What you need to know

The COVID-19 vaccine is our best defense against the virus used alongside effective social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands. 

There are lots of reasons to have the jab:

  • Safe and effective  vaccine against a life-threatening virus
  • Reduces spread of the virus among the community
  • Reduces severity of illness including hospitalisation and ventilation
  • Prevents complications in pregnancy and birth
  • Protects extremely vulnerable
  • Builds up immune system
  • People who are ‘double jabbed’ avoid the need to self-isolate or quarantine after travelling
  • Care Home workers are legally required to be double vaccinated

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 usually be held  8 weeks apart, based on updated guidance from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. 

Frequently asked questions

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.

To date, more than 74 million doses have been successfully given to around 48 million people in the UK.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have carried out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of
people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Scientists have found a risk of about 4 people in 1 million developing a rare blood clotting disorder; with about  1 person in a million dying. This has now been classified as a very rare side effect of the vaccine.

It is currently unclear whether this disorder affects people of a particular gender or age, or whether it is associated with any under lying health conditions.

It is also important to note that thromboses (blood clots) have been reported with natural COVID-19 infection and more than a fifth of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 have evidence of blood clots.

It remains clear that the Astra Zeneca ­(Oxford) vaccine is very effective against protecting you from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Advice now issued reflects the balance of risk and benefit for individuals based on your age and underlying health conditions.

For patients aged over 40 or those with health conditions, the guidance is that the risk associated with the AZ vaccine (which is very small) is hugely outweighed by the benefit of protection from COVID-19 that is offered.  Anyone who has had a first dose of the AZ vaccine and not had serious side effects should have their second dose. This will protect both yourself and your loved ones.

People aged 18-29 with no health conditions will be offered an alternative vaccine, either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. This is because of the difference in the risk/benefit balance for people in this age group. 16 and 17 year olds who attend a vaccination appointment will also receive the Pfizer vaccine. 

If you have already had a first vaccine with no clotting side effects then you will be offered the second vaccine as AZ.

If you are taking blood thinning medication, please seek advice from a medical professional before having your jab.

Pregnant women and people with blood disorders that leave them at risk of clotting, should discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination with their doctor before going for a jab.

Anyone who experiences the following symptoms for four or more days should call 111:

· a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse

· a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over

· a headache that’s unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)

· a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin

· shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain

 

 

Further information regarding the vaccine and blood clotting is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-and-blood-clotting/covid-19-vaccination-and-blood-clotting

These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use.  

For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials.  

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. 

More information on possible side effects can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/ 

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.

Early data shows immunity drops after 6 months by around 10%. Booster vaccines are now being offered. More information on boosters is detailed below.  

     A good level of protection will be provided by the vaccine two to three weeks after your appointment. 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 had both doses of the vaccine.

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 eight weeks apart. One dose of the vaccine offers important protection, with the second dose completing the course.  If you do not have both doses the vaccine will not be fully effective.

Eligible people are now being contacted for their booster vaccination, which can be given no less than six months after your second dose. We want to provide the people that are most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and those who care for them with the best possible protection for this winter. You will be contacted when it is your turn to have a booster vaccination.  Please see our ‘FAQs’ for more information about this.

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.

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.

A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found at https://britishima.org/pfizer-biontech-covid19-vaccine/ 

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. 

There are also different variants of COVID-19, and infection with one variant will not necessarily prevent another infection with a different variant. 

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.

No. The AstraZeneca vaccine is used for the over 40s, with the under 40s receiving the Pfizer vaccine. For more information in which walk-in venues offer which vaccine, please visit our walk-in page.  Vaccines given will be based on availability, except for when a patient’s medical history means a specific vaccine must be used. 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.

No. While the vaccination prevents the development of the infection in most people, there is still a chance of contracting the virus or transmission to others. It is therefore recommended to continue wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.

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 or a known allergy to any of 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 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. 

Since the vaccination programme began in early December 2020, 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.  

No Covishield vaccines have been administered in the UK. All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria. The European Medicines Agency has authorised this vaccine and the Government is confident travel will not be affected.

The NHS COVID Pass is a new product name which refers to the digital version of individuals’ proof of Covid-19 vaccine status which has been available for international travel since May.

This can be accessed via the existing NHS App, the downloadable version accessed through NHS.net and the letter which can be requested by calling 119 in England. A paper-based solution is available now for those living in Scotland, Wales and from July in Northern Ireland.

This is not to be confused with the NHS Covid-19 App.

Pregnancy and fertility

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines.  In the USA, around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated, mainly with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and no safety concerns have been identified.

Evidence on COVID-19 vaccines is being continuously reviewed by the World Health Organization and the regulatory bodies in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.

Anyone who has already started vaccination and is offered a second dose whilst pregnant, should have a second dose with the same vaccine unless they had a serious side effect after the first dose.

Although the overall risk from COVID-19 disease in pregnant women and their new babies is low, in later pregnancy some women may become seriously unwell and need hospital treatment.

Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of intensive care admission than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Women with COVID-19 disease are also 2-3 times more likely to have their babies early than women without COVID-19.Pregnant women with underlying clinical conditions are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19. 
There is no need to avoid getting pregnant after COVID-19 vaccination.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant. COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women. 

The first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will give you good protection. You need the second dose to get longer lasting protection. You do not need to delay this second dose. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have a decision guide and other information you may find helpful COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy (rcog.org.uk – www.rcm.org.uk/guidance-for-pregnant-women).

If you would like to discuss COVID-19 vaccination please contact your midwife, doctor, or nurse.

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 also. 

While there are myths on social media that the vaccine can effect fertility, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the vaccine affects fertility or the ability to carry a child to full term.

During the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine study, there were 23 study participants who became pregnant during their vaccine trial. There was one pregnancy loss, but this was in a participant who received the placebo, not the vaccine.

There are no known risks associated with giving non-“live” vaccines in relation to fertility. 

In contrast to the vaccine, there is some evidence to suggest that being infected with COVID-19 can lead to orchitis, or inflammation of the testicles. This has also been seen with other viruses such as mumps, hepatitis and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).  

The latest advice from the JCVI is that COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to pregnant women at the same time as the rest of the population, in line with the age-based rollout. 

Women may wish to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances. However, as for the non-pregnant population, pregnant women can receive a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have not had a discussion with a healthcare professional. 

The JCVI also advises that there is no known risk in giving these vaccines to breastfeeding women. 

The British Fertility Association and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists have also produced a guide to COVID-19 vaccines and fertility: COVID-19 vaccines and fertility

In March, experts from NHS England & NHS Improvement (Midlands) and Birmingham Women’s Hospital spoke about the Covid vaccination and how it affects men and women who are trying for a family or who are pregnant. Watch the recording. 

If you catch covid while you are pregnant you could be putting yourself and your baby at risk. The Delta variant is more likely to cause moderate or severe complication in pregnancy compared to previous strains and can also be passed on to your baby when it is born.

Since April this year, 171 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid symptoms – 98% of them had not had the vaccine.

One in seven needed intensive care.  One in five gave birth prematurely. One in three developed pneumonia.

If you struggle to breathe and need to be ventilated, your baby may be deprived of oxygen or develop fetal distress. You are also more likely to need an emergency caesarean to protect life.

The vaccine has been proven in clinical studies to be safe for you and your baby. Just like the flu jab, It’s recommended you get the covid vaccine to protect you and your baby.

NHS England, the National Childbirth Trust and the Royal College of Obstetricians all recommend it.

If you have questions you can discuss this with your midwife or a vaccinator.

You can have your vaccine at your GP or at a walk-in clinic. Search covid vaccine to find a location near you

Boosters

Eligible people can now receive a COVID-19 booster jab.

People can book by visiting www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or calling 119. 

The booster programme is being delivered through existing sites including pharmacies, hospital hubs, GP practices and vaccination centres. In line with guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, people will receive either one dose of Pfizer of half a dose of Moderna. People may also be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are unable to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for medical reasons.

People who are eligible for a booster dose are: 

  • those living in residential care homes for older adults 
  • all adults aged 50 years or over
  • frontline health and social care workers 
  • people aged 16-49 who are clinically vulnerable. 

Booster doses must be be given at least six months on from a second dose. The NHS will contact people when they become eligible for a booster dose.  

More information is available on the NHS England website

Vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds

12 to 15 year olds, who are eligible, will be offered a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through their school. 

If you are a parent or guardian of a 12 to 15 year old, you will be contacted and asked to provide consent for them to receive the vaccination, either through an online or a paper form. 

Any pupils who were not in school because of COVID-19, or any other reason, will be given the opportunity to been vaccinated in due course. Young people who are educated at home will also be offered vaccination and further information about this will be available soon. This website will be updated regularly, so please check back for more information.

If you have specific questions relating to your child’s vaccination, or the consent process, please contact the school immunisation team on: 0121 466 7635 or BCHC.covidschools@nhs.net  

You do not need to contact your local GP, other NHS services, or the National Booking Service to make an appointment; it will all be done through your child’s school. Your child does not need to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to be vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, quick and effective. It does not give people the COVID-19 virus and does not contain any animal products. 

More info on vaccinations for those aged 12 to 15 years, can be found here.

Young people aged 12 to 15 years that are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, or who are household contacts of severely immunosuppressed individuals,  will be offered two doses of vaccine. A third dose is being offered to all those aged 12 years and older who had a weakened immune system around the time they had their first 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

Vaccinations for 16 and 17 year olds

In line with updated JCVI guidance on 4 August, the NHS has now invited all young people aged 16 and 17 to receive a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

 As of August 18, more than 125,000 people in this age group have already had their jab in the two weeks since the NHS was given the green light to extend the life-saving vaccine, with more than 360,000 having received it in total. 

At this time, JCVI advises that 16-17 year olds should be offered a first dose only, which will be of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A second dose is expected to be offered later to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection, following further assurance around effectiveness and safety in this age group.

 Those aged 16-17 who are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 continue to be recommended offered two doses of vaccine. 

The first dose has been shown to provide 80% protection against hospitalisation. Protection could be even higher as younger people respond better to vaccines and some will already have had the COVID-19 infection, meaning they will have an even better response to a first dose.

         Parental consent is not required to be vaccinated. People also do not have to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to be vaccinated, although it will make the process easier so they should bring this if they can.

If you are in one of the new groups recommended for vaccination by the JCVI, you will be contacted by the NHS directly by letter and/or text messages to arrange your vaccination.

If you are within three months of turning 18, you will be invited directly to book an appointment via the National Booking Service. 

There is no need to approach your GP or other local NHS services if you have not received a letter or text. You will not be able to book an appointment, but will be able to find a  convenient walk-in site near to where you live on our walk-in page. 

The JCVI has reviewed extensive clinical evidence for the safety of giving the COVID-19 vaccine to children and young people in the eligible groups and have determined it to be safe and effective. The JCVI has determined that the benefit of vaccinating children in these groups outweighs the risks.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently authorised for those aged between 16 and 18. At this time, the Jonit Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination has advised that 16-17 year olds should be offered a first dose only (alongside the existing offer of two doses of vaccine to 16 to 17 year olds who are in “at risk” groups).

It is anticipated that a second dose will be offered later on, to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection. This will follow further work on effectiveness and safety in this age group, after which the JCVI will provide further guidance on whether a second vaccine dose should be offered to healthy 16 to 17 year-olds. This is expected to be made before second doses are due at approximately 12 weeks after the first dose. 

Young people who are called as part of the 16-17 year old programme and receive their first dose above the age of 17 years and 40 weeks may be scheduled to receive their second dose after an interval of at least eight weeks, as part of the “turning 18 programme”.

The NHS vaccinates in line with guidance from the independent JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), which provides expert advice on vaccinations to UK health departments. The JCVI recommends that only certain groups of children and young people are vaccinated because of a combination of factors including their risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, passing it to others who may become seriously ill, and evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Eligibility and invitations

Everyone over 16 has now received an invitation for their vaccine. For most people this will have been in the form of a letter either from their GP or the national booking system; this will include all the information they need to book their appointments, including their NHS number. People aged 16 and 17  will need to attend a walk-in appointment and will not be able to book an appointment in advance. More information on walk-in appointments in Birmingham and Solihull is available here.  

If you have received a letter from the national booking centre inviting you to book your Covid-19 vaccination you can do this online or on the phone using the details on the first page of the letter. You will need your name, date of birth and NHS number to book.  Your letter will state your NHS number in the top right corner.   At the time of booking you will be asked to book your first vaccination and your follow up vaccination, which will be around 8 weeks later. 

Letters sent by the national booking team are different to letters your GP may also send. If you are trying to book into a mass vaccination centre, please do not contact your GP surgery, as they will be unable to book you into the mass centre. Please use the details in the letter to book your appointment directly, either online or by phone. 

If your appointment is at a mass vaccination site, please call 119 if you need to reschedule or change your appointment. 

For appointments at GP practices please use the contact details provided on your appointment notification. 

If you receive a letter in the post through the national booking system, your NHS number will be in the top right corner of the letter. You can also find out your NHS number on the NHS England website: 

https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/find-nhs-number/

You will need to enter your name, date of birth and postcode. 

Workaround solutions will also be available at vaccination centres for people who do not know their NHS number. 

If you need to rearrange an appointment that you booked through the NHS website, you can do this through the ‘manage your appointments’ section on the booking page.

If you booked through 119, you can also ring to rearrange your appointment.

If you can’t attend your appointment for any reason, please cancel or rearrange it so that the appointment slot can be given to someone else who needs it.

Yes. Only those who have had a vaccination recorded are marked on our system and are therefore unable to book again.

All adults over 18 are now eligible to book an appointment. You can book by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination

People aged 16 and 17 are also now eligible for vaccination. Currently, this will need to be via a walk-in appointment. More information on walk-in appointments in Birmingham and Solihull is available here.  

Yes. All over 16s have now been contacted, either by the national NHS or their local GP. In some cases, people may have been contacted twice, as the national letter may have been printed and sent before the national system has been updated. All over 18s can book an appointment online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119.  People aged 16 and 17 are also now eligible for vaccination. Currently, this will need to be via a walk-in appointment. More information on walk-in appointments in Birmingham and Solihull is available here.  

Workforce

If you have your vaccination at a GP surgery, it will be given by the doctor or the practice nurse.

At Vaccination Centres, the vaccine will be given by specially trained staff – either existing staff or those recruited specifically for the programme. There are a number of roles within the vaccination programme and these will require different levels of qualifications and experience.

Public Health England have compiled comprehensive training including injection administration, training on vaccines in general and the specific ones that will be used, and all the mandatory training NHS have to do. Locally, vaccinators will have inductions and orientation and 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.

Our planning will ensure that there is as little as possible impact on other vital services by drawing on a pool of experienced NHS professionals through the NHS Bring Back Scheme, recruiting new vaccinators from amongst a wider group of healthcare professionals and others who complete training, and using independent Occupational Health providers.

Other website information

JVCI Prioritisation

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020 

National booking system

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

Dr Van-Tam Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p090c7wr

Public Health England – Green Book (published 27/11/20)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-the-green-book-chapter-14a

This chapter includes information on:

  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.
  • the dosage and schedule for the UK.
  • recommendations for the use of the vaccine.

British Islamic Medical Association (updated Jan 5 2021)

Answering the myths – COVID-19 myth buster

Top 10 questions Imams and Scholars get asked about vaccines

Top 10 questions Imams and scholars get asked about vaccines

Information for people with learning disabilities and autism

COVID-19 vaccine information for people with learning disabilities and autism

How to find out your NHS number

https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/find-nhs-number/

British Fertility Association and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists fertility guide

COVID-19 vaccines and fertility

COVID-19 Vaccination Q&A, answering questions on vaccination and fertility

On Wednesday 24 March at 2pm, experts from NHS England & NHS Improvement (Midlands) and Birmingham Women’s Hospital spoke about the Covid vaccination and how it affects men and women who are trying for a family or who are pregnant. Watch the recording. 

COVID-19 Vaccinations public meetings

In February, public meetings were held featuring GP and public health leaders in Birmingham and Solihull. You can watch the recordings now: 

South Birmingham

East Birmingham

North Birmingham

Central Birmingham

West Birmingham

 

 

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