In what's been 12 months of frequent disappointment, collective grief and much 'pandemic rage,' one thing that is giving much of the nation life is the velocity with which the UK vaccination programme has been rolled out.
In today's Commons statement on the country's 'roadmap' out of lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that all UK adults should be offered a Covid jab by the end of July, with groups 'five to nine' receiving their first dose by end of April.
Earlier in the month, Vaccine Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has stated that the target to vaccinate the 15m most vulnerable people in the country with their first dose of one of two approved vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca) was met on Feb 14 (Valentine's Day – cute.) This is sweet success: the UK has administered more vaccine first doses per 100 people – 19, right now – than any nation with a similarly sized population, says the British Medical Journal (BMJ.)
Of course, if you have not had yours, yet, your next question is likely 'when will I get the Covid vaccine?' We're hearing plenty of promising noises on this front. Dr Clive Dix, who heads up the UK's vaccine taskforce, told Sky News this week that he anticipates that all adults in the UK will receive both doses by 'August time or September time all done, maybe sooner if we need to.'
But what does the data say? Scroll on to find out when you might be up – plus, WH answers some of your other Covid vaccine FAQs.
When will I get the Covid vaccine?
Like you know, this all depends on things like your age and your health. The top priority groups to get their first dose of either vaccine between Jan and mid February, 2021 are:
Older care home residents, care home workers
Care home residents
People age 80+
Health and social care workers
People age 75-79
People age 70-74
Clinically extremely vulnerable people (under 70)
The remaining priority groups will be inoculated from late February to April. These are:
People age 65-69
People age 16-64 with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers for the elderly and disabled
People age 60-64
People age 55-59
People age 50-54
By autumn, the plan is that it will be extended out to the result of the adult population.
What's the Covid vaccine online calculator?
You can get a rough estimate of when you might receive your first and second doses via this online calculator. This asks you to input some details like your age, if you are a health care worker and if you have a health condition. It will then give an idea of when your turn will be, based on the current speed of vaccination and uptake rate.
According to this tool, as of 18th February 2021, a 30-year-old woman who is not a care home resident or worker, is not pregnant, is not a health worker or unpaid carer, who has not been asked to shield and does not have an underlying health condition, should expect their:
First dose between 07/05/2021 and 30/06/2021
Second dose between 30/07/2021 and 22/09/2021
Have more people been added to the Covid vaccine priority list?
Key to note is that this week, it was announced that 800,000 extra people will be prioritised for the vaccine. They have been identified due to factors like age, ethnicity, BMI and other medical conditions. These new folk have been identified via a Covid risk assesment tool called d 'QCovid', developed by the University of Oxford.
These people will get a letter from the NHS telling them that they are now deemed to be 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and that they will be invited for their first dose of the vaccine ASAP, if they have not had it, yet. Obviously, this could alter when you get your jab, if you're not in this group. Watch this space for updates.
Is the Covid-19 vaccine free in the UK?
Both approved COVID-19 vaccines are only available via the NHS in the UK, and so are totally free.
Can the Covid-19 vaccine give you the infection?
Certainly not. Public Health England says: 'The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and 2 doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. So, it is important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you.'
You could experience some mild side effects after having a jab. These should not last more than a week. According to the NHS, these might be:
a sore arm where the needle went in
feeling or being sick
The NHS says if you are impacted: 'You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.'
The health service also says that allergic reactions are very unusual. 'So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.'
How effective is one shot of the Pfizer vaccine?
According to the latest data, pretty effective. One preprint, which has not yet been peer reviewed, analysed results from Israel's vaccination programme. This found that a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine gave about 90% protection from Covid-19 after 21 days.
The researchers did warn, however, that the risk of infection doubled in the first 8 days after vaccination, which might be explained by people becoming less cautious with measures like social distancing. This data rebuffs an earlier piece of research, which indicated that one dose did not give enough protection.
Of this, Dr Peter English, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control and Former Editor of Vaccines in Practice Magazine, said that these findings were 'reassuring' although the research did contain some gaps.
'The preprint (and the source data it relies on) do not provide any direct evidence that the efficacy of a single dose of vaccine will continue up until 12 weeks; but they do support the efficacy of a single dose of vaccine, show that it takes about three weeks for the full benefits to accrue, and the lack of any sign of diminution of efficacy up until 24 days is reassuring,' he summarised.
How many injections do you need for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine?
Two doses will be given if you have either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine. While the above data looks good, the full two doses will offer the most long-lasting protection.
Are the Covid vaccines safe?
They are. But it's true that a lot of fears around them are circulating, especially in certain demographics. One study of 55,000 people in Britain carried out by Find Out Now in December 2020 found that 18- to 34-year-old women are the group most likely to say they would refuse the vaccine, many of whom said that fertility fears were a key reason for this.
The latest data from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Public Health England, meanwhile, suggests that people from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds – who have suffered disproportionately at the hands of this virus and its social impact – are almost three times more likely to reject a COVID-19 vaccine than people from a white background. There are many reasons for this, which WH explores, here.
But, while a lot of misinformation has been circulating – a report by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that social media pages run by anti-vaxxers have increased their following by at least 7.8 million people since 2019 – know that these medicines are safe.
Dr Craig Hartford, Committee Member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine’s Policy and Communications Group, said:
'Vaccines approved by the MHRA are safe and effective for use. Establishing the safety of a vaccine starts way back in the early research programs in which the vaccine is tested in vitro and in vivo to determine its safety profile before even beginning to test the vaccine in human volunteer clinical studies.
'This “pre-clinical” testing provides extensive information about the predicted safety of the vaccine in humans, and is conducted by scientists with advanced subject matter expertise in assessing and minimizing the potential toxic effects of a vaccine.'
By the time small, early trials have begun in humans and shown that it is safe, 'phase 2' and 'phase 3' trials can begin.
'Here a broader spectrum of subjects participate in the studies. In these studies the vaccine safety is monitored not only by the manufacturer and by the clinical investigators but also by an independent data safety monitoring board, oversight by an independent ethics committee and indeed by regulators themselves.
'Vaccine manufacturers have dedicated safety professionals, i.e. people whose only role is to monitor the safety of the vaccines, assigned to the vaccine development team and they are specifically continuously monitoring the safety of the product during development. They also have safety teams who make decisions about the safety of the vaccine’s safety internally.'
If a vaccine is shown to be safe here, then clinical data must be submitted for approval to a regulator. Safety monitoring is always on-going.
Dr Hartford adds: 'In summary, all medicines and vaccines can have some side effects, but these side effects are unusual, they are typically mild, transient and not serious, and serious side effects are rare. The benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks and the safety of vaccines is very closely monitored and assessed. The COVID-19 Vaccine when approved for use in the UK by the MHRA is safe and effective for use in the public.'
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The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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