It’s been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic began. In that time, we’ve all adapted to a different way of life involving social distancing, face masks, and staying at home. Thankfully, scientists have been working to develop and test several vaccines. The first coronavirus vaccine was approved for use in the UK in December 2020.
Now the NHS is working flat out to vaccinate people, starting with the most vulnerable groups in society. So, when will you get the coronavirus vaccine? Which vaccines have been approved for general use? We’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the vaccine in today’s article.
Which Coronavirus Vaccines Are Approved in the UK?
There are currently 3 different kinds of coronavirus vaccine in use in the UK. We generally refer to each vaccine by its manufacturer(s). They are:
- University of Oxford-AstraZeneca
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved back in December 2020. The UK was the first country in the world to approve it and Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person to receive it. Quickly afterwards, the UK medicines regulator approved the Oxford vaccine, followed by the Moderna vaccine in January 2021.
When Will I Get the Coronavirus Vaccine?
The NHS is currently providing vaccinations free of charge to the people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. When it’s your turn to get the coronavirus vaccine, the NHS will contact you via a letter, phone call, or text message. It’s important not to contact your GP or other NHS services in the meantime. They’ll offer you a vaccine at the earliest opportunity.
The government has published a list of the first groups who will be offered the coronavirus vaccine. The list is as follows:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.
- 80-year-olds and over. Frontline health and social care workers.
- 75-year-olds and over.
- 70-year-olds and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, except those who are pregnant or under 16.
- All those 65 years of age and over.
- All individuals aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. This includes people who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be put at risk if the carer falls ill.
- 60-year-olds and over.
- 55-year-olds and over.
- 50-year-olds and over.
Initially, the aim is to reduce deaths from COVID-19. The groups above are the most likely to become seriously ill with the virus, which is why they are first in line for the coronavirus vaccine. The government has pledged to vaccinate 15 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February.
Once everyone in the above groups has been offered a vaccine, possibly by mid-May, the second phase will begin. This is when the rest of the UK population will be able to get a coronavirus vaccine. It’s likely that teachers and other key workers will be the top priority at this point.
Where Will I Get the Vaccine?
Vaccination sites are opening across the country. You could get the vaccine in a hospital, a GP surgery, or in a large venue like a sports stadium which has been repurposed. There are currently more than 1,000 vaccination centres in England alone. Some pharmacies may be able to offer the vaccine too, but this will depend on their storage facilities. If they don’t have suitable refrigeration, they won’t be able to store the vaccines safely.
Is the Coronavirus Vaccine Safe?
Yes. While the vaccines have been developed quickly, they have all gone through standard clinical trials to make sure they are safe. The risk of serious side effects is very low. You may experience some minor side effects, such as:
- Soreness in the arm where you had the injection.
- A headache.
- Feeling achy or tired.
You might hear reports of people having serious allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These incidents are very rare and usually only affect those who’ve had serious allergic reactions to medicines in the past. Nonetheless, UK regulators have advised that people with a significant history of allergic reactions should not have the Pfizer jab.
How Does the Covid Vaccine Work?
Most vaccines work by injecting a weakened form of the germ that causes a particular disease – in this case, coronavirus. This triggers the immune system to respond, teaching it how to combat the disease. It’s important to note that there is no live or whole form of the virus here, so the vaccine cannot give you coronavirus.
The three different kinds of coronavirus vaccine each work in slightly different ways. The Pfizer vaccine is around 95% effective, the Moderna vaccine is around 94.5% effective, and the Oxford vaccine is around 90% effective.
Each of the three coronavirus vaccines requires two doses for maximum protection. For the best results, there should be between 21 days and 12 weeks between the two doses, although the first dose gives you some protection straight away. However, it is still vital that you follow social distancing guidelines, even after you’ve had the vaccine because you could still spread the virus.
If you have any further questions about the coronavirus vaccine, you can find more information on the NHS website.
To read about how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic, click here.
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