Vaccination Programme – information for patients
The Covid-19 vaccination is the largest vaccine programme in the history of the NHS, and we are making rapid progress in County Durham.
The NHS is delivering the vaccine through hospital hubs, local vaccination hubs provided by groups of GP practices, large-scale vaccination centres, walk-in clinics and pop -up centres.
Our teams are working incredibly hard to vaccinate everyone as fast as possible.
Coronavirus Vaccination Information
All second doses must be at least 8 weeks from first dose age 18+.
All second doses must be at least 12 weeks from first dose age 12-17
All second jabs must be 12 weeks from first dose age 5-11
Booster jabs 16+( or 12 to 15 immunosuppressed) minimum wait of 3 months between doses
Spring Booter jabs 75+ currently have a minimum wait of 6 months since last booster dose
*If you or your child are under 18 years old and at high risk from COVID-19, you’re eligible for a 2nd dose from 8 weeks after your 1st dose.
Tested positive for COVID-19? – You need to wait before getting any dose of the vaccine.
If you or your child have tested positive for COVID-19, you need to wait a number of weeks before having the vaccine. You need to wait:
- 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 18 years old or over
- 12 weeks (84 days) if you or your child are aged 5 to 17 years old
- 4 weeks (28 days) if you or your child are aged 5 to 17 years old and at high risk from COVID-19, or live with someone who has a weakened immune system
This starts from the date that symptoms started, or the date of the positive test result, whichever was earlier.
If you or your child have symptoms of COVID-19, but have not had a test, wait until the symptoms are better to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
You can also continue to book online appointments at a large vaccination centres or community pharmacies at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/
PLEASE remember to cancel your online booking if you choose to attend a walk-in clinic after making an appointment at a large vaccination centre, GP led clinic or community pharmacy site.
People aged 75 and over, care home residents and people with weakened immune systems are now being offered their Spring Booster. This follows the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that an extra dose should be offered to these groups to make sure those at greatest risk continue to have high levels of protection against COVID-19.
If you are eligible for an extra booster, the NHS will contact you when it is your turn with details of how to make an appointment. People are being prioritised according to when their had their previous booster and by clinical need so please wait to hear and do not contact your GP practice or other NHS services. Everyone who is eligible will be contacted between 21 March and early Summer, depending on when they had their last booster.
Once invited, people will be able to book an appointment at a convenient vaccination centre. Some people may also be contacted by their GP practice and offered an appointment but not all GP services are offering this service so please only contact your GP about a spring booster if you receive an invitation.
If you haven’t had your previous booster, you can visit www.nhs.uk/covid-booster or call 119 to book an appointment or see https://nenc-countydurham.icb.nhs.uk/where-and-when-you-can-you-get-a-walk-in-covid-19-jab-in-county-durham/ for details of local walk-in clinics.
COVID-19 vaccination for all 5 to 11-year-olds
All children aged 5-11 are now being offered COVID-19 vaccinations in line with the latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). As well as protecting children against serious COVID infection and long covid, this will reduce the risk of children passing on the infection to others.
Appointments are available at selected vaccination centres and community pharmacies, which can be booked online at www.nhs.uk/covid vaccine or by calling 119, free of charge. Some GP vaccination services are also offering appointments for their patients in this age group but please do not contact your practice unless you are invited to make an appointment.
All vaccination centres offering the jab to this age group have gone through additional checks and have staff who are experienced in vaccinating children. They will offer a child-friendly environment for families with young children and longer appointment times to help put children at ease.
Which children should have the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation has recommended that all 5 to 11-year-olds who are at high risk from COVID-19 due to a health condition should have the vaccine. It is also recommended for children of this age who live with someone who is immunosuppressed. This is to reduce the risk of them passing on the infection to their family members.
Which conditions mean my child is at higher risk from COVID-19?
Children at serious risk from the complications of COVID-19 infection include those with:
- severe neurodisabilities
- a weakened immune system (immunosuppression)
- profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities
- being on the learning disability register
- those with Down’s syndrome
- long term serious conditions affecting their body, including chronic heart or respiratory disease or conditions affecting the kidneys, liver, or digestive system.
How do I get an appointment for my child?
If your child is eligible for the vaccine, your child’s GP or hospital consultant will contact you if they need to have the vaccine and tell you how to book an appointment. They will be in touch over the coming weeks so please wait to hear and do not contact your GP practice.
For children who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, the person who is immunosuppressed will be written to with details of how to make an appointment for them.
Where will children be vaccinated?
Most children will be offered an appointment at a centre run by local GPs or at the hospital where they are treated.Some appointments may also be offered in special schools.
Extra time will be allowed for child appointments and staff will be specially trained in vaccinating this age group. If your child needs any reasonable adjustments at their appointment to enable them to have their vaccination, please let the service know when you book your appointment so this can be put in place.
Who will give my child their vaccination?
The vaccines will be given by staff who have been specially trained in communicating with and vaccinating children of these ages, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.
What vaccine will they have?
Children will be given two child-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine, usually 8 weeks apart. Each vaccine is a third of the dose that is given to older children and adults.
Can the Covid vaccine be given as a nasal spray like the flu vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine is currently only available as an injection.
Does my child still need to be vaccinated if they have had COVID-19?
Yes, however they will need to wait 4 weeks from when they tested positive before they can have their first or second vaccine.
Find out more nhs.uk/covid-vaccination
Walk-in clinic vaccinations in County Durham are available.
Depending on where you attend for vaccination you can now be offered one of now three available vaccines available at different local vaccination site and mass vaccination sites.
Links to patient information leaflets are available below for all three vaccines. These are also available at all sites (linked to the vaccine being used that session) both for pre and post vaccine reading.
How You Can Help the NHS
- Please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives – follow the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance when you are out.
- Please don’t contact the your GP practice to seek a vaccine, they will contact you
- When you are invited, please be sure to attend your booked appointments if you have booked a vaccine and then attend a local walk in centre for your jab please remember to cancel you original appointment.
We have outlined answers to some frequently asked questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Getting the vaccine
Who will get the vaccine first?
The Government has confirmed that the vast majority of Covid-19 vaccinations administered by hospital hubs and local vaccination services in the initial phase will be prioritised for those 80 years of age and over, frontline health and social care workers.
Please be assured that everyone who should have the vaccine will be able to, but as you will appreciate a vaccination programme of this scale will take time to be rolled out. The NHS has also worked through distribution mechanisms to ensure that care home residents can now safely be offered a vaccination across the country.
Following the priority groups outlined above, the next phase will include:
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- all those 65 years of age and over
- all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality, and carers
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable deaths from Covid-19. Details of the national advice on priority groups for the vaccine is available on the Government website.
How will patients be invited for a vaccination?
When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be a letter or a phone call, either from their GP or the NHS. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments. Some services are currently also phoning and texting patients to invite them in.
The NHS is working hard to make sure those at greatest risk are offered the vaccine first. We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we would ask people not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they are contacted, unless you have been given specific instruction to do so
Some people who have been vaccinated by their GP may still get an invitation to a vaccination centre like the Centre for Life. This letter can be disregarded if you have already had your vaccine, or an appointment to have your vaccine, from your GP at one of our centres. This letter is not an invitation for a second dose of your vaccine and remember you can wait for an invitation from your GP if you would prefer to be vaccinated there rather than at a mass vaccination centre.
Why is the NHS vaccinating some groups before others?
Independent analysis suggests that one life is saved for every 20 vaccines given to care home residents. For other over-80s, 160 vaccines have to be given to save a life. The numbers needed to vaccinate per life saved go up as we move down the priority groups. These figures come from actuarial analysis of the pandemic so far, and are completely independent. Getting our most vulnerable vaccinated as quickly as we can while transmission rates are high will undoubtedly save lives.
Why have I been invited to a vaccination centre outside of County Durham?
The NHS has opened a number of large-scale vaccination centres including one at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Invitations to book an appointment are being sent to people aged 80 or over who have not yet been vaccinated and live up to 45 minutes’ drive from a centre. You don’t have to attend the Centre for Life. You are able to have the vaccine at the local site for your area in County Durham
I work for the NHS/social care. When will I receive the vaccination?
Vaccination of patient-facing health and social care workers will be co-ordinated through your employer. You will receive an invitation to attend for your vaccine as soon as possible and in line with national guidance on priority groups.
When are housebound patients receiving their vaccine?
We are working hard to provide the vaccine to housebound patients.
Community nurses will contact housebound patients directly about their planned visit.
The local nursing team will contact housebound patients directly to let them know when they will be visiting them to give them the vaccine.
I have been told to pay for a vaccine
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.
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.
Can I get a vaccine privately?
No. Vaccinations will only be available through the NHS for the moment. Anyone who claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee is likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police 101 service and/or Local Trading Standards.
About the vaccines
What vaccines for Covid-19 are currently available?
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now available. All vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Can people pick which vaccine they want?
No. Any vaccines that the NHS provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy. People should be assured that whatever Covid-19 vaccine they get will be effective.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. The NHS would not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it was safe to do so.
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.
Thousands 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.
Read about the approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK
Read about the approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK
Read about the approved Moderna vaccine for Covid-19
The MHRA – Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is the authorisation that all clinicians in the UK operate under. The decision to approve the supply covid vaccinations was taken under Regulation 174 of the Human Medicine Regulations 2012, which enables rapid temporary regulatory approvals to address significant public health issues such as a pandemic. Further information on the safety of the vaccines is also available on our local authority website
Will the vaccines work with the new strain?
There is currently no evidence 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.
Do the vaccines include any parts from foetal or animal origin?
Are there any side effects?
Like all medicines, the vaccine can cause side effects. Most side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:
- a sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
Should people who have already had Covid get vaccinated?
The MHRA have advised that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19. It is advised that if you have had Covid you need to wait four weeks before you can be vaccinated.
Will the Covid-19 vaccine protect me from flu?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu.
Are there any people who shouldn’t have the vaccine?
People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated. People who have ever had a severe allergy (anaphylaxis) where the cause was not identified should not have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but can have the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine.
What about pregnancy and breastfeeding?
The MHRA has updated its guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine. Pregnant women can discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks should they wish. Similarly, advice for women planning a pregnancy has also been updated and there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.
I’ve heard that the Pfizer vaccine can cause fertility problems in women. Is this right?
This claim has been debunked by Full Fact, which found no evidence that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine causes fertility problems in women. You can read more about this here.
I’m currently ill with Covid-19. Can I get the vaccine?
People currently unwell and experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered. The guidance says this should be at least four weeks (28 days) after the start of symptoms or from the date of a positive Covid-19 test.
Why do I have to wait for my vaccination?
The NHS is offering vaccinations to those at greatest risk from Covid-19 first, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee for Vaccinations & Immunisations (JCVI).
What is informed consent
Informed consent is addressed in person when patients or members of the public attend for vaccination at either a local vaccination site or a mass vaccination site. Before being vaccinated, patients have a wide range of questions which they ask the responsible clinician at the sites and then make an informed decision on whether they wish to be vaccinated. When patients are contacted to book an appointment for their vaccine it will be by an administrator in the practice and they are not clinically trained to have these discussions with patients. There have been cases where patients have requested the administrator make a telephone conversation with a clinician to discuss their concerns further before booking or attending a vaccination appointment. All of our local vaccination sites follow the national Standard Operating Procedure available for booking patients and patients attending at the site for informed consent.
Getting the second dose
Why were second doses of the vaccine rescheduled?
The UK Chief Medical Officers agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people could get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence showed that one dose still offered a high level of protection. This decision allowed the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and helped save lives.
Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time which will 8 weeks from the first dose for over 18s and 12 weeks for age 12 to 17.
Will I be at greater risk if I don’t get a second dose after three weeks?
The science suggests that protection comes 10-14 days after the first dose. Trials show that at three weeks, the Pfizer vaccine is 89% effective and the Astra Zeneca vaccine is 73% effective.
In the Astra Zeneca vaccine trial, second doses were given after varying time periods, with no suggestion that a delayed second dose gave inferior protection.
Will I have less long-term protection if I receive the second dose after 8 weeks?
There is no reason to think that a second dose at 8 weeks will give inferior long term protection, and lots of science to suggest this may actually give better long term protection.
For most vaccines, the best time for a booster dose is well beyond three weeks after the primary dose. In fact, a second dose too close to the first dose often means there is a lesser immune response in the long run.
I’m in a vulnerable group. Can I get a second dose after three weeks?
There is no evidence that people in clinically vulnerable groups get any lesser protection from the first dose of vaccine than the general population. Giving people in these groups a second vaccine would delay the first dose for other vulnerable people. We do not have the option of making exceptions.
What is the COVID-19 booster programme?
The COVID-19 booster programme is the roll out of an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection for those most at risk from COVID-19.
Why is the COVID-19 booster programme needed?
We want to provide the people that are most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and those who care for them with the best possible protection for this winter. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reviewed available data and provided advice that COVID-19 boosters are first offered to the most vulnerable in order to provide maximum protection during the Winter months.
The flu vaccination programme is now running which protects people from serious complications from getting flu, so we would also encourage people that are eligible for a COVID-19 booster to also get their flu vaccination. More information on the flu vaccination is at www.nhs.uk/flujab
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine?
Independent experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), have said that for the 2021 COVID-19 vaccination programme, the following people who received vaccination in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine.
The following people should be offered a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the same order as the first part of the vaccination programme.
- all people aged 16 years or over
The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than three months after completion of the first course of vaccination.
I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?
JCVI have advised that individual who are severely immunosuppressed get an additional third dose of vaccine as part of their primary course of immunisation. This offer is separate to the booster programme. More information is available here: JCVI issues advice on third dose vaccination for severely immunosuppressed – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Is there anyone that shouldn’t have the booster vaccine?
There are very few people in the eligible groups who should not have a booster. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor.
If I’m eligible when and where can I get my vaccination?
The NHS will let eligible people know to have their booster vaccine when it is their turn.
The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than three months after having the second dose of the vaccination. Like your previous doses, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm.
People will be offered the vaccine through a range of services. Primary care teams will vaccinate care home staff and residents. Health and social care staff will be directed to book their appointments through employers and members of the public will be invited to get their booster through a GP-led service and/or be contacted by the NHS to book through the national COVID-19 vaccination booking service to get their vaccination in a designated pharmacy, vaccination centre or GP-led service.
Why aren’t most younger people being offered a booster?
As most younger adults will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time when more information is available. In general, younger, healthy individuals may be expected to generate stronger vaccine-induced immune responses from primary course vaccination compared to older individuals.
What type of vaccine will the COVID-19 booster be? What if it’s different to the one I have had?
After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna (vaccines to be offered as the booster dose irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule). There is good evidence that both vaccines are well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response.
Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in the primary course. More detail is available in the green book
Will there be any side effects from the booster vaccine?
As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.
Although a fever can occur within a day or 2 of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.
If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.
Is it safe to have flu and COVID vaccines at the same time?
Yes. Public Health England advises that there are no safety concerns and that COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time as other vaccines, including the nasal flu vaccine. It is standard practice for different vaccines to be given at the same time as each other. This happens frequently with routine childhood vaccinations in the UK and other countries.
Can you still catch COVID-19 after having the vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster.
Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.
Can I have the booster if I haven’t completed the first vaccination course?
No, you need to finish the first course of your vaccination.
Can I get the flu and COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time?
The COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day and for people that are eligible for both, there may be opportunities to have both together. We would encourage you to get your vaccinations as soon as possible and get fully protected rather than waiting as it may not always be possible to get them together.
I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?
Everyone that is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the COVID-19 booster programme begins. This may be through a GP-led service or by booking through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination national booking service.
Everyone aged 12 and over can book their initial COVID-19 vaccination through the NHS booking service (call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week).
Can I get the booster if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant and in one of the groups that the JCVI has recommended for the boosters, you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn.