What you need to know
The COVID-19 vaccine is our best defence against the virus used alongside effective social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands.
Getting vaccinated means protecting yourself and may also help to protect your family, friends and patients from the virus.
The vaccine has been developed and approved following a number of clinical trials involving thousands of people across the world. It has also undergone mandatory safety tests to ensure it is safe for humans.
It is given in two doses by your local NHS service. Appointments will be held up to 12 weeks apart, based on updated guidance from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers.
Vaccine safety and effectiveness
Yes. 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.
The NHS does not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public unless it is approved as safe and effective by the UK regulator. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the official UK regulator authorising licensed use of medicines and vaccines by healthcare professionals, make this decision for each potential vaccine, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.
The vaccine is very well tolerated with reported side effects similar to the flu jab – soreness or redness at the injection site and some have reported a headache. Further detail on side effects can be found in the leaflets at the bottom of this page.
These are important details which the MHRA will consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use. NHSE plans currently include provision for monitoring patients immediately after their dose is administered, and 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.
COVID-19 remains a new infection and close observation by experts continues. At this stage it is unclear whether the vaccine will need to given yearly, like the flu vaccine, or less frequently.
Trials for length of vaccine protection continue and will also inform how vaccination for COVID-19 is recommended in the future.
The vaccine is given by injection into the arm or shoulder.
You will need two doses of the vaccine to gain the maximum protection. These doses will be given ten to twelve weeks apart. One dose of the vaccine offers important protection, at least in the short term. Updated guidance from the JCVI has recommended that as many people on the JCVI priority list should be offered a first vaccine dose as the initial priority. You will need to attend two appointments to receive both doses. If you do not have both doses the vaccine will not be fully effective.
No. The vaccines are designed to produce an immune response to just a small part of the virus, the spike protein. This is the part of the virus that allows it to enter into human cells and cause infection. No whole COVID-19 virus or live virus is used in the vaccines. This means the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 and does not make you infectious after you have had the vaccine. This means it is also safe for people with a suppressed immune system.
One dose of the vaccine offers important protection, at least in the short term. Updated guidance from the JCVI has recommended that as many people on the JCVI priority list should be offered a first vaccine dose as the initial priority. It is vital that you continue to adhere to social distancing, mask guidelines and practice good hand hygiene. No vaccine is 100% effective so it is also important you to continue to follow any government or workplace advice even after you have completed the vaccination course.
Yes. The MHRA has advised that pregnant women can have the vaccine, however recommend they discuss this with their clinical team first. Those who are breast feeding may have the vaccine
No. You should not have your flu jab either a minimum of 7 days before the first COVID-19 vaccination dose or 7 days after you have had the second dose.
No. You are not required to have a test prior to your vaccination, however if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 infection you must follow government guidelines and must not attend the appointment. You should follow advice you have been given to re-book your appointment.
You should not have the vaccine if you have had confirmed COVID-19 infection in the previous 28 days unless you are advised by your doctor that it is suitable for you to do so.
There are no animal products listed in the ingredients.
Information on the vaccine ingredients have been provided by the MHRA. The MHRA have confirmed that both approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products. A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the vaccine and a full list of the excipient composition of the vaccine can be found at point 6 in the Information for Recipients of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
Not at this time.
Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). We don’t yet know how long immunity lasts after having been infected with COVID-19, so getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had it as it is for those who haven’t.
Yes; it is unclear how long antibodies produced following infection may provide protection and whether the protection is as effective as that provided by vaccination. It is therefore recommended you have a vaccine if offered one.
Any vaccines that are available will have been approved by the medicine regulatory authorities so you should be assured that whatever vaccine you are offered, it is safe and effective.
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. The Government has in principle secured access to six different vaccine candidates, including the now approved BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines. The results seen for all the vaccine candidates so far have been very encouraging and if borne out by final assessments would each be classed as being very effective.
No. While the vaccination prevents the development of the infection in around 90-95% of people, there is still a chance of contracting the virus or transmission to others. It is therefore very important to continue wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.
Since the vaccination programme began in early December, the MHRA has been notified of two reports of anaphylaxis, and a further possible allergic reaction, shortly after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The individuals received prompt treatment and recovered.
Incidents such as these are common with new vaccines and the MHRA has tried and tested processes to deal with them. The public can be reassured that we continue to adhere to the highest standards of safety as we provide this life-saving vaccine to those who need it most. Individuals should not get the vaccine if they have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients.
Covid-19 vaccines will be offered to over one million adults across the Black Country and West Birmingham. Prioritisation of the vaccine is set nationally and is being used to co-ordinate who is offered the vaccine and when.
- The vaccine is not yet widely available but we will update this page as more information is confirmed.
- People will be contacted when the vaccine is available for them.
- Please do not phone GP surgeries or other NHS services with general queries about how and when you will be able to get the vaccine.
See below for more information or go to nhs.uk/CovidVaccine
What is the priority list for getting the vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.
This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.
The vaccine will be offered in age order to:
- those aged over 80 years
- those aged over 75 years
- those aged over 70 years
- adults on the NHS shielded patient list
- those aged over 65 years
- adults under 65 years with long term conditions (see national guidance for full list)
- those aged 50-64 will be offered it later.
Vaccinating healthcare staff
All front line staff will be offered the vaccine. Local prioritisation has been agreed by all the NHS Trusts in The Black Country and West Birmingham to ensure those most at risk and caring for the most at risk patients are offered first. If you are a health or social care worker and cannot receive the vaccine at your place of work, alternative options will be offered.
There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory. Just as with the winter flu vaccine, local NHS employers will be working hard to ensure 100% of staff are able to get vaccinated, and that any concerns that staff have are answered. We are confident that the vast majority of our staff – as they do every year for the flu vaccine – will choose to protect themselves and their patients by getting the vaccine.
This will be a mixed picture over the coming weeks depending on a range of factors. This group are a high priority and every effort is being made to vaccinate them quickly and safely. This may be in the Hospital Hubs at their work place for staff, or in their place of residence for residents.
More information about the vaccine
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to be approved for use in the UK. You can read more about this vaccine in a copy of the patient information leaflet from the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which will be given with the vaccine.
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any components of animal origin.
The vaccine requires two doses delivered up to 12 weeks apart. You will be informed of when your second dose is due. You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of vaccine. The vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle of your upper arm.
There are more vaccines going through development and approval. If other vaccines are approved we will add information to this section.
For more information on COVID-19 Vaccine please click here
The following information has been developed for the COVID-19 vaccine programme: