Covid: When will I get the vaccine?

By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

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The next stage of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the UK has been outlined by government scientists.

Once all the top nine priority groups have been offered at least one jab, it will be given to people according to age group, rather than profession.

Who's next?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says the next people to be offered the jab, from around mid-April, will be, in descending order:

  • All those aged 40-49 years
  • All those aged 30-39 years
  • All those aged 18-29 years

The committee decided against giving priority to people in particular jobs, such as teaching, because they said this would be more complex to deliver and might slow down the vaccine programme.

It also urged some groups who are at higher risk of needing hospital treatment from Covid to take up the offer of vaccination promptly:

  • men
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities
  • people with a BMI over 30
  • those living in deprived neighbourhoods

Who has been vaccinated already?

The people who were vaccinated first were judged to be most at risk from Covid.

About 32 million people have been placed in a priority group. Together they represent about 99% of preventable deaths from coronavirus. These groups should have received a first dose by mid-April and a second by mid-July.

They include:

  • all adults over the age of 50
  • most frontline health and social care staff and elderly care home residents
  • clinically extremely vulnerable people
  • everyone over 16 with a health condition which increases their risk from Covid, including everyone on the learning disability register, held by GPs in England, and others with severe learning disabilities identified as being at risk
  • adult carers of disabled people and younger adults in care homes

All four nations of the UK follow these priorities, but the roll-out varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, those with mild learning disabilities will be also be included.

Do the vaccines work against new variants?

Two vaccines - developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca - are currently being used in the UK to protect against Covid-19. A third - from Moderna - has also been approved.

All have been shown to be effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid-19.

Early research on other vaccines, including Pfizer, suggest they also protect against this variant.

There are concerns that Covid vaccines may not work as well against variants spotted in South Africa and Brazil, and in some UK variants too - but vaccines can be updated.

Nonetheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the Oxford vaccine should still be used in countries where these variants are present.

image copyrightScience Photo Library

Why should I get vaccinated?

Vaccines mean that fewer people will get Covid-19 and those who do are far less likely to go to hospital or to die.

As well as protecting you, vaccines also protect your family, friends and other people you come into contact with.

The first 'real world' data from the UK rollout suggests they are doing an excellent job.

Studies in England and Scotland found that within weeks of getting a first dose, the risk of being admitted to hospital fell by at least 75% for the over 80s.

And there is evidence that vaccines can reduce the spread of the virus too. Health workers who were vaccinated with one dose reduced their risk of catching the infection by 70%, another study found. If an individual is not infected, they cannot pass it on.

Even if new variants develop, new versions of the vaccines are relatively straightforward to organise.

Vaccine developers are already updating their jabs with the plan to have them ready by the autumn.

They are likely to be offered as a routine booster against Covid for some groups.

Are two doses needed?

The approved vaccines require two doses to provide the best protection against Covid.

In the UK, people were initially told they would get a second dose three to four weeks after the first. But to ensure a speedy roll-out, the UK's chief medical officers extended the gap to 12 weeks.

This approach is now backed by the WHO which says giving two doses 8-12 weeks apart increases the Oxford vaccine's effectiveness and provides greater protection.

However, some doctors are worried that a long gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine could make it less effective.

Where will I get a vaccine?

You'll be invited to book an appointment as soon as it's your turn, by phone, text, email or post.

Thousands of vaccination sites are operating in places including hospital hubs, GP surgeries, pharmacies and temporary vaccination centres.

Can different vaccines be mixed?

The official guidance says everyone should get the same vaccine for both doses.

In very rare circumstances - if only one vaccine is available, or it's not known which was given for the first dose - a different vaccine can be used.

However, a UK trial is investigating whether mixing vaccines could offer better protection than two doses of the same one.

How many vaccine doses are there?

The UK has ordered seven vaccines and expects to receive 407 million doses - more than enough for every adult to receive two.

Will everyone be vaccinated?

The aim is to vaccinate everyone aged 18 or over in the UK with one dose by the end of July, and the government says it is on track to make this deadline.

The vaccines have not been tested in children so they won't receive them until more research has been carried out.

Getting a Covid vaccine is not compulsory because experts say this wouldn't help create public confidence.

What about people with allergies?

A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction - known as anaphylaxis - when vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

You should discuss any serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

Most people will not be affected in any way, although mild side-effects are possible.

I'm pregnant - can I be vaccinated?

Vaccination should only be considered for pregnant women when the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks.

This may be where the risk of catching coronavirus is high, or where underlying health conditions mean a high risk of Covid complications.

There are no specific safety concerns with the vaccines - but they were not tested on pregnant women.

Women who are breastfeeding can be given either vaccine.

Can I pay to be vaccinated sooner?

No - this vaccine is being rolled out free to people via the NHS. You can't jump the queue by paying.

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