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Covid: When will I get the vaccine?

By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

image copyrightPA Wire
image captionMargaret Keenan, aged 90, became the first person vaccinated in the mass roll-out by the NHS

More than 12 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

Two vaccines – developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca – are being used. A third, from Moderna, has been approved.

Who will get a vaccine first?

Vaccines are given to the most vulnerable first. A list of high-priority groups – covering up to 99% of those most at risk of dying – is being followed:

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

When will over-50s be vaccinated?

The aim is to vaccinate over-50s by May.

Most NHS frontline staff, care home residents and workers, and over 80s have been vaccinated.

People over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable are currently being vaccinated. Some areas are now inviting over 60s.

When will police and teachers be vaccinated?

After the most vulnerable groups – probably from late spring.

There have been calls for teachers, police, fire and other frontline workers to be moved up the queue.

Any change will be decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Do the vaccines work against new variants?

The Oxford vaccine offers a similar level of protection against the variant now dominant in the UK as it does against the original virus.

Early research on other vaccines, including Pfizer’s, suggest they also protect against this new form of coronavirus.

But there are concerns vaccines may not work as well against the South Africa variant, which has been found in pockets across the UK.

Will I need to be vaccinated again?

If new versions of vaccines are needed, developers say it’s relatively easy to update the current recipe. This would target some of the more worrying mutations.

New versions of the vaccines are already being worked on and the plan is to have them ready by the autumn.

They are likely to be offered as an annual booster against Covid.

Are two doses needed?

All the vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in trials and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death. There is evidence the Oxford vaccine can also reduce the spread of the virus.

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

People were initially told they would get the second dose three to four weeks after the first. But to ensure as many people as possible are protected in the shortest time possible, the UK’s chief medical officers extended the gap to 12 weeks.

Some doctors had been critical of the decision, fearing it would make the Pfizer vaccine, particularly, less effective.

Few countries have followed the UK’s example and the World Health Organization has recommended a gap of up to six weeks only in exceptional circumstances.

Where will I get a vaccine?

You’ll be invited to book an appointment as soon as it’s your turn, by phone or letter.

Thousands of vaccination sites are operating:

  • in hospital hubs for NHS staff and older patients
  • in thousands of GP surgeries
  • in care homes for workers and older residents
  • in some pharmacies
  • in vaccination centres
  • in sports stadiums and conference centres acting as major vaccination hubs
media captionWATCH: Pfizer v Oxford v Moderna – three Covid-19 vaccines compared

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.

But that could change. 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.

Of the vaccines beings used now, 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been ordered and 40 million of the Pfizer vaccine. Another 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected in the spring.

Will everyone be vaccinated and which will I get?

The aim is to vaccinate as many people as possible over the age of 18.

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.

Experts have not specified that any one group should get a particular vaccine.

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 BioNTech vaccine.

The UK regulator says anyone with a history of severe reactions to food, insect bites, or a drug or vaccine, can safely receive the vaccines as long as they are not allergic to any ingredients.

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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