By Philippa Roxby
Those classified as most at risk by Covid will be vaccinated first. Adults aged 50 to 54 in England will be the last group invited to schedule an appointment 100 days after the UK rollout began.
They represent the last of the top nine priority groups that were identified as being most at risk for the disease.
In the UK, more than 25 million people have now received their first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer Covid vaccine – almost half of the UK’s adult population. Almost 1.8 million of them also had a second dose.
The UK government warned of a cut in supply in April but insists it will continue to meet its vaccination targets.
Who is being offered a vaccine now?
Adults aged 50 to 54 in England are now officially invited for their first dose.
Two million text messages are sent with a link that allows people to book an appointment through the national booking service’s website. People who cannot get online can call the service on 119.
The vaccine is already being offered to those over 50 in Northern Ireland and some parts of Scotland. It is hoped that everyone over 50 in Wales will be offered their first dose by mid-April.
Which groups received a first dose?
A vaccine dose has already been offered for:
- Health and social care workers at the forefront
- Nursing home residents
- clinically extremely vulnerable people
- Anyone over 16 with a health condition that increases their risk of Covid, including anyone on the Register of Learning Disabilities maintained by General Practitioners in England and anyone with severe learning disabilities who have been identified as at risk
- adult carers of disabled people and younger adults in nursing homes
- over 55s
All four nations of the UK follow these priorities, but the introduction varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
When will i get my second dose?
Almost 1.6 million people have already received their second dose.
In April, the number of second doses given to humans will skyrocket, likely exceeding the number of first doses. This is such that everyone in the priority groups will be fully vaccinated with two doses within 12 weeks.
Vaccine supplies may also be more limited than normal in April, but the government says goals of offering a dose to those over 50 by mid-April and reaching all adults by the end of July will continue to be met.
When do people over 40 get a sting?
According to the priority groups, the rest of the adult population may have to wait until May due to a slight slowdown in supply.
They will be vaccinated in order of their age, starting with:
- All between the ages of 40-49
- All between the ages of 30-39
- All between the ages of 18-29
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has decided not to give priority to people in certain occupations, such as teaching, as they said it would be more complex and could slow down the vaccination program.
It also urged some groups at higher risk of needing hospital treatment for Covid to immediately accept the vaccination offer:
- Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities (BAME)
- People with a BMI over 30
- those who live in deprived neighborhoods
Can I pay to get vaccinated earlier?
No – this vaccine is being introduced to people for free through the NHS. You cannot jump into the queue by paying.
Do the vaccines work against new variants?
Two vaccines – developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca – are currently used in the UK to protect against Covid-19. A third – from Moderna – has also been approved.
It has been shown that all are effective in preventing people from getting seriously ill and dying of Covid-19.
The Oxford vaccine offers a good level of protection against the “Kent” variant currently prevalent in Great Britain.
Early research on other vaccines, including Pfizer, suggests that it may protect against this variant as well.
There are concerns that Covid vaccines may not work as well against variants discovered in South Africa and Brazil, and also in some UK variants – but vaccines can be updated.
Still, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the Oxford vaccine should continue to be used in countries where these variants are present.
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Why should I get vaccinated?
Vaccines mean fewer people will get Covid-19 and those who do will go to hospital or die far less often.
Vaccines not only protect you, but also your family, friends, and other people you come into contact with.
The first “real world” data from the UK rollout suggests they are doing an excellent job.
Even as new variants develop, new versions of the vaccines are relatively easy to organize, and the UK regulator says it will speed up the approval of updated vaccines in a few months.
Vaccine developers are already updating their jabs with a plan to have them ready by fall.
They are likely to be offered as routine boosters against Covid for some groups.
Do you need two doses?
The approved vaccines require two doses to provide the best protection against Covid.
In the UK, people were initially told they would get a second dose three to four weeks after the first. In order to ensure a faster introduction of the first doses, the British chief physician extended the gap to 12 weeks.
This approach is now supported by WHO, who say giving two doses eight to 12 weeks apart will increase the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine and provide better protection.
A recent study found that the Oxford vaccine remained 76% effective in the three months following the first dose. There was also evidence that it could reduce the spread of the virus.
However, some doctors fear that a long gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine could make it less effective.
Can different vaccines be mixed?
The official instructions state that everyone should receive the same vaccine for both doses.
In very rare cases – when only one vaccine is available or it is not known which one was given for the first dose – another vaccine can be used.
However, a UK study is looking into whether mixing vaccines could offer better protection than two doses of the same.
How many doses of vaccine are there?
The UK has ordered seven vaccines and is expecting 407 million doses – more than enough for any adult to receive two.
A third vaccine from Moderna has been approved in the UK. Dosing is expected to take place in April.
A vaccine from Novavax has shown promising results in UK studies. It is made in the north east of England.
A single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has also been shown to be effective against Covid-19.
Are they all vaccinated?
The aim is to vaccinate everyone aged 18 and over in the UK with one dose by the end of July and the government says it is on track to meet that deadline.
The vaccines have not been tested in children, so they will not be given them until further research is done.
Getting a Covid vaccine isn’t mandatory as experts say it won’t help build public confidence.
What about people with allergies?
A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction – known as anaphylaxis – when they were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.
You should discuss any serious allergies with your doctor before getting any vaccinations.
Most people will not be affected in any way, although minor side effects are possible.
I am pregnant – can I be vaccinated?
Vaccination should only be considered for pregnant women if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.
This can be the case if the risk of developing coronavirus is high or if the underlying health conditions mean a high risk of Covid complications.
There are no specific safety concerns with the vaccines – however, they have not been tested on pregnant women.
Women who are breastfeeding can receive both vaccines.
The vaccines have no effect on female fertility.
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