Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered
Our health lead Amanda has put together some questions and answers about the Covid-19 vaccination. We are keeping this page under review and will update it as more information becomes available.
1. What is the Covid-19 vaccine and why get vaccinated?
The Covid-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It is given as 2 doses, at least 21 days apart. The coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine is safe and effective and will give you the best protection against coronavirus.
2. Which vaccines against coronavirus are currently available?
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. It contains no animal products or egg.
The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines received UK regulatory approval over Christmas 2020 and is made of a weakened and modified version of the common cold virus from chimpanzees.
The US-made Moderna vaccine has now received UK approval. This vaccine works in a similar way to the Pfizer vaccine and will be also be used once supplies arrive in the UK in the Spring.
The Government is using these vaccines to inoculate people against coronavirus but it has ordered more Oxford vaccines as it is cheaper and easier to store and transport.
3. How many doses of the vaccine are needed and at what interval?
The government's expert vaccine committee is now recommending that as many people as possible on the priority list should get a first vaccine dose 'as the initial priority'. It recommends giving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine between 3 to 12 weeks after the first dose, and 4 to 12 weeks after for the Oxford vaccine.
4. Who will get the vaccine and when?
Right now, the government is prioritising people aged over 80, people who live or work in care homes and health care workers at high risk of catching the virus.
More people will be offered the vaccine in future. The order people will be offered the coronavirus vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Read the committee's latest advice on priority groups for the Covid-19 vaccination.
Contact campaigned successfully for unpaid carers to be added to the priority list. We continue to press for children with rare conditions to be prioritised. You can support the campaign here.
5. How will people know when and where they can be vaccinated against coronavirus?
You will be invited to get a vaccine, if you are eligible and it is your turn, probably by letter. Wait for your invitation from the NHS. Your GP, hospital, or care home will contact you. You do not need to contact them. People will be vaccinated in one of seven mass vaccination hubs set up across the country or in GP surgeries, pharmacies or hospitals.
6. Will my disabled child be invited to have a vaccination against Covid-19?
The Pfizer vaccine will only be offered to children at high risk of Covid-19 exposure who are likely to get very sick if they get catch it, for example older children with severe neuro-disabilities in residential care. Even then, doctors will discuss the risks and benefits with their parents. We expect the government to publish more guidance on vaccinating children as the programme gets underway and more types of vaccine become available.
Let your GP know now that you are a carer and ask if this could be registered on your medical record. All GP practices will have a carer registration form.
7. Will my clinically vulnerable son be offered the Covid-19 vaccine soon?
Clinically vulnerable younger adults are considered at risk of getting extremely ill if they catch Covid-19. The government's expert advisers recommend that clinically extremely vulnerable people aged under 70 should be offered the vaccine alongside people aged 70 to 74 years old. We are not sure when this phase of vaccination will begin. Children and pregnant women are not included.
Many clinically extremely vulnerable people are likely to have compromised immune systems so may not respond as well to the vaccine. Therefore, they should continue to follow government advice on reducing their risk of infection.
8. Will children and adults with underlying health conditions get the Covid-19 vaccine?
The expert committee has advised our government to vaccinate people aged 65 and over with underlying health conditions first. Their advice is then to offer the vaccine to clinically at-risk groups adults. 'At risk' groups include people with Down syndrome, severe and profound learning disability, epilepsy, diabetes lung, kidney and liver disease, transplant recipients, cancer patients, people with suppressed immunity, very obese people, and people with severe mental illness.
We will update this page when we have more information. We are seeking clarity on plans for a vaccine for children particularly children living with long-term or rare conditions
9. I am an unpaid carer for my disabled child who depends entirely on me being well. Will I get early access to the Covid-19 vaccine?
The government's expert committee - Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) - revised its recommendations on 30 December to include unpaid carers.
It recommends unpaid carers who get Carer's Allowance, or who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, should be prioritised alongside people with underlying health conditions. This means unpaid carers are now in priority group 6: (see Table 3 of the green Book)
Parents should ask for their GP to mark their record with a 'carers flag' otherwise they may not get an invitation when their turn arrives.
We have received assurances from government that work is taking place to identify all unpaid carers so that they can be vaccinated in line with JCVI advice. We expected further guidance on this in early February.
We have written to the government minister in charge of vaccines to call for the vaccine delivery plan to be republished to include unpaid carers. We will update this page when more information becomes available.
10. Is the vaccine safe and effective?
Studies show the Pfizer vaccine being used for first phase of the vaccination programme is safe and effective in people aged 16 and over, particularly older people. Read about the approved Pfizer vaccine. The Oxford vaccine is also safe and effective and works well in people age under 55. Read about the approved Oxford vaccine.
11. I heard the vaccine has side effects, should I be worried?
So far, thousands of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, are rare. No long-term complications have been reported. Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week. Side effects may include a sore arm where the needle went in, feeling tired or achy or a headache Scientists continue to monitor the vaccine's safety to identify any rare or long-term side effects.
12. Who should not have the vaccine?
Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy are advised not to have the vaccine due to a current lack data on the safety of the Pfizer vaccine in pregnant women. The Pfizer vaccine will not be offered to people with a history of anaphylaxis including allergic reactions to food, medicines or a vaccine in the past that required hospital admission or treatment with adrenaline. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.
13. Can I have the Covid-19 and flu vaccines at the same time?
You are advised to leave at least seven days between getting the flu jab and the Covid-19 vaccine. Find out more about the flu jab for disabled children, young people, and carers here.
14. Will I be immune to Covid-19 after having the jab?
It is currently thought immunity builds within four weeks of the first vaccine dose but possibly earlier. After having both doses, most people will be protected against coronavirus. It takes a few weeks after getting the 2nd dose for it to work. There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. This means it is important to continue to follow social distancing guidance
15. I have heard people with Down's Syndrome are more at risk if they get Covid-19, will they be vaccinated early on?
People aged 18 and over who have Down's syndrome have been placed on the clinically extremely vulnerable list and will be offered the vaccine at the same time as people aged 70 and over. People who have Down's syndrome aged 16 years and over are in the sixth priority group for vaccination covering all people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions.
16. Paid carers come into our home daily to look after my child. Will they get the vaccine early in the new year?
The vaccine is currently being offered to people who live and work in care homes and people who deliver care in the home so paid carers should have early access to the vaccine although carer workers for older people will be vaccinated first.
17. Where can I find easy read materials about the Coronavirus vaccine?
Down's Syndrome Association coronavirus vaccine easy read guide