Covid-19 national vaccination programme

The UK’s regulatory body (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - MHRA) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as safe and effective.   

The Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) has said that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine ‘give very high protection against severe disease’ and both have good safety records. You can read more about the vaccines  at www.nhs.uk . 

Updated guidance from MHRA, JCVI and the UK Chief Medical Officers has also been published recently to advise increasing the spacing of second vaccine doses for both the new Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine and the current Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. 

The combined effect of the recent decisions is that, subject to the supplies coming through, the NHS is now able to substantially accelerate vaccine delivery. 

Based on current forecasts, by late Spring it should be possible to offer a vaccine to all those people that the JCVI have said would benefit most.  In line with the JCVI’s prioritisation, for now this means continuing to vaccinate people aged 80 and over, care home residents and staff, as well as widening out the offer to frontline health and social care staff. 

 
The recent rise in cases and emergence of a new variant of the virus also shows that we cannot let our guard down now. 

NHS staff are doing an incredible job to deliver what it is the largest vaccination programme in our history, at the same time as continuing to be there for everyone who needs care.

The public have an important part to play to help them do this:

• please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you; 
• when we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments; 
• and please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives

Your local NHS needs you:  we're recruiting now to various health care professional and support roles on our covid-19 vaccination teams across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk and Waveney.  If you want to play your part in this historic effort, visit NHS Jobs at https://bit.ly/2IXLDwl where you can also apply on line. 

Please find below some further information about the national vaccination programme:

What vaccine for COVID-19 is currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA. 

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This includes:   

• 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine  
• 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
• 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also being assessed by the MHRA. 

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe?  

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.  
  
The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.   
  
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.  

How were vaccines developed so quickly? 

Medicines including vaccines are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccines. There a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines; 

1. The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process; 
2. There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial; 
3. clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer. 

 
Watch this video of scientists leading the development of a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford explain how they assess safety at each stage of the process.

To find out more about vaccines watch this video of Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the Government's Deputy Chief Medical Officer. 

Who will get the vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recently published updated advice on the priority groups to receive COVID-19 vaccine. 

Will vaccines still be provided during lockdown/should I still attend my appointment?

Yes. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. Vaccinations will continue as normal in all areas regardless of lockdown or what Tier they are in. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it. The place that you choose to have your vaccine will keep you safe from COVID-19 through a range of measures including cleaning and disinfecting and having social distancing in waiting areas. Please also wear a face covering to your appointment. You should also take the usual steps to minimise your risk as you travel to your appointment.

Will the vaccines work with the new strain?

There is no evidence currently that the new strain will be resistant to the vaccines we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal. Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.  

Why are you postponing second doses?

The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose still offers a high level of protection. This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

We recognise for some people a longer wait might be worrying, and clinicians have the discretion to vaccinate people sooner if they think this is needed. Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

How will the NHS deliver the vaccine when it is available?

The NHS has well-established routes for delivering vaccinations across the country, for example the annual flu jab and routine immunisations for children and pregnant women and plans for COVID-19 vaccination will build on these. 

The NHS will be delivering the vaccine in three main ways: 

  • Hospital Hubs - NHS providers vaccinating onsite; 
  • Local Vaccine Services - Community/primary care led services which could include using primary care facilities, retail, community facility or temporary structures or roving teams, and; 
  • Vaccination Centres - Large sites, such as sports and conference venues set up for high volumes of people

You can find out more about where your local vaccination services and centres are by clicking on the links below:

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 

Norfolk and Waveney

Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes

How will people know if they’re eligible for a vaccine and how to get it?

People will receive a letter from the NHS inviting them to attend or book an appointment when it is their turn.  In the meantime, the following information leaflets are available:

PHE Guide to Your Covid Vaccination - easy read version

PHE Covid-19 vaccination for older adults including large print version, easy read, BSL video and a range of languages. The leaflet is also available in braille

PHE Covid-19 vaccination leaflet for healthcare workers in a range of languages

PHE Covid-19 leaflet for all women of childbearing age, those currently pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding - including a range of languages, large print and a BSL video

PHE Covid-19 leaflet for social care staff including a range of languages 

PHE Covid-19 what to expect after your vaccination leaflet  - including large print version, BSL version,  and range of languages.  A braille version is also available on request. 

PHE Covid-19 why do I have to wait for my vaccine leaflet 

Are there any side effects?  

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 here
 
When will you publish vaccine 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: 

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found here  

 What about the allergic reactions that have been reported? 

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 to 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 also 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. 
  
Has the guidance on allergies changed? 

The original MHRA advice was that anybody with a known allergy to specific ingredients in the vaccine should not be vaccinated. This was temporarily widened but the guidance has now reverted to this. 
  
Checking for allergies is a routine part of the process before giving any vaccine or new medicine. Having these conversations – as well as being able to deal with allergic reactions in the rare case they do happen, is a central part of training for vaccinators. But these are new vaccines and so the NHS and the MHRA are being extra vigilant and responding quickly to ensure everyone across the NHS is totally clear on these requirements.  
  
How effective are the vaccines? How long do they take to work?  

The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  

To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the OxfordAstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12 weeks apart.

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked in as soon as possible. Even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow social distancing and other guidance

How will vaccine services be staffed?

Vaccinating millions of people as quickly as possible, while keeping other important services going, will require the recruitment of thousands of additional vaccinators.

The NHS will therefore be working with local employers as well as national partners to initially redeploy as many trained and experienced vaccinators as possible, including those working in primary care, and we have set out details of a new contractual agreement for GP and their teams through which they can support this programme. Experienced vaccinators working for NHS trusts and other employers will also be among the first to help deliver the vaccine. We will also be offering opportunities to former colleagues who signed up to help the NHS during the first wave.

More vaccinators will be needed in the longer term. The NHS is, working with NHS Professionals to identify people with the right skills to become vaccinators and then provide any extra training required. Registered healthcare professionals from outside the NHS will be routed to their local lead provider, while NHS Professionals will oversee the training of non-clinicians.

Third sector partners, led by St John Ambulance, will also help recruit the important non-clinical support roles we will need to ensure clinics run safely and smoothly, as well as some volunteer vaccinators. 

Public Health England (PHE) and Health Education England will be developing training courses, including supervision from experienced staff, in order to upskill those groups.  

 

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