Salford’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, part of the biggest mass vaccination programme in the history of the NHS, is now underway.

Over the coming weeks and months residents of all ages will be offered the vaccine.

The first to be offered the vaccination will be residents aged 80 and above.

To ease pressure on the NHS at this busy time, and to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible, please do not to call your GP practice. Rest assured you will be called directly when it is your turn to come for the vaccine.

This is how the appointment system will work:

  • If you are registered with a GP in Salford, you will be called by a staff member from a member of the local COVID-19 vaccination team
  • If you live in Salford but are registered with a practice outside the borough, you will be contacted by representatives from that local authority area
  • The caller will identify themselves and say they are calling on behalf of the NHS in Salford and they are getting in touch about booking an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine
  • The caller will then offer dates and times for you to attend clinic. They will also give the location of the site where you will receive it. This will not be your usual surgery
  •  All COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. It is vital you return and keep your second appointment when invited
  • The callers booking vaccinations will not ask for any other personal details other than asking you to confirm your name. They certainly will not ask for any money. Sadly, we have already been alerted to possible phone scams with callers asking for payment for access to vaccinations.
  • Once you have received the vaccination you must not drive for 15 minutes afterwards. You will need to remain in clinic until that time has elapsed

It is important that you attend your vaccination appointment. But if for any reason you can’t, let us know as soon as possible so your slot can be offered to another resident.

Please share this information with people you know, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

COVID-19 vaccination

  • The vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against COVID-19 before they come into actual contact with the virus
  • The vaccine uses a person’s natural defences to build resistance to COVID-19 and their immune system stronger by creating antibodies
  • The vaccines will not give the person COVID-19
  • Both the Pfizer and the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccines are being used in Salford

  • The UK government has secured early access to 355 million vaccine doses through agreements with seven separate vaccine developers, giving the UK the best chance of securing a safe and effective vaccine at the quickest speed
  • The vaccine provides protection against the new variant as well as the old one

Our ask to the public of Salford;

Please do not contact your GP practice, hospital, other NHS organisations or Spirit of Salford helpline regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. You will be contacted as soon as you become eligible. Thank you.

  • We will contact you when it’s the right time to come forward so please don’t seek a vaccine before then.
  • Please act on your invite and make sure you attend your appointments when you arrange them.
  • Please be patient with us whilst we finalise our plans to roll out the vaccine.
  • Continue to abide by hands, face, space guidance, which will still save lives.

We are aware that some people are receiving suspicious calls and text messages offering the COVID-19 vaccination.

To protect yourself and your family members from fraud and criminals, remember the following points.

  • The vaccine is only available on the NHS for free to people in priority groups, and the NHS will contact you when it is your turn. Anyone offering a paid-for vaccine is committing a crime. 
  • The NHS will never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and never ask for payment or for your bank details.
  • At the moment we are also not making house calls to deliver or discuss the vaccine. Anyone offering this now is committing a crime.

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by calling 101.

Frequently asked questions:

How and where will the COVID-19 vaccines be given in Salford?

  • For people who are able to travel, several community vaccine sites have being set up across Salford. The first of these vaccine hubs went live at Clarendon Leisure Centre in December. An additional delivery site at Eccles Leisure Centre will start vaccinating Salford residents on Thursday 14th January, with Irlam Leisure Centre commencing on Friday 15th January. Further community sites are expected to go live across Salford in the next few weeks.

  • People are allowed to leave home to get vaccine. Lockdown rules don’t apply, as this is essential
  • Salford Primary Care Together, an organisation which joins up GP practices in the city, has been nominated to run the vaccination service on behalf of all GPs. People from the across the city will work together to staff the vaccine centres and some have volunteered to work on weekends to help roll out the vaccination programme. GPs in Salford will not be expected to step down their routine work to work in the vaccination services, as has been the case in other parts of the country.
  • A plan is being developed for those who can’t leave home

Now two vaccines have been approved, will the NHS have capacity to deliver both vaccines or will one have to be prioritised?  

  • We have been planning extensively for this and a range of different scenarios, so if we get stocks of more than one at the same time this will potentially allow us to go further and faster. But we are not there yet.

What type of sites will give it out? Are they all large sites and what if I can’t get there? 

  • No, the NHS has been working together with local partners to ensure that people are not disadvantaged because of where they live, whether they own a car or if they are able to get about. This is why the NHS has developed three different models of delivery. 

How will patients be invited for a vaccination?

  • When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most they will receive a telephone call or a text message from the local vaccination delivery team. You may also receive a letter from the national booking team to attend one of the larger delivery sites.
  • We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we are asking people not to contact the GP practice and wait unitl you are contacted to book an appointment.

How will GPs be told who to vaccinate?  

  • The JCVI will set criteria on an ongoing basis for who should get the vaccine when. GPs will be able to call in or go out to patients based on this, using their patient records. A national invite and recall system, drawn from GP patient records, may also be used.  

How will care home staff be identified as eligible for vaccination at hospital hubs or centres outside of the care homes where they work?

  • To ensure that care home staff are able to access flu and COVID-19 vaccines as a priority in any setting, we are asking employers to collect and securely provide their NHS numbers. This allows the NHS to tag them as care home workers on the national system we are using to invite and keep track of who has been vaccinated.
  • A letter to care homes providers setting out setting out the requirement and legal basis for the collection off staff details to support the national flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme is in development with representative bodies and will be issued separately as soon as possible.

Now two vaccines are proved safe and effective, will the NHS have capacity to deliver both vaccines or will one have to be prioritised?  

  • We are are receiving stock of both Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech which will now allow us to vaccinate more Salford residents much quicker. 

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

  • The COVID-19 vaccine will reduce a person’s risk of getting the virus by working with their body’s natural defences to build protection
  • When the person receives the vaccine, their immune system will respond to it by;

         > Recognising the invading virus

         > Producing antibodies against the virus

         > Remembering the virus and how to fight it (therefore if the person is exposed to the germ again in the future, their immune system can quickly destroy it before they become unwell.)

  • If the second dose isn’t administered, the person may not be protected from COVID-19
  • Protection will not be likely until at least seven days after the second dose of the vaccine (with full protection not being achieved until 28 days after the second dose)

Why should a person have the COVID-19 vaccination?

  • An effective vaccine will be the best way to protect the most vulnerable from coronavirus and the biggest breakthrough since the pandemic began alongside treatments
  • A vaccination is a huge step forward in our fight against COVID-19, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible should protect an individual and may help to protect your family and those you care for
  • The COVID-19 vaccine should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives and will therefore reduce pressure on the NHS and social care services

When will the COVID-19 vaccine become available?

  • Those age 80+, along with patient facing health care and social care staff, have already started to receive their vaccination.
  • Other groups will be invited in prioritisation order over the coming months, with the programme running until all eligible have been vaccinated. We will provide further update once we have further information to share. 

How will you get an appointment?

  • If you are registered with a GP in Salford, you will be sent a letter, a SMS or called by a staff member from Salford City Council
  • If you live in Salford but are registered with a practice outside the borough you will be contacted by representatives from that area
  • If you are called, the caller will identify themselves and say they are calling on behalf of the NHS in Salford and they are getting in touch about booking an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine

How to book your vaccination appointment online, if contacted?

How do I get an appointment at the large scale vaccination centre?

  • NHS England are writing to all residents over the age of 80 years inviting them to attend one of the large scale vaccination centres for their COVID-19 vaccine. Greater Manchester's venue is based at Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, at the Etihad Campus in Manchester which opened on Monday 11th January.

You have received a letter from NHS England to attend a large scale vaccination centre but would like to attend a local centre?

  • If you have received one of the NHS England letters, but you would rather have your jab at a vaccination centre based in your local community. Please remain patient and you will be contacted shortly by the local NHS vaccination team in Salford.
  • The purpose of the large scale vaccination service is to offer patients additional choice in where they are vaccinated.

Is the COVID-19 vaccination safe?

  • Yes. The NHS will not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.  The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said this vaccine is very safe and highly effective, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes 
  • The COVID-19 vaccines like every other vaccine can only become licenced after the regulators are satisfied they have been rigorously checked for safety. The testing process has been made much more efficient by the removal of a lot of administration
  • Vaccines save the lives of up to 3 million people every year
  • Today there are vaccines available to protect against at least 20 diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles

Who will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.
  • It is expected that we will only see a significant reduction in transmission when the majority of those age 50+ have been vaccinated.

Priority group

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advise on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. 

The age-based prioritisation for the COVID-19 vaccine will include around 99% of people at risk of dying from the disease.

The full prioritisation list can be found here and is as follows (in order of priority):  

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers. 
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
  3. all those 75 years of age and over. 
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
  5. all those 65 years of age and over.
  6. all individuals aged 16 - 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.
  7. all those 60 years of age and over.
  8. all those 55 years of age and over.
  9. all those 50 years of age and over. 

Who cannot have the vaccine?

  • The COVID-19 vaccination is not recommended for women who are pregnant
  • People who are suffering from a fever-type illness / COVID-19 symptoms should also postpone having the vaccine until they have recovered
  • People who have a history of “significant” allergic reactions
  • People under the age of 16

How long will protection last?

  • As it stands, it is unclear how long protection will last following vaccination. It may be the case that people are asked to have further COVID-19 vaccinations annually, or perhaps every few years
  • Scientists are learning more each day and are using all data they generate to adapt their approach and provide the best possible protection advice
  • Initially we will still need carrying on testing those individuals for COVID-19, physically distance, wash hands and wear face coverings alongside rolling out the vaccine. As large numbers of people from at risk groups are given a vaccine, we will be closely monitoring the impact on infection rates, hospitalisation and reduced deaths; if sufficient numbers of people are vaccinated in time this should lead to a substantial reassessment of current restrictions

Will the vaccination be compulsory?

  • There are no plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory. The UK operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations

Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly?

Will people need to pay for the vaccine?

  • No, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination

Do people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated?

  • Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t
  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.
  • It is expected that we will only see a significant reduction in transmission when the majority of those age 50+ have been vaccinated.

Priority group

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advise on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. 

The age-based prioritisation for the COVID-19 vaccine will include around 99% of people at risk of dying from the disease.

The full prioritisation list can be found here and is as follows (in order of priority):  

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers. 
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
  3. all those 75 years of age and over. 
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
  5. all those 65 years of age and over.
  6. all individuals aged 16 - 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.
  7. all those 60 years of age and over.
  8. all those 55 years of age and over.
  9. all those 50 years of age and over. 

Are there any known or anticipated side effects?

  • Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them
  • Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, it is still vital the person returns for their second dose
  • Very common side effects include:
    • Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
    • Feeling tired
    • Headache
    • General aches, or mild flu like symptoms
  • As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration

How do you monitor for problems, such as injuries or allergic reactions?

  • Each COVID-19 vaccine candidate is assessed on a case-by-case basis and will only be approved by the independent regulator, the MHRA, once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality. Right through the tests and the trials, teams of scientists and clinicians carefully, methodically, scientifically rigorously review all data on safety, effectiveness and quality as soon as they become available.
  • The independent expert working group have supported MHRA proposals for a proactive safety monitoring strategy. This comprises the Yellow Card scheme and a special active monitoring programme which we are inviting people to join. 
  • Approved COVID-19 vaccines will be monitored continuously after roll out by the MHRA and PHE to ensure that the benefit of the vaccines continues to outweigh any risk.
  • You can report suspected side effects to COVID-19 vaccines through the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting portal https://coronavirus-yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/
  • The MHRA will work in collaboration with partners in the health system to rapidly assess all available safety data in real time and communicate any emerging issues, as necessary.

Are there any side effects?

  • Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.

Vaccine trials importance

  • The encouraging news about vaccines is thanks to clinical study participants volunteering to take part and shows the importance of this vaccine research.
  • Clinical trials into the vaccines against COVID-19 continue at pace, and it is essential that these do so. We will need data about a number of vaccines and their safety and effectiveness, in order to protect the population. No one vaccine is likely to be suitable for everyone, the first vaccine may not be the most effective and easiest to use, and we must make sure that the other studies continue to allow us to have a selection of vaccines to protect the whole population. We are likely to need several vaccines to provide enough doses for everyone at risk, as early as possible.

How many people have taken part in clinical trials and what about ages, ethnic backgrounds and medical conditions?

  • All of the vaccines will be tested on between 15,000 to 50,000 people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, and of all ages between 18-84.
  • The studies have also looked as to whether the vaccines work on people with certain medical conditions and in older people, as their immune responses can work less effectively and therefore give them less protection through vaccines. As a result of this testing on a representative sample of the population, we can be confident that an approved vaccine will be effective for the wider population in the UK.
  • There will be further studies to look at how best to use the different vaccines, for example, which vaccine is most effective in which individuals and what sized dose is most effective A number of vaccines remain in development, and these may offer benefits over the first approved vaccine/s.
  • All this ongoing research will be vitally important to ensure we get the best protection from the vaccine. Research and vaccine development will not end with the first approved vaccine - there will be a process of continuous improvement.

Will people on vaccine trials be able to have a COVID-19 vaccine when available?

  • Yes we will have a process in place so people on vaccine studies are not disadvantaged. People taking part in the vaccine research will still be able to have an approved vaccine when this is available. Taking part in a study is the best way to help effective vaccines to be identified and made available to everyone earlier and may even give you early access to a vaccine later found to be effective.   

Will the flu vaccine provide protection against COVID-19?

  • The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. Anyone who is eligible for both vaccines should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.
  • Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect against the flu. 

What are the differences between the vaccines?

Which vaccine is better/more effective?

  • Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca are very effective vaccines. Comparisons between the vaccine efficacies are unhelpful due to the different methodologies used.
  • It’s not as simple as saying one vaccine is better than the other. An effective vaccine will save lives and reduce hospitalisations.
  • Comparing vaccines on a simple percentage of effectiveness is a mistake. A vaccine with slightly lower headline efficacy than another may prove to be the one that offers more durable protection or a greater effect on transmission
  • Both vaccines have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get will be highly effective and protect them from Coronavirus.

How many doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will need to be administered? 

  • The vaccine is given in two doses and data from clinical trials showed the vaccine is 94 percent effective in protecting people over the age of 65 from coronavirus, with trials suggesting it works equally well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities. There were also no serious safety concerns reported in the trials. 
  • Everyone will receive their second dose. This will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection.
  • From 30th December 2020 the NHS across the UK will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups. With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation.

How quickly is the Pfizer vaccine effective after doses?

  • Full protection should begin 7-10 days after the second injection.

How many people have received the Pfizer vaccine so far?

  • More than 600,000 people in the UK have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of the largest vaccination programme in British history.
  • The government has published figures showing the number of people who have received the vaccine between 8 December and 20 December in the UK is 616,933.
  • The majority of the vaccines have been administered to the over-80s, care home workers and NHS staff through more than 500 sites across the UK.
  • Over the coming weeks and months, the rate of vaccinations will increase as more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.

How many AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines will be available?

  • We will have hundreds of thousands of doses available in the UK from Monday (4 Jan) and more on the way.
  • There will be millions more doses delivered during Q1 and the UK has secured a total of 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Should both vaccines be given in two doses?

  • The MHRA authorisation includes conditions that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should be administered in two doses, with the second dose given between 4 and 12 weeks after the first.
  • The MHRA has also clarified that for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the interval between doses must be at least 3 weeks (21 days). This also aligns with the EMA position on the Pfizer vaccine.
  • For both vaccines, data provided to MHRA demonstrate that whilst efficacy is optimised when a second dose is administered both offer considerable protection after a single dose, at least in the short term. For both vaccines the second dose completes the course and is likely to be important for longer term protection.

Where/how are vaccines going to be administered? 

  • Vaccination to at-risk groups till take place at the most appropriate settings to encourage uptake. This includes administering vaccination to at risk individuals in their usual place of residence. The three models of delivery are: 
  • Hospital Hubs - NHS providers vaccinating staff onsite. 
  • Local Vaccination Services – Community and primary care-led service based on local and logistical considerations but is likely to include GP practices, local authority sourced buildings or other local facilities, and potentially roving teams if vaccines are transportable in this way.  
  • Vaccination Centres - Large scale centres such as sports and conference venues set up for high volumes of people. 

Who is administering these vaccines? 

  • Recruitment of workforce has focused on those who already have experience in handling vaccinations but may currently work outside of NHS settings, for example, independent nurses or allied health care professionals. 

Is one easier to deliver?  

  • All vaccines will present different logistical requirements, but the NHS has been planning for all eventualities, and people should be assured that the vaccine they will be offered is available because it has been assessed and approved by experts as being safe and effective.

Can people choose what vaccine they have? It has been suggested that vaccines could be mixed and matched?

  • No. Any vaccines that are available will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get will be highly effective and protect them from coronavirus.
  • The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being rolled out as fast as possible by the NHS across the UK. Now authorised, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine will be deployed alongside the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to increase the pace and volume of the UK programme. There are no current plans to mix these vaccines.
  • The Government’s Vaccine Taskforce keeps its approach under review, ensuring the UK is in the strongest position to protect people. The science is uncertain about how mixing vaccines could produce a better immune response, so trials and testing will continue to assess and test vaccine responses.

If you're given one type of vaccine does that mean you have to stick with that vaccine forever?

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is rapidly being rolled out across the UK, starting with the highest priority groups.
  • The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and other candidates will be deployed alongside the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to increase the pace and volume of the UK programme.
  • More evidence is needed to understand whether a seasonal vaccination or booster dose might be needed.
  • The vaccines people are offered will be appropriate for them. This decision is based on clinical judgement supported by the advice of Joint Committee on vaccination and immunisation. This will take into account individual vaccine characteristics, which may mean they are more suitable for some groups of people, and not others – for example, some may be less well tolerated or effective in certain age groups.

Will vaccinations be available across the UK?

  • Vaccination will be managed by the health services in each nation: NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland, and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland. The UK government is working closely with the Devolved Administrations to ensure an aligned approach to COVID-19 vaccine deployment across the UK. 
  • The vaccine will be available for free across the UK. We have procured vaccines on behalf of all parts of the country. And the Government is working with the devolved administrations to ensure it is deployed fairly across the UK. 

What are vaccine record cards?

Why are some patients receiving COVID-19 vaccination record cards?

  • When patients are vaccinated, they are likely to receive a vaccine record card that notes the date of their vaccination, the suggested date for their second dose and details of the vaccine type and batch.

Is this a vaccine ID card showing proof of vaccination?

  • This is a vaccine record card, similar to those given to patients for other NHS vaccinations as a note of when they received their vaccine.
  • It is not intended to be used for any other purpose, or as an immunity certificate.
  • All vaccinations are recorded on the patient’s record with their GP.

Where else will the vaccination be recorded?

  • All vaccinations are recorded on the patients record with their GP.

 Are you introducing vaccine passports?  

  • We have no plans to introduce immunity passports following this vaccination programme.

What are the timings and how will the vaccine be rolled out?

How many of the priority groups does the NHS expect to vaccinate, before running out of vaccines? 

  • The Government has in principle secured access to six different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 350 million doses. This includes:  

         - 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine 

         - 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine currently being assessed. 

  • Based on two doses of the Pfizer vaccine per person this would run to a maximum of 20m people. But we don’t have all of these doses from day one or even in the first month – this is going to be a long-term programme and we are hopeful we will get other vaccines along the way.
  • It will likely take until at least Spring until all high-risk groups have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine.

When will deployment of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine begin?

  • Vaccination using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to begin in hospital hubs on 4 January.

Will you use the Oxford vaccine more because it’s cheaper and easier to store?

  • The vaccines that the NHS uses and in what circumstances will be decided by the MHRA.
  • The results that we have seen for all the vaccines so far have been very encouraging and if borne out by the final assessment each of them would be classed as being very effective.

Is one vaccine easier to deliver than another?  

  • All vaccines will present different logistical requirements, but the NHS has been planning for all eventualities, and people should be assured that the vaccine they will be offered is available because it has been assessed and approved by experts as being safe and effective. 

What safety measures have been put in place?

Can the government be sure that safety won't be compromised due to the speed of development of a COVID-19 vaccine?

  • There are extensive checks and balances required at every stage of the development of a vaccine, and this is no different for a COVID-19 vaccine. No stages in the vaccine development process are bypassed. 
  • All vaccines are tested through three phases of clinical trials to ensure they meet the gold standard. Phase 1 trials are with a small group of people to make sure there are no safety concerns and determines the appropriate dosage for the best immune response. Phase 2 trials are conducted on a larger group of people to check the vaccine works consistently and that the immune response is sufficient. Phase 3 trials test the vaccines on thousands of people for scientists to assess if the vaccine is producing immunity that will prevent disease.
  • Usually, these phases are run in sequence, but in an effort to find a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, once safety has been ascertained through Phase 1, Phases 2 and 3 are being run in parallel. 
  • The data from each phase then goes to the regulator in a “rolling” review rather than once the trials have completed, which means the regulator can start looking at the results earlier than normal.
  • Companies have made decisions to begin large scale production of vaccines which are still in trials. This means that if the vaccines are not shown to be safe and effective and are not approved for use the companies will have to destroy what they have manufactured. If, however the vaccines are successful, that means the vaccines are ready to be distributed.

How have the COVID-19 vaccines been developed so fast?

  • Vaccine technology and the technological approaches to making vaccines are getting better and better and we couldn’t have done it in this timeframe if we went back to the 2009 pandemic and we had a new virus about which we knew very little. We’re in a different place today because of the technology.
  • It was very clear that it was a global public health emergency from the word go and governments were prepared to put in lots of funding to manufacturers, without any guarantee of success, but hoping that they would find a solution
  • Manufacturers knew this had to be a straight run through, they didn't have time for investment decisions and pausing or thinking about a commercial market at the end of it. It had to happen with real urgency.
  • But the vaccine trials have been just the same as normal vaccine trials. Phase one, phase two and phase three. Where time has been saved is by recruiting participants in advance, so at the moment the study protocol is in place, the Ethics Committee is in place, so are the vaccine trial participants – which speeds up the process. And that happened at phase one, phase two and phase three and therefore things ran very fast.

How can a vaccine be developed in nine months?

  • These vaccines have been through phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials just like ordinary vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine clinical trial size was around 45,000 people. These are very, very big studies.
  • Time has been gained is instead of getting an investment decision then going to ethics committee then starting to recruit volunteers, all of the recruiting volunteers was done in advance so that the people were completely ready to go and the ethics committees moved very fast to approve the trials.
  • Organisations like the National Institute for Health Research made this their top priority and plans were made for the next phase by the companies without having to wait for things like investor decisions.
  • But the numbers of people in the trials were the same as you would expect for any other vaccine, and on top of that the safety assessments and the assessments of effectiveness at the end are the same – it’s the same regulators doing the same job.
  • Companies have made decisions to begin large scale production of vaccines which are still in trials. This means that if the vaccines are not shown to be safe and effective and are not authorised for use the companies will have to destroy what they have manufactured. If, however the vaccines are successful, that means the vaccines are ready to be distributed. 

How can people be confident there won’t be long term side effects?

  • Every single vaccine authorised for use in the UK has been authorised by the MHRA and the three components of authorisation are a safety assessment, an effectiveness assessment and a manufacturing quality assessment.

What are the regulations related to the vaccines?

How are vaccines regulated and authorised for use? 

  • The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK’s independent regulator. Their role is to ensure medicines, devices and vaccines work effectively and are safe for use.  
  • Each COVID-19 vaccine candidate is assessed on a case-by-case basis and will only be authorised once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality. 
  • Teams of scientists and clinicians carefully, methodically, scientifically rigorously review all data on safety, effectiveness and quality as soon as they become available, and have done so throughout all tests and trials 
  • The data looked at includes all the results from laboratory studies, clinical trials, manufacturing and quality controls and testing the product. The public on that basis should be very confident that all tests are done to the very highest standards, and only then will a COVID-19 vaccine be made available 

How many people need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in JCVI’s first phase?

  • The JCVI recommendations of vaccination by age and risk factors is estimated to cover over 25 million people in phase 1.
  • The vaccination of the top two cohorts is estimated to cover over 6 million people.

Why do the JCVI’s recommendations focus on reducing people’s individual risk and not stopping transmission? 

  • The most important thing is that we protect those who are most at risk of dying. At the start of any vaccination programme, we won’t know the impact of the vaccine on transmission and so we will vaccinate those who are at highest risk of serious illness and death. This includes older people and care home residents.  
  • As vaccination programmes roll out globally, our understanding of the safety and effectiveness of each vaccine will increase, and these data will be used to develop advice on the next phase of the programme. 

Why aren’t BAME groups being prioritised?  

  • There is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease and mortality. The reasons are multiple and complex.  
  • There is no strong evidence that ethnicity by itself (or genetics) is the sole explanation for observed differences in rates of severe illness and deaths. What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.  
  • Prioritisation of people with underlying health conditions will also provide for greater vaccination of BAME communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions.  
  • Tailored local implementation to promote good vaccine coverage in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within a vaccine programme in reducing health inequalities in these groups. 
  • The NHS will provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, including working closely with BAME communities, to support those receiving a vaccine and to anyone who has questions about the vaccination process.”

Additional points:

  • 9.6% of participants in the Phase 2 and 3 Pfizer BioNtech clinical trials were Black and 4.6% were Asian. The phase 2/3 study was considered sufficiently representative of the UK population as a pre-authorisation study. Further effectiveness studies in representative populations are planned post-approval. In addition, MHRA have now published the Public Assessment Report on their website which has more information on demographics:

Regulatory approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 can be found here.

Why aren’t you vaccinating economically active people? Surely that would be a good approach to get the economy back up and running again? 

  • The full impact of vaccination on infection and transmission of the virus will not become clear until a large number of people have been vaccinated. 
  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise Government on which vaccine/s the United Kingdom should use and provide advice on prioritisation at a population level. 
  • The Committee have advised that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention COVID-19 mortality and protection of health and social care staff and systems. Secondary priorities could include vaccination of those at increased risk of hospitalisation and at increased risk of exposure, and to maintain resilience in essential public services. 
  • Given the current epidemiological situation in the UK, all evidence indicates that the best option for preventing morbidity and mortality in the initial phase of the programme is to directly protect persons most at risk of morbidity and mortality.  

What about people who are immunocompromised who can’t benefit from a vaccine? 

  • The Government is exploring all avenues available to us, to ensure that a treatment for COVID-19 is found.  
  • Treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies have been secured from AstraZenaca to support immunocompromised people who will not be able to benefit from a COVID-19 vaccine.  
  • The antibody treatment currently being developed by AstraZeneca is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies and has the potential to be given as a preventative option for people exposed to the virus, and to treat and prevent disease progression in patients already infected by the virus if successful. 

Why are care home workers prioritised over NHS staff? 

  • There is evidence that infection rates are higher in residential care home staff, than in those providing home care or in healthcare workers. Care home workers are therefore considered a very high priority for vaccination.

Who will administer vaccines for care home residents and staff?

  • This group are a high priority and so as soon as it is possible for them to do so, GPs and local primary care networks will begin vaccinating care home residents.
  • In the first instance we will be working to vaccinate as many care home staff as safely as possible in hospital hubs in the immediate days and weeks, including bringing in staff.
  • Taking the vaccine into the community and into care homes will come over the following weeks.

How is consent for receiving the vaccine managed in a care home setting?

  • The NHS is supplying the care home providers with consent forms to use for different circumstances of the individual. There is an additional consent form for care home staff.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination consent form letter templates are available in different software versions and can be downloaded from the Health Publications website and adapted to suit the needs of local healthcare teams. These resident forms are available for those who are able to consent for themselves, for those with a relative who has power of attorney for them and a relative’s agreement form.

Has the MHRA approved care home jabs?

  • The MHRA has now given the approval in principle for the vaccine to be moved and the trays of vaccines to be split in very specific and controlled circumstances.
  • This is a new vaccine and has never been used before, and the scale we’re all working at means there is only a small number of providers who can do this right now.
  • The MHRA has set out how this can be expanded to GP-led vaccination channels. 

Why do the JCVI’s recommendations focus on reducing people’s individual risk and not stopping transmission? 

  • The most important thing is that we protect those who are most at risk of dying. At the start of any vaccination programme, we won’t know the impact of the vaccine on transmission and so we will vaccinate those who are at highest risk of serious illness and death. This includes older people and care home residents.  
  • As vaccination programmes roll out globally, our understanding of the safety and effectiveness of each vaccine will increase, and these data will be used to develop advice on the next phase of the programme. 

Why is vaccination not recommended for children? 

  • Almost all children with COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild disease and the vaccines not yet been tested in younger children. The Committee advises that only children at very high risk of catching the virus and serious illness, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities in residential care, should be offered vaccination. 

Is the vaccine safe for people with pre-existing conditions?

  • The trials have involved people with chronic underlying conditions deliberately, and they have involved people from very broad age ranges and quite a lot of people in the elderly bracket. The JCVI have looked at this, there’s no indication that there should be any difficulty in giving it to people with chronic underlying conditions.
  • The JCVI has picked out, not just by age, but people 18 to 65 with at-risk conditions. And, and the reason for that is that they are at extremely high risk from coronavirus compared with the general population.

What vaccines will we have?

  • The UK has secured access to seven different possible vaccines, across four different vaccine types, reflecting the government’s strategy to ensure the UK has a supply of vaccines should they prove safe and effective in clinical trials. These are at separate stages of development.
  • We have secured early access to over 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several separate vaccine developers at various stages of trials, including:
  • 100 million doses of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine 40 million doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 7 million doses of Moderna vaccine
  • 60 million doses of Novavax vaccine
  • 60 million doses of Valneva vaccine
  • 60 million doses of GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine
  • 30 million doses of Janssen vaccine
  • We have invested over £230m into manufacturing any successful vaccine and an enormous amount of planning and preparation has taken place across Government to be able to quickly roll out the vaccine, including ensuring we have adequate provision, transport, PPE and logistical expertise to do so. We are also working at pace to prepare for the delivery of any potential COVID-19 vaccination programme as quickly as possible. 

Why doesn’t JCVI’s advice include anything about the other vaccine candidates?

  • After JCVI has been given the opportunity to review Phase III data on the vaccines, the statement will be updated. JCVI will continually monitor data on vaccines in development. As more Phase III data become available on candidate COVID-19 vaccines, the Committee will be able to prepare further advice for policy makers in the UK. 

Are there accessible formats?

What patient information is available to accommodate the different needs of patients in accessible formats?

  • To help NHS organisations and communications teams with rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine campaign, there is a range of free print, digital and social campaign materials available on PHE’s Campaign Resource Centre.
  • Various versions of the leaflets and posters have been developed, with different call-to-actions to be used depending on vaccine availability. Large print, braille and Easy read versions and translated versions are also available for download. There will be BSL videos for the ‘adults’, ‘what to expect’ and ‘pregnancy’ leaflets shortly.
  • You can also place orders for these resources via the health publications website.

What is the government doing about the spread of disinformation?

  • False information about COVID-19 vaccines could cost lives.
  • The government is working with health experts to provide information and advice at every possible opportunity.
  • The Government’s Counter Disinformation Unit, led by DCMS works to tackle disinformation and misinformation relating to COVID-19.
  • The Unit works closely with social media platforms to help them identify and take action to remove incorrect claims about coronavirus, and to promote authoritative advice and information.
  • The Government published the Full Government Response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation in December 2020, which sets out new expectations on companies to keep their users safe online.
  • The new laws will have robust and proportionate measures to deal with disinformation that could cause significant physical or psychological harm to an individual, such as false information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
  • We have developed the SHARE checklist which aims to increase audience resilience by educating and empowering those who see, inadvertently share and are affected by false and misleading information. The checklist provides the public with five easy steps to identify false content, encouraging users to stop and think before they share content online.
  • We have also partnered with the University of Cambridge to create a game called “Go Viral!”. Our aim is to build the public’s resilience to false information, mitigating the risk of undermining the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.