Your questions answered on COVID vaccines

To date, over 30 million people in the UK have received their first dose of the vaccine. But as this is a phased rollout - what does that mean for you and your loved ones in light of new variants of COVID?
Vaccine safe

In response to concerns over rising cases of the Indian variant, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised all second dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments for those in cohorts 1-9 scheduled on or after 25 May (where that is more than 8 weeks after their first dose) should be brought forward.

Further details of the acceleration of the process are available here

In the interim, for those aged 36 or over or turning 36 before 1 July 2021, you can now book your COVID-19 vaccine here

When will I be invited for my vaccine?

The vaccination rollout is being operated on a phased basis prioritising those at the highest risk, the full list can be viewed here

Note - The NHS has a clear vaccination plan and will contact you when it is your turn as quickly and easily as possible. 

I need to change/cancel or query my vaccine appointment, what should I do?

Practices are using all means available to contact patients meeting the criteria (phone, text, email, or if necessary, post)  And, after being contacted and if patients do need to cancel, change, or query, then they can phone their surgery.

What logistics are involved in getting vaccines to surgeries?

GPs have so far been given only 24-48 hours notice of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arriving. They come in batches of 975 and are delivered defrosted, from their initial -70 degrees Celcius storage, so they must be given to patients within three and a half days of arriving at vaccination sites.

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine can be delivered and stored in fridges at temperatures 2-8 degrees Celcius for up to six months unopened.

Who takes top priority in getting the vaccine?

Doctors have been told to initially vaccinate patients in the following order:

  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

Have the vaccines been rushed through?

All vaccines must meet strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness before they can be approved for use in the UK by the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

How are the vaccines given?

A registered professional such as a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist must prepare and administer it (or oversee a non-registered, trained person doing it). They will inject the vaccine into the top of your arm. For both types of vaccine, a second dose is needed for full effects.

Is one vaccine better than the other?

The committee which advises the government on vaccines says both are effective and it has no preference on which vaccine is used for any of the priority patient groups. It says people who are invited for vaccination should come forward regardless of which type their surgery is giving.

Clinical trials have also not yet directly tested the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca against each other.

How long will my vaccination take?

While the injection can be given very quickly, all patients must wait on-site for 15 minutes afterwards to check they do not experience a severe reaction.

GPs are also urging patients not to arrive too early, as they did on the launch day in Reading, which led to elderly people queuing for a long time outside.

If I have had the Flu vaccine can I still have the COVID vaccine? 

It is recommended that there should be at least seven days between the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, such as flu.

There aren't any problems known about given them closer together but, as this is a new vaccine, we are being extra careful. Both of these vaccines can cause a mild fever, headache, or other symptoms, and leaving this gap means that we know which effects are coming from each vaccine.

We don't anticipate this being too much of a problem as the majority of COVID vaccines are being given to patients over 80 at the moment and the flu to patients aged 50-64. When we move on to vaccinating patients aged 50-64 against COVID the flu season will have largely passed.

However, please mention any recent vaccinations when booking an appointment for either COVID or flu.

Do the vaccines contain animal products?

The MHRA has confirmed that the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine do not contain any components of animal origin.

There is a trace amount of ethanol in the vaccine, which is less than the quantity found in bread. We have worked closely with Imams who have reviewed the ingredients of the AstraZeneca vaccine and confirmed that it is Halal.

Pfizer/BioNTech: A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be found here.

AstraZeneca/Oxford: A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the vaccine can be found here.

Will I experience any side-effects?

Most side-effects of both makes of the vaccine are mild and short-term, and not everyone has them. They include a sore arm at the injection site, tiredness, or a mild fever. Paracetamol can help.

Serious reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine occurred in people with a history of severe allergies shortly after the UK launch but those people recovered.

Updated guidance now says people with a history of anaphylaxis (e.g. after food) can get either make of the vaccine unless they have previously experienced a severe reaction to either of the vaccine's ingredients. 

If you do have an unexpected, immediate, and severe reaction to a vaccination, clinicians would be on-site to administer treatment for this.

Can I have the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID?

There is no evidence of any safety concerns in vaccinating people with a past COVID-19 infection, or with a COVID-19 antibody.  You're also unlikely to be harmed if you are vaccinated but test positive for COVID shortly afterward. If you have just tested positive for COVID, your vaccine should be deferred for at least four weeks.

I’m unable to leave my home. Will I still be able to receive the vaccine?

The CCG is currently making plans for how housebound individuals can be vaccinated, in line with the priority groups outlined, by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. You must give your consent before getting any vaccine.

Can I buy a COVID vaccine to get it quicker?

No - the government is only making it available for free on the NHS in the order of your clinical priority.

Is there vaccine information available in community languages? 

Yes, NHS doctors, nurses, and other frontline staff have come forward to help reassure communities that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and have been independently tested to the highest standards.

Clinicians have recorded messages in some of the most commonly spoken languages.

The languages the videos have been produced in are:

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Gujarati
  • Polish
  • Punjabi
  • Romanian
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Turkish
  • Urdu
  • Yoruba

View them here

Will there be enough vaccines for the whole population?

The UK has ordered 357 million doses from seven different developers, including 40 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 100 million of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca type.

Information in this article is from the MHRAPublic Health England, government press briefings, GP websites, Clinician, Whalebridge Practice.

How many people have been vaccinated?

Vaccination numbers are published daily, view them here 

For further information regarding the COVID vaccine programme, please visit:

If you have any queries in relation to the vaccine, you can email the BSW CCG vaccine query inbox to which you will initially get this response:

Thank you for your email to

This an automated response to confirm that your email has been received. We will respond to your query as soon as possible.

Share your experience #BecauseWeAllCare

We all appreciate the hard work of health and care staff during the pandemic. Healthcare services are now working to bounce back from COVID-19 - but they need our help. 

Share your experience in our short online survey and encourage others to do the same on social media with the hashtag #BecauseWeAllCare

Share your experience