Covid 19 vaccine FAQs

This page brings together answers to the questions we are getting about the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination programme. Simply click on the categories below.

Alternatively, you can access the frequently asked questions through our new interactive chatbot feature.

If you require the frequently asked questions in a different format, click on the Browsealoud icon at the top of the webpage. Browsealoud can read aloud and translate text in multiple languages, as well as other features to improve accessibility.

Additionally, Dr Anna Riddell, a Consultant Virologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, answers some common questions about COVID-19 vaccines to provide people with accurate information so people can make an informed choice regarding vaccination.

Q: What vaccines for COVID-19 are currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

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

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by the MHRA but is not expected to be delivered to the NHS until the

But only two are available right now, and there are not huge stocks of either at the moment. So we are prioritising the most vulnerable as set out by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation).

  1. Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe?

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, has said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, 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 they have been authorised and is being used in the wider population.   

Q: 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. The participants were White, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and Native American/Alaskan.

The safety data for the AstraZeneca vaccine from over 20,000 participants enrolled across four clinical trials in the UK and Brazil and South Africa has shown that there were no serious safety events related to the vaccine. Participants were from diverse racial and geographic groups who are healthy or have stable underlying medical conditions.

  1. Will the vaccines work with the new strain?

There is no evidence currently that the new strain will be resistant to the vaccines we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal. Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective. 

Q: What is in the vaccines? Are they vegan/vegetarian friendly? Do they include any parts from foetal or animal origin?

The vaccines do not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products or material of foetal or animal origin. A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found here.

Q: Are the Covid-19 vaccines suitable for Catholics?

A: Yes, the Pope has said that it's "morally acceptable" to receive a vaccination for COVID-19. You can read the full announcement here.

Q: Can I pick which vaccine I want?

Any vaccines that are available will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while.

Q: Does one vaccine have the potential to be better than another?

We will need to see the final clinical evidence from trials on this. The important point for any vaccine is whether MHRA approve it for use – if it does, then that means it’s a worthwhile vaccine to have and people should have it if they are eligible.

Q: How much does each vaccine cost the NHS?

The Government is securing vaccine stocks so they will not directly cost the NHS anything.

Q: How were vaccines developed so quickly? 

Medicines including vaccines are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccines. There a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines;

  1. The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process;
  2. There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial;
  3. Clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

Q: Were the vaccines tested on high risk groups? 

For both vaccines trial participants included a range of those from various ages, immune-compromised and those with underlying health conditions, and both found the efficacy of the vaccine translates through all the subgroups. 

Details of trial participants for both vaccines are published online.

Q: How do the vaccines work? 

Most vaccines work by triggering an immune response to the virus, even though there is no live virus present. As there is no whole or live virus involved, the vaccine cannot cause disease.

Q: How are you making sure every dose of the vaccine is used?

We are working hard to make sure that every single vaccination available is used to vaccinate the most vulnerable in society by contacting those eligible by letter and phone to fill every available clinic slot. Where someone does not attend a booked slot, any vaccines that would be unused are offered to health and care staff.

Q: Has the MHRA approved jabs in care home jabs?

Yes. We have offered vaccines in every care home in north east London and are rapidly vaccinating residents and staff.

Q: Where can I find out more?

Q: Can the vaccine alter your genetic material?

There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine.

Q: Where can I find the latest data and stats on the vaccination programme?

Vaccination data is being provided by the government and is available as part of this healthcare dashboard that is updated weekly. Or there is NHS data available. 

Q: How can I support the vaccination programme?

  1. If you wish to volunteer or apply for roles in the vaccination programme please visit our recruitment pages here.
  2. You can support the NHS by not contacting us about the vaccine on issues that are covered in these FAQs, so we can focus our resources on providing vaccinations rather than responding to enquiries. You will be invited when it is your turn.

Q: How many people have been vaccinated?  

Figures on the number of people vaccinated are published weekly and can be found here.

Q: Are there any groups that shouldn’t have the vaccine? 

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

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. 

Q: Where can I find advice for people with allergies or who are pregnant and breastfeeding?

Advice from the MHRA for people with allergies or who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding can be found here.  

Additionally, detailed information is here.

This states (for pregnancy) that:

“There is no known risk associated with giving inactivated, recombinant viral or bacterial vaccines or toxoids during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. Since inactivated vaccines cannot replicate, they cannot cause infection in either the mother or the fetus… though the available data do not indicate any harm to pregnancy, there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy. JCVI has advised that vaccination in pregnancy should be considered, however, where the risk of exposure to Covid infection is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that put them at very high risk of serious complications of Covid. In these circumstances, clinicians should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with the woman, who should be told about the absence of safety data for the vaccine in pregnancy.

And (for breastfeeding):

There is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines whilst breastfeeding. JCVI advises that breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19, and the woman should be informed about the absence of safety data for the vaccine in breastfeeding women.

Q: Has the guidance on allergies changed?

The original MHRA advice was that anybody with a known allergy to specific ingredients in the vaccine should not be vaccinated. This has been amended to:

“Checking for allergies is a routine part of the process before giving any vaccine or new medicine. Having these conversations – as well as being able to deal with allergic reactions in the rare case they do happen, is a central part of training for vaccinators. But these are new vaccines and so the NHS and the MHRA are being extra vigilant and responding quickly to ensure everyone across the NHS is totally clear on these requirements”.

Q: What about the allergic reactions that have been reported?

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.

Any person with a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to the ingredients contained in the vaccines should not receive them. A second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination.

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.

Q: Can the vaccines cause infertility?

The RCOG and the RCM respond to misinformation around Covid-19 vaccine and fertility

Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has said: “We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data. There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women's fertility. Evidence has not been presented that women who have been vaccinated have gone on to have fertility problems.”

Q: 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.

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.

Q: How is the NHS delivering vaccines?  

The NHS will offer vaccinations using three different models. In the first instance, NHS trusts are acting as hospital hubs where the vaccine can be stored safely and where many in the top priority groups – including the over 80s, care home workers and at-risk NHS staff – have been able to get vaccinated on site.

To make it as easy as possible for those who are eligible to access a vaccination safely, hundreds of local vaccination services have been set up, with more due to start in the coming weeks. These community and primary care-led services will vary based on local and logistical considerations but include GP practices, local authority sourced buildings or other local facilities, as well as roving teams who have started delivering it in some care homes. There is also the intention to provide vaccinations at community pharmacies and other locations as appropriate. The first pharmacy has started vaccinations in north east London.   

The NHS will also host vaccination centres, where large numbers of people will be able to go and get vaccinated. These could be in local venues such as sports stadiums, racecourses, and concert venues that offer the physical space to deal with large numbers of people while maintaining social distancing.  

Q: How will people be invited for a vaccination?

When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be in the form of a letter from their GP or the national booking system; this will include all the information they need to book, including their NHS number.

GP practices are also calling and texting patients to book appointments where appropriate and if we can't get hold of you we will use other methods to ensure you are offered an appointment. We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we are asking people not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they are contacted or until we announce that we are specifically asking a group to come forward.

Q: How will I know my vaccination invitation is genuine? 

To protect yourself and your family members from fraud and criminals, remember the following points:

  • The vaccine is only available on the NHS for free to people in priority groups, and the NHS will contact you when it is your turn. Anyone offering a paid-for vaccine is committing a crime. 
  • The NHS will never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and never ask for payment or for your bank details.
  • We would not turn up on your doorstep to offer the vaccine. If you are housebound your GP will contact you to arrange an appointment. Unless you have a prearranged appointment with your GP to attend your home anyone cold calling about the vaccine is probably committing a crime.

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.

Q: Can I get a vaccine privately?

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.

Q: 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. If you currently have symptoms or are self-isolating to stop the spread of the virus please do not attend a vaccination clinic.

Q: Should people who have already had COVID-19 or are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ get vaccinated?

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t, including those who have mild residual symptoms. Where people are suffering significant ongoing complications from Covid they should discuss whether or not to have a vaccine now with a clinician.

Q: If I’m shielding should I get the vaccine?

It’s vital that everyone eligible gets vaccinated and this is true for those who are the most vulnerable including people who are shielding. People who are shielding should take the necessary precautions by maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands regularly while continuing to access healthcare and treatment as necessary, including by getting the vaccine when invited. Your local NHS will ensure that you can receive the vaccine as safely as possible, as well as any care and support needed. All sites where vaccinations are being provided are following strict social distancing and infection control procedures. Current guidance for people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable is available here. It is important that even after being vaccinated you continue to follow this shielding advice until guidance changes.

Q. Will vaccines still be provided during lockdown/should I still attend my appointment?

Yes. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. Vaccinations will continue as normal. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it. The place that you choose to have your vaccine will keep you safe from COVID-19 through a range of measures including cleaning and disinfecting and having social distancing in waiting areas. Please also wear a face covering to your appointment. You should also take the usual steps to minimise your risk as you travel to your appointment.

Q: I’m currently ill with COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?

People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until 28 days after the first symptoms.

Q: How are housebound people going to be vaccinated?

If you are housebound and registered with a GP your GP practice will contact you to arrange a suitable time to vaccinate you at home. If you are housebound and you are not registered with a GP please use this link to find out how to register with a GP. Registering will mean that we can better care for you when you need it.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: Will the vaccinators be tested for COVID before giving me the vaccine?

A: We will provide the safest possible environment for vaccinations and vaccinators are required to meet the highest standards of infection prevention and control including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment. 

Q: Can any member of the public be vaccinated? Can they just walk in to a service? 

People will be offered vaccinations in line with recommendations from the JCVI. The NHS will contact people when it is their turn. People will need an appointment to get their vaccine; most people will be invited by letter from their GP practice or the national programme. 

Q: I received an invitation letter but was not able to attend for a vaccination. Have I missed out?

All those eligible will be invited to attend for a vaccination. If you are not able to attend when first invited this will be logged and you will be contacted again to invite you to a future clinic.

Q: Are there special circumstances that will allow me to have the vaccine early?  

The NHS is not considering any special requests or reviewing individual circumstances in relation to accessing the vaccine. The JCVI have determined the priority groups for the vaccine and as we deliver the programme we will follow national guidance on who receives the vaccine and when.

Please help us to deliver the vaccination programme without delay by not contacting us to ask for a vaccine. When you are eligible you will be contacted.

Q: If I am not to contact you, how will I know if you have missed me off your list?

We will make announcements in social media and the local media, and update our webpage COVID-19 Vaccination programme | East London Health & Care Partnership ( when we start vaccinating other priority groups and provide advice on what to do if you have not yet been invited.

As we move through the priority groups we are likely to ask anyone in earlier priority groups who has not been offered a first vaccine to come forward.

As of 24 January 2021 we are asking only those who are aged 80 and over, who have not been contacted to have their first vaccine, to now contact their GP.

Q: I am aged 79, and not received an invitation to be vaccinated, but my neighbour is 71 and has been, why?

There is no priority within a priority group (or groups being vaccinated at the same time). Those aged 70 and above started to be vaccinated at the same time as those aged 75 and above. So someone who is 74 may be contacted before someone who is 76.

Q: Who are you currently calling to be vaccinated?

We are currently (24 Jan 2021) vaccinating JCVI priority groups 1 to 4.

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  • all those 80 years of age and over; and frontline health and social care workers
  • those 75 years of age and older
  • those 70 years of age and older, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (not including pregnant women and children under 16 years)

Q: What happens if I can’t or don’t want to have the vaccine when I’m invited?

We are working to make sure that everyone has access to the vaccine and anyone who wants it will be given plenty of opportunity to access the vaccine either when first invited or at a later date. Over the coming months as the vaccine becomes more widely available people will be able to book a vaccine appointment at a variety of locations once their cohort becomes eligible. However, if you delay having the vaccine when it is offered, you are delaying the protection it gives you.

Q: I’ve been staying with relatives during the pandemic and can’t access my GP practice for the vaccine. How can I get a vaccine near where I am staying?

If you are staying away from your usual place of residence temporarily you can register as a temporary patient at a practice near where you are staying. This will allow you to have your primary care medical needs taken care of whilst residing away from home. The local practice where you register should be able to redirect you to a local PCN vaccination provider. You can find out more about temporary registration here.

Q: What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in black, Asian, minority ethnic and other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

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.

Q:  Do vulnerable people need to travel to get the vaccine or does it come to them?  

We are planning a mixed approach to ensuring that people who are eligible can get the vaccine safely. For care home residents and those who can’t leave home, this will involve roving community teams coming to them.

Q: I’ve received an invitation letter but someone I live who is the same age hasn’t yet. Can we get vaccinated together?

The NHS is inviting eligible people in a phased basis as supplies of the vaccine allow. It is important that you wait for your letter from the NHS, and you will not be able to book without one.

If you have received a letter and live with someone who is also eligible but has not received a letter, it is likely that theirs will follow shortly. If you like you can wait and book at the same time.

Q: I wasn’t happy with my experience of getting my vaccine. What can I do?

We are aware that some people have not had a positive experience due to a variety of issues in setting up and managing these centres at pace and without precedent. As we set up and deliver more vaccination centres we are adapting and working to improve based on feedback received and lessons learnt. Please do bear with our staff delivering a vaccination programme like no other. 

We do read all the comments made. We are continually reviewing the locations we have and the processes we use. We are opening new centres, both large scale and in pharmacies to support the process. However we can't respond to every comment made at this time. 

We are aware of particular problems at two sites in Waltham Forest on the 14/15 January; we have issued a public apology. We will continue to work tirelessly to get this right and make sure that every person across north east London who wants to be vaccinated can access the vaccine when they become eligible.

Q: I had my first vaccine. How do I book an appointment for my second vaccine?

Your GP may book you in when you have your first dose or you may be asked to wait and be contacted. The second dose must be given at the same place as the first.

Q: 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. More guidance is here.

However, you will need to continue to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the correct personal protective equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.

Q: Once I’ve been vaccinated do I have to follow the guidance or can I start meeting with friends and family?

It is vital that everyone follows the national guidance. While the vaccine will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill it does not give 100% protection and we do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus, so it is still important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you. National guidance will continue to be reviewed by the Government and updated when appropriate. Please find the latest guidance here.

Q: I have had my 2nd dose cancelled – why?

Many people have had their second dose postponed to allow a greater number of people to have their first vaccination, which will maximise the short-term impact of the vaccination programme. This is in line with the guidance on priority groups issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which has been updated. This advises that given the high efficacy from the first dose of both Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines (detailed efficacy data available from the green book), and the UK Chief Medical Officers’ statement that delivery of the first dose to as many eligible individuals as possible should be initially prioritised over delivery of a second vaccine dose.

  • The second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be given between 3 to 12 weeks following the first dose.
  • The second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine may be given between 4 to 12 weeks following the first dose.
  • The second vaccine dose should be with the same vaccine as for the first dose. Switching between vaccines or missing the second dose is not advised as this may affect the duration of protection.

Q: Why has the first dose been prioritised over giving second doses?

Given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose, models are clear 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 two doses. This means that rapid delivery of the first dose is required to protect those most vulnerable. The full statement on the prioritisation and the data that supports this decision is available here.

Q: How long will my vaccine be effective for? 

We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be constantly monitored. 

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

The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose still offers a high level of protection. This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

However getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

Q: Why are some people getting their second dose cancelled, and others are not?

Because of the different situations facing different vaccination centres; the individuals they are vaccinating; the number of staff that are available to contact patients and the vaccinations the centre has. 

Q: Who is being vaccinated now?

We continue to vaccinate:

  • residents and staff in care homes for older people
  • people 80 and over, and frontline health and social care staff. We are just starting to vaccinate housebound people over 80 as only the AstraZeneca vaccine can be transported to homes
  • we are starting to invite people aged 75 and over and aged 70 and over; and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (as defined by the Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisation).

The ambition is to vaccinate everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February, if vaccine supply allows.

Q: I am aged 80 and above and haven't received an invitation to have a COVID vaccine. What should I do?

If you are 80 or over and have not received an invitation to your first vaccination, please call your GP.

Q: I am aged 70 to 79 or I am extremely clinically vulnerable. Can I get a vaccine yet?

We are now inviting people aged 70 and over and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (as defined by the Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisation). But please wait to be contacted by the NHS, we cannot vaccinate everyone at the same time. 

You can help us by:

  • Agreeing to have the vaccine
  • Waiting to be contacted
  • Observing advice on reducing the spread of coronavirus, especially when attending for a vaccine 
  • Only arriving for your vaccine a short time in advance to avoid build up of queues.

Q: I am a care home resident / member of staff and haven't been contacted about a vaccine. What should I do?

If you live or work in a care home please continue to wait, we are working with employers and care home managers to ensure you are all offered the vaccine.

Q: 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. In addition, with limited vaccine, employers are being asked to offer the vaccine to the most at risk healthcare workers first.

Q: If a household has a priority group member, such as an NHS frontline worker or vulnerable person, will everyone living in that household be vaccinated together?

These decisions are for the JCVI. Their current prioritisation plan does not include household members of NHS staff or clinically vulnerable people automatically – although in some cases family members may be eligible in their own right.

Q: Why aren’t BAME groups being prioritised?

There is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease and mortality. The reasons are multiple and complex.

There is no strong evidence that ethnicity by itself (or genetics) is the sole explanation for observed differences in rates of severe illness and deaths. What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

Prioritisation of people with underlying health conditions will also provide for greater vaccination of BAME communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions.

Tailored local implementation to promote good vaccine coverage in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within a vaccine programme in reducing health inequalities in these groups.

The NHS will provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, including working closely with BAME communities, to support those receiving a vaccine and to anyone who has questions about the vaccination process.

Throughout the pandemic increasing attention has been given to reducing health inequalities and we have invested more than £4 million into research into COVID-19 and ethnic disparities so that we can go further.

Q: What is the plan for vaccinating care homes?

Care Home residents and staff are one of the priority cohorts for the national roll-out for COVID-19 vaccinations.  Our staff, volunteers and colleagues across health and social care are working round the clock with our care homes to vaccinate staff and residents as quickly as possible. Once a date is confirmed for vaccination at a particular care home the clinical lead will contact the care home manager to talk through preparation details. Where there are outbreaks of COVID-19 in a particular care home, there may have to be a delay until the local Public Health team confirms approval for the vaccinations to proceed.

Q: How long will it take to vaccinate all priority groups?

We have almost offered everyone in a care home a first vaccine (priority group 1); we are well on the way to offering everyone 80 and over a first vaccine and we plan to offer everyone in priority groups 1-4 a first vaccine by mid/late February 2021. But even with excellent planning, good availability of vaccine and a major effort by everyone, it will take at least until spring to offer all the high risk groups a vaccine.

Q: Who is vaccinating care home residents and staff?

GPs and local primary care networks are vaccinating care home residents in line with national guidance.

Q: Will all care homes, including those for people with learning disabilities and assisted living, be offered the vaccine?

Homes that include people aged 60 and above, or who have residents who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be offered a vaccine shortly.  Current guidance does not automatically permit priority vaccination, for those with younger residents or those who are not clinically extremely vulnerable, but guidance does change sometimes and we are working with colleagues to enable vaccinations to happen.  

Q. Will you be vaccinating/prioritising homeless people?

We are prioritising vaccinating people who experts have agreed will benefit the most. We will work with the Councils to work out the best way to ensure all eligible people, including homeless and those without a NHS number, are offered the vaccine. Homeless people are not automatically a priority group defined by the JCVI.

Q: Where will the vaccination centres be?

Vaccination centres will be set up across every borough within north east London to maximise access for local people. However, as appointments are by invitation only the location of where to go to get your vaccine will be given at the time of booking. This is to minimise potential disruption and manage the flow at these centres taking into account the safety and security of our staff and vulnerable patients.

Q: Why are you not promoting the location of where vaccinations are happening?

When people are given their appointment they will be informed of where they should attend. Vaccine is only available to certain people and we are vaccinating in different locations at different times at short notice. Therefore publishing lists would be both resource intensive and potentially confusing.  

Q: How many vaccinators do we need?

Nationally there will be tens of thousands of people required to vaccinate people at the pace and scale that we need to, which is why as well as the existing NHS workforce recruitment is ongoing.   

Q: Who will the vaccinators be?

They will either be existing NHS staff or those recruited by the NHS specifically for the programme – including those who signed up to the NHS Bring Back scheme. There are a number of roles within the vaccination programme and these will require different levels of qualifications and experience. 

Legislation allows a wider group of people to administer vaccines, including more health care professionals as well as others who have passed a programme of training developed by Public Health England (PHE) and Health Education England (HEE). New vaccinators will be assessed in person and closely supervised to ensure their and patients’ safety.

Q: Are the vaccinators qualified? What is the training?

PHE and HEE have compiled comprehensive training that includes anaphylaxis and basic life support training, injection administration, training on vaccines in general and the specific ones that will be used.  Importantly new vaccinators will be supervised and assessed by senior clinicians to ensure both their safety and of course the safety of the people they are vaccinating – just like any other vaccinator.   

Q: What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) arrangements are in place for staff delivering the vaccine?  

Everyone involved in vaccination services will be given, and need to use, appropriate PPE, to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and patients. 

Q: How can I get vaccinated at the Excel / a large scale vaccination centre? Can I just turn up?

Patients will be invited to come forward. Please DO NOT try to contact the centre or your GP until you receive an invitation.

Q: I understand that I can phone or book online for the Excel Vaccination Centre. Can you tell me how? 

If you are contacted to attend a large scale vaccination centre the booking details will be provided.

Q: I have been vaccinated/I don't want or can't attend the Excel. What should I do?

Ignore the invitation. If you have not been vaccinated and you are unable to attend the Excel we will contact you with an alternative.

Q: Will there be more large scale vaccination centres in north east London?


Q: Will anyone else be vaccinated at the large scale vaccination centres?

Yes, frontline NHS and social care staff are being contacted to attend the centre.

Q: Who chose the centres and based on what criteria?

The NHS local and regionally proposed sites based on a combination of geographical alignment to local health systems to ensure coverage, and the likelihood of the sites being ready in a timely fashion. In some cases, selections were made on population density within the region, and in other cases there was a consideration given to the number of existing vaccination services currently open and expected to open shortly in that area. There will be more vaccination centres in future. This delivers a fair and equitable distribution of sites across the country.

Q: What if people can’t get to the vaccination centre?

People who are housebound will be contacted by their GP services about alternative ways to get vaccinated. People can also wait until more locations closer to where they live become available. The NHS will follow up with people that haven’t booked their appointment, as a reminder.

Q: How do I find out more about the Excel vaccination centre if I am booked to visit?

The Excel Vaccination Centre is managed by Barts Health NHS Trust. For detailed information about the centre, including accessibility, facilities and parking information please click here.

Q: What are the operating hours of the national telephone booking system?

The national telephone booking service for vaccination centres will be open 16 hours a day (from 7am until 11pm), seven days a week. People will also be able to book online 24/7.

Q: What should people do if they can’t get through to the national phone line straight away?

At times, due to high demand, the phone line will get very busy, which may mean waiting on the line for a while or calling back later. People can alternatively book online.

If you need help to do this please ask someone in your support bubble.

Please do try the phone line again as well. We aim to speak to people as quickly as we can.

Q: Does the national phone line service work for people who don’t understand English well or are deaf?

The phone line will have interpreters and a BSL facility available on request to help you book your appointments.

Q: What information will I need to book my appointment at a vaccination centre?

You will need to provide your name, date of birth, postcode and ideally your NHS number, which will be included on your booking letter. If you have lost your letter or don’t have your NHS number, you may need to provide the name and postcode/postcode of the GP practice you are registered with – in this circumstance you should use the phone booking service.

Q: Can people book without their NHS number or if they aren’t registered with a GP?

While the NHS will write to people based on their GP records, this doesn’t mean that people that don’t have an NHS number or aren’t registered with a GP won’t be able to get vaccinated through the programme.

It does however help to be registered with a GP to help the NHS check for any reasons that someone might not be able to have a vaccine, and ensure there is a record that both doses of the vaccine have been had. Details of how to register with a GP are available here.  

Q: I am a frontline health and care worker and haven't had a vaccine, what should I do?

If you are a frontline member of staff across NHS, independent and private providers, live or work in a care home please continue to wait, we are working with employers and care home managers to ensure you are all offered the vaccine.

Q: Why is it important to get your COVID-19 vaccination?

If you’re a frontline worker in the NHS, you are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you can, should protect you and may help to protect your family and those you care for. The COVID-19 vaccine should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives and will therefore reduce pressure on the NHS and social care services.

Q: Is it mandatory, and what happens if staff don’t want the jab?

There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory. Just as they do with the winter flu vaccine, local NHS employers will be working hard to ensure staff are able to get vaccinated, and that any concerns that staff have are answered. We are confident that most staff – as they do every year for the flu vaccine – will protect themselves and their patients by getting the vaccine. 

Q: How will healthcare workers get the vaccine?

The NHS will offer vaccinations using different models. For healthcare workers, dozens of NHS trusts will act as hospital hubs where NHS staff can get vaccinated on site.

Q: Will healthcare workers need to pay for the vaccine?

No, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination.

Q: How are you raising awareness of the vaccine among the NHS workforce?

The Cabinet Office has developed a campaign to raise awareness of the vaccine with the public and health and social care staff. This includes specific engagement with BAME communities and workforce. We are also working together across north east London and at individual organisation level to address this.

Q: Are staff being vaccinated who are not 'frontline'?

We are vaccinating traditionally frontline staff. However many staff who are not traditionally frontline are helping out in any way they can - for instance in vaccination centres. See more information about staff vaccinations.   

Q: Which healthcare workers will be prioritised?

Employers have been identifying those who will benefit most – either due to medical conditions or the environment in which they work.

Frontline health and social care workers at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment, are considered of higher priority for vaccination than those at lower risk. Healthcare providers have been undertaking staff risk assessments throughout the pandemic to identify such individuals and should use these as the basis for prioritising access to vaccines.

Q: Will this need for vaccinators create staff absences in other services?

By drawing on the NHS Bring Back Scheme, recruiting new vaccinators from amongst a wider group of healthcare professionals and others who complete training, by potentially utilising staff from less urgent services and functions, and using independent Occupational Health providers, we can ensure vital services are maintained.

Q: How will the NHS maintain routine care and treatment?

The NHS has decades of experience of delivering vaccinations and other important public health interventions alongside all other services. While this is going to require a significant effort from all parts of the system we are determined that it should have minimal impact on other important services, which is why we are recruiting thousands of additional staff and volunteers to help run vaccination services.

Q: Where can I find out more?

Please read the detailed guidance for healthcare practitioners about the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination programme.

You can also read the information for healthcare workers about having the vaccine produced by Public Health England, which provides information on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Q: Will CCG and CSU staff be a priority for vaccination as part of the healthcare workers cohort?

Only staff who are directly at risk of transmission through their daily duties/ involved in direct patient care would be prioritised as part of cohort 2. The JCVI guidance sets out that frontline health and social care workers to be prioritised are those at increased personal risk of exposure to infection with COVID-19 and of transmitting that infection to susceptible and vulnerable patients in health and social care settings.

The committee considers frontline health and social care workers who provide care to vulnerable people a high priority for vaccination. Protecting them protects the health and social care service and recognises the risks that they face in this service. Even a small reduction in transmission arising from vaccination would add to the benefits of vaccinating this population, by reducing transmission from health and social care workers to multiple vulnerable patients and other staff members. This group includes those working in hospice care and those working temporarily in the COVID-19 vaccination programme who provide face-to-face clinical care. This document provides further insight and commentary on the logic on prioritisation

Q: Are frontline independent sector health and social care staff included as a priority group?

Yes. The NHS in north east London is collating contact details for independent sector organisations leads, which will be shared with local, London and national colleagues to ensure that these vital health and care staff are offered a vaccination service close to their place of work or home. 

Q: Why aren’t all healthcare workers getting vaccinated right now?

All frontline healthcare workers are now eligible to have the vaccine and should be contacted by their employer to support this. Clerical and administrative staff and those who are not working in patient facing environments are not considered to be at heightened risk of exposure and will be vaccinated when they become eligible as part of their cohort.

Updated: 27/01/2021