go to Saints for my vaccination when I live within walking distance of my surgery – why can’t my GP surgery just vaccinate me instead?

Due to the complexity of organising a programme on this scale, a national decision was made that GP practices had to work together in networks to deliver the programme. We took the decision in St Helens for all GP surgeries to come together to deliver vaccination clinics as the combined resources and expertise meant that we were better able to ensure social distancing which made the process safer for both patients and staff.

 

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

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

Allied Pharmacies in Bold

Hollowood Chemists in Haydock

These two sites are only bookable through the letter that the NHS sends out and gives people an additional option to book their vaccination along with the mass vaccination centre at Saints or via their GP also at Saints.

 

I have heard of people younger than 80 who have been vaccinated.  Why is this?

To date we have used the Pfizer vaccines at the mass vaccination clinic at Saints and began with inviting all those who were the eldest in our over 80s cohort.  As some people did not attend their appointment, we had additional vaccines left that had been opened and so that we did not waste any, GP surgeries called people who were able to get to the stadium quickly and fell into one of the other four priority groups.

 

I’m a carer for my partner who is 80 and due a jab but I’m only 72 – can I get vaccinated at the same time?

Carers of people in the priority groups have not currently been allocated a vaccine in the first four priority groups.  The priority is to vaccinate those most at risk and we will be unable to vaccinate carers at this stage -you will be vaccinated in line with your age group - or when we reach priority group 6.

 

I’m a carer for a family member - when will I get my vaccine?

Carers are in priority group 6 - along with people aged under 65 with underlying health conditions. Please make sure your GP practice is aware that you are a carer by contacting them to let them know this - ideally by email or through the practice website so that when we reach group 6 you will be contacted to have your vaccination.

The government set out the guidance on priority groups and we are unable to book people in earlier than this.

For young carers aged 16-18, again, please let your GP practice know if they don’t already.  We can give only give the Pfizer vaccine to people aged 16-18 so if you are  in this age group so please make sure you are booked on a session that is delivering the Pfizer vaccine.

 

My mum is in her 80s and lives at home but hasn’t been contacted about her vaccination yet.  I thought all over 80s were getting vaccinated?

We have a large elderly population and more over 80s in St Helens than we received vaccines for initially.  Once we receive further supplies and have vaccinated our care home residents and housebound we will return to vaccinating people in order of age/clinical risk at our GP-led community vaccination clinics.  Those over 80 may also receive a letter from NHS England offering them a vaccine at one of the large mass vaccination sites in England and can opt to have their vaccine there which may be slightly sooner than the GP clinic.

If after mid-February you know of a family member of friend who is over 80 and hasn't had either a letter from the NHS or been contacted by their GP practice, please get in touch with the GP practice they are a member of.

 

Why was our surgery only given a small number of doses of the vaccine?

Our GP practices are all working together to run the mass vaccination clinic so no GP surgery has received a specific number of doses.

 

I work for a domiciliary care agency – I’ve heard that health and care frontline workers will be getting vaccinated early I’ve not heard anything yet.

The The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) considers frontline health and social care workers who provide care to vulnerable people a high priority for vaccination.

The local authority are collating a list of front line care workers and they will be vaccinated at the Large Scale Vaccination Centre run by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust - also based at the Saints Totally Wicked Stadium. Relevant staff will be sent a link to book an appointment. This service is expected to open week commencing 18th January but not everyone will be able to get an appointment straight away as, like the GP-led sites, vaccine availability remains limited in the short term.

If by the end of January you don't hear anything from your employer or you are a self-employed contractor and you believe your role puts you in this group of workers, please email us at communications.ccg@sthelensccg.nhs.uk with full details so we can make sure you receive a booking link.

 

I’m not a health and care worker but I do work  on the frontline so I’m probably at higher risk with the amount of public I come into contact with  - why am I not in one of the priority groups?

The JCVI determines the prioritisation of vaccination.  Age is the predominate factor for immunisation and the JCVI has determined that those over 50 years of age, and all those 16 years of age and over, in a risk group, would be eligible for vaccination within the first phase of the programme. This prioritisation captures almost all preventable deaths from COVID-19, including those associated with occupational exposure to infection. As such, JCVI does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the programme.

Occupational prioritisation could form part of a second phase of the programme, which would include healthy individuals from 16 years of age up to 50 years of age, subject to consideration of the latest data on vaccine safety and effectiveness.

 

My gran who lives in the south of England is 80 and had her 2nd dose yesterday – why are other areas getting vaccinations sooner than ours?

We have a large older population in St Helens.  Other areas may have received a different quantity of vaccines and have a different demographic breakdown so comparing areas is just not possible.  We will be vaccinating everyone in order of age/clinical risk as soon as we are able and receive supplies.  We are mid-way through our over 80 population at present and will continue once we receive further supplies.

People will now only receive an appointment for their second booster vaccination 10-11 weeks later.  This is to ensure as many people as possible can get their first dose and be protected.

 

I think I should be on the vulnerable list due to my health condition but I’ve not had a letter asking me to shield and didn’t get one last time.  What should I do?

The government in their announcement on 4 January, have reinstated shielding for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.  GPs have collated lists of patients in each practice that are known to them as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV). If you think that you should be on this list, you will need to contact your GP in the first instance to query if you should be listed as CEV.

The government's definition for CEV groups is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

 

Why are healthcare workers amongst the first groups to receive the vaccine?

The JCVI have put patient-facing health and social care staff into a priority group because of their heightened risk of exposure to the virus. Healthcare workers are not the top priority though and with limited vaccine, employers are being asked to offer the vaccine to the most at risk healthcare workers first.

The NHS is experienced in vaccinating hundreds of thousands of staff quickly and safely – we do it every year for the flu vaccine – and all local NHS employers will be responsible for ensuring that 100% of eligible staff have the opportunity to take it up over the coming weeks and months.

 

What about vulnerable adults but under 80 with learning disabilities who live in supported housing and their key workers?

We are required to work through the JCVI list of priorities and use our vaccines on the first four priority groups initially. GPs are aware of their most vulnerable patients and as soon as enough vaccine is available they will contact these groups for vaccination.

 

What about children under 16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable?

The vaccine is not yet available for anyone under 16 and further testing is ongoing for this age group. We therefore have to wait for more national guidance on the vaccination programme for children. 

 

I’m a Carer - when will I get my vaccine?

Carers are in priority group 6  - along with people aged under 65 with underlying health conditions. Please make sure your GP practice is aware that you are a carer by contacting them to let them know this - ideally by email or through the practice website so that when we reach group 6 you will be contacted to have your vaccination.

For young carers aged 16-18, again, please let your GP practice know if they don’t already.  We can give only give the Pfizer vaccine to people aged 16-18 so if you are  in this age group so please make sure you are booked on a session that is delivering the Pfizer vaccine.

 

HAVING THE VACCINE

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”.

 

Who cannot have the vaccine?

People with a history of significant allergic reactions to medicines, food or vaccine should not have the vaccine at this time.

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

 

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 will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. However, you will need to continue to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the correct 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.  

 

Is the NHS confident the vaccine will be safe? 

Yes. The NHS would not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator authorising licensed use of medicines and vaccines by healthcare professionals, has made this decision, 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.

 

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.

 

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, so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their time to do so.

 

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.

 

How many doses of the vaccine will be required and when?

You will have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, 10-11 weeks apart. You may not be fully protected until at least seven days after your second dose of vaccine.

 

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 normally separated by at least a week.

 

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.