Home Coronavirus: News and Advice Covid-19 vaccination – your questions answered
An elderly woman receiving an injection from a health professional

Covid-19 vaccination – your questions answered

by Guy Murphy

The Government has announced it is prioritising the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The NHS has said: “Our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccine to the most vulnerable 13 million people by the middle of February”.

Here are some of your questions answered:

The NHS is responsible for the vaccination programme and in Knowsley this is being facilitated by Knowsley Clinical Commissioning (CCG) Group and the GP surgeries working together in larger hubs.

This is the biggest vaccination programme the NHS has ever undertaken. It is a huge challenge, but the NHS is moving quickly to roll out this vaccine to those who need it.

Given the importance of the vaccination programme for all Knowsley residents the Council is supporting the CCG with planning and logistical support which will enable them to deliver as many vaccinations as possible, as quickly as possible.  The Council is also providing buildings to use as vaccination centres.

Yes. Vaccinations began on 16 December. The amount of people getting vaccinated is dependent on the supplies of the vaccine which is being co-ordinated by the NHS.

As more doses of the vaccine are distributed more vaccines will be administered locally and more people will be protected.

Supplies and delivery of the vaccine may vary from time to time in different locations but Knowsley has already received some vaccine and is getting regular deliveries.

Currently vaccinations are being delivered at a centre in Huyton and a centre in Kirkby is due to open imminently.

The centres are operating an appointment only system so please only attend if you’ve been issued with an appointment.

Care Home residents will be vaccinated within their individual settings and home visits co-ordinated for house-bound patients. The aim is to have all care home residents and staff vaccinated by the end of January 2021.

As of 8 January, more than 1,000 Knowsley residents have been vaccinated. Some in the over 80s group have received their two doses of the vaccination but the policy has now changed and  from now on 2nd doses will be scheduled for 12 weeks after the 1st dose. In addition, vaccinations of staff and residents in care homes has also commenced.

From Monday 18 January, frontline social care staff and other essential workers will be given the opportunity to receive a vaccine at a hub in St Helens which will be run by the hospital. Again, this will be an appointment system so please only attend a vaccination centre if you’ve received an appointment.

 

The NHS has developed a comprehensive list which prioritises groups of the community to receive the vaccine first. The list is designed to protect those in the community most at risk of COVID-19 and those who care for those individuals.

The list is as follows:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

The top four groupings are those most urgently in need of the vaccine and the aim is to have everyone in these groups vaccinated by mid-February.

 

If you are in one of the top groupings you will be invited for a vaccine as soon as it is possible. Please do not contact your GP.

After February, other people will be invited for vaccination in the order of priority of age and health condition until everybody who wants a vaccination has had one.  This could take some months.

Individuals will be contacted directly – usually via their own GP - when it is their turn to receive the vaccine. Individuals will be given an appointment to attend. Only people with an appointment will be able to be vaccinated.

The NHS has just introduced a booking system to support the new mass vaccination sites around the country. You may get a letter from this service inviting you to make an appointment which may some distance from Knowsley. You can choose to have your vaccination locally at Huyton or Kirkby and also shortly, Halewood.

 

The NHS is inviting people to be vaccinated in order of priority (see list above). You will be contacted when it is your turn to be vaccinated.

Please be patient during this time. All agencies are working as quickly as possible to vaccinate the population but this is an unprecedented immunisation programme.

In the meantime, you can get information about the COVID-19 Vaccination online at www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm in two separate doses.

You will have the second dose about 12 weeks after having the first dose.

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

 

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.

So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

 

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

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 at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

People with a history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.

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.

Rapid delivery of the vaccines is required to protect those most vulnerable. The first dose of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are calculated to provide good protection from coronavirus. Given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose, models suggest that initially vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose will prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating a smaller number of people with 2 doses

The second dose is still important to provide longer lasting protection and is expected to be as or more effective when delivered at an interval of 12 weeks from the first dose

The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine at 12 weeks to give you longer lasting protection.

 

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

 

The large increase in cases hospitals are seeing and the emergence of a new variant of the virus also shows that we cannot let our guard down now, and even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow all the same guidance as everyone else to help protect others.

This means it is important to:

  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds
  • 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

Further information about the vaccine is available on the NHS website.