The NHS has planned extensively to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. The first vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech) has been rigorously tested and confirmed as safe and highly effective by the expert Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine rollout began on 8 December 2020. In late December, a second Covid vaccine (from Oxford University/AstraZeneca) was authorised by the MHRA. This will start to be delivered from 4 January 2021. Initially this vaccine will be given in hospitals.
In south east London (SEL) the vaccine is available through three Hospital Hubs and since 14 December has been delivered from a number of primary care hubs. The number of sites providing vaccinations will increase as more vaccine becomes available.
The first SEL vaccine was issued to a patient at Guy’s Hospital, and the vaccination team was joined by the Prime Minister who oversaw proceedings – see the CCG article here.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective and gives you the best protection against coronavirus.
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. This page explains how vaccines work, what they contain and the most common side effects.
Have you received a letter asking you to travel outside of Royal Greenwich for your vaccination?
The national booking system for the large vaccination centres has gone live and some residents have started receiving the a letter from NHS England inviting them to book an appointment online or over the phone at one of these centres (with Excel being the closest to Greenwich).
The first 130,000 letters have been sent to people aged 80 or older who live about 30 to 45 minutes' drive away from one of seven new regional centres.
But patients, many of whom are shielding, questioned why they had to travel so far in a pandemic. Local jabs are available to people if they wait, the NHS said.
This is being offered with good intentions to boost the work that is going on locally and increase the numbers of residents vaccinated.
However travelling to one of these centres is not convenient or appropriate for everyone. People who receive the letter will also be contacted by local services when it is their turn. Our services aren’t currently sending letters out inviting people to book an appointment. Usually this is done by calling the patient or by text message.
So if you are unable to travel to a large vaccination centre, you will still be able to receive the vaccine and should wait until contacted by local services.
Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.
At this time, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals to:
- people aged 80 and over who already have a hospital appointment in the next few weeks
- people who work in care homes
- health care workers at high risk
The vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible.
The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Read the latest JCVI advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK
Why can’t I have my Covid-19 vaccine now?
Some south east London GPs are reporting that patients have already been asking for the Covid-19 vaccine and are then confused and disappointed when turned away.
We’re keen to highlight one particular leaflet which explains the current eligibility and availability criteria – see here.
Wait to be contacted
When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the NHS England. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments, including their NHS number.
We are asking the public not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they get their letter.
Advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding
You should wait to have the COVID-19 vaccine:
- if you’re pregnant – you should wait until you’ve had your baby
- if you’re breastfeeding – you should wait until you’ve stopped breastfeeding
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should wait for 2 months after having the 2nd dose before trying to get pregnant.
There is currently no evidence that it is unsafe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding but more evidence is needed before you can be offered the vaccine.
How the COVID-19 vaccine is given
The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It is given as 2 doses, at least 21 days apart.
How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The current vaccine (as at 7 December 2020) approved for use in the UK was developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.
It has 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 UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world.
Other vaccines are being developed but they will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine in the clinical trials and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.
How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?
After having both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine most people will be protected against coronavirus, however, it takes a few weeks after getting the 2nd dose for it to work.
There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
This means it is important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance
- if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people
Read more about why vaccines are safe and important, including how they work and what they contain.
COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Most side effects 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
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.
It is very rare for anyone to have a serious reaction to the vaccine (anaphylaxis). If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes of receiving the vaccine.
Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.
You can report any suspected side effect using the Yellow Card safety scheme.
COVID-19 vaccine ingredients
The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products or egg.
What happens next?
The NHS will offer the vaccine to more groups of people and in more ways, like local vaccination services, but this will be a marathon over the coming months, not a sprint:
- We will keep expanding the programme as we get more vaccines.
- So that we are able to go as fast as supply allows, we have been recruiting and training more vaccinators and support staff from across the NHS and outside of it and SEL are getting a tremendous response for roles advertised.
- All of these will be trained, assessed, and supervised, just like regular NHS vaccinators.
The public are vital to really help the NHS deliver this effectively to those who need it most. Our asks are:
- The NHS will contact you when it’s the right time to come forward so please don’t seek a vaccine before then, it adds pressure to an already pressurised system if you do.
- Please act on the invite when it arrives and make sure to attend your appointments when they are made.
(This information is correct as at 10/12/20)
For more information
Visit the South East London Clinical Commissioning Group website for the latest information about the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, or check the downloads in this article.
If you need this information in a different language or format get in touch:
020 8301 8340