The Coronavirus Vaccine
With the recent rollout of the new coronavirus vaccine, you may have questions and concerns surrounding how this will affect you.
What is the Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine?
There are three vaccines which have now been approved for use in the UK to help protect people from coronavirus. These have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna (which will be introduced from Spring this year). The vaccine is administered as an injection in your upper arm and is given in two doses.
New evidence shows that the 1st dose of the vaccine offers protection for up to 3 months. As a result of this, 2nd doses of the vaccine are now being scheduled for 3-12 weeks after the first dose is given. This will ensure that as many people as possible can receive the vaccine.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. The vaccines have been approved through all the means other licensed medicines go through, which includes clinical trials and safety checks. Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca have met strict standards of safety and quality which are set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
As with other vaccine, you may experience some common side effects. These could include:
- Your arm feeling achy and sore after your injection
- Feeling lethargic
- General achiness or mild flu-like symptoms
If you do experience them, these side effects are not expected to last longer than a week. If they persist, you are advised to call 111 and let them know you have had a coronavirus vaccination.
If you have ever had a serious allergic reaction before, such as anaphylaxis, please tell staff before you are vaccinated. It is not advised that you have the vaccine if you have previously suffered an allergic reaction to a past vaccine.
Who can get the vaccine?
Eventually the vaccine will be made available to everyone, but people most at risk of harm from coronavirus are being offered the vaccine first. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that the NHS should offer the vaccine to those at highest risk of catching the virus, as well as those who are more likely to suffer serious complications or lose their lives. When more vaccines become available, they will be able to offer these to more people at risk.
Do I have to get the vaccine if I am offered it?
The vaccine is not compulsory, so the decision to get it is your own. However, if you have been advised to get the vaccine it is worth considering:
- If you are vaccinated, you are at a much lower risk of becoming ill with coronavirus
- The vaccine has gone through clinical testing and safety checks to ensure it is safe and effective for us
- A large percentage of the population will have to be vaccinated to end the pandemic
If you are concerned or you have a specific medical condition that you are worried about, you can always speak to your healthcare professional for further advice and guidance on the vaccine.
How can I get a vaccine?
You will be contacted by the NHS when it is your turn to have the vaccine. You may be contacted by email, text, or letter, or you may receive a call from your GP practice. However, you are most likely to receive a letter from your GP or the NHS. If your contact details have changed, it would be a good idea to update your GP practice with your most up to date information so they can contact you when needed.
If you have been sent a letter saying you are eligible for the vaccine, you can book your appointment online. You can book appointments for both doses at the same time. For more information on booking your appointment online, visit the NHS website.
If I am asked to travel to get the vaccine, can I take my guide dog with me?
Yes. Your guide dog can legally accompany you when you get your vaccine. However, to avoid any delays on the day, it would be beneficial to let the vaccination centre know that you will be bringing your guide dog with you in advance, in case they need to make additional provisions.
Please note that guide dogs are not vectors for coronavirus, so are safe to travel with you and be around other people.
What should I expect when visiting a vaccination centre?
Your vaccination appointment should last between 30 - 45 minutes. Your appointment will include:
- Checking in using your booking reference numbers
- Answering questions about your medical history
- Having the vaccination injection
We recommend finding out as much as you can about your vaccination centre before your appointment, so you are prepared on the day. Every test centre is different so we would recommend finding the contact details of the centre you are being tested at in advance and speaking to a member of staff about your visit. If the person you speak to can’t answer your questions, ask for the number of someone who can.
Find out if the centre is accessible, and where you need to go on arrival. If the centre is not accessible, ask if you can attend a different centre or receive a home visit.
We also suggest finding out what happens on your arrival. Once you have checked in, will someone call your name or come and meet you?
If you need additional support for your visit, please let staff know in advance so they can prepare accordingly and offer further advice.
Can I be accompanied to my appointment?
We advise you to contact your vaccination centre in advance to confirm this. Extra precautions may need to be taken to ensure the safety of you and the accompanying person.
Please be aware that our My Sighted Guide volunteers cannot attend medical appointments with you. For up to date guidance on our volunteer guides, please view our Covid-19 advice page.
Will I ever be asked to pay for the vaccine?
No. The vaccine is only available on the NHS and is free. You will be contacted when it is your turn.
Please watch out for scammers taking advantage of the situation. There have been reports of fake texts which claim you are eligible for the vaccine, which include links to a convincing NHS website which asks for money. We have also heard reports of cold callers claiming to offer the vaccine for a price.
The NHS will never ask for payment for the vaccine or for your bank details. They will not ask you to press a button to confirm you want to receive the vaccine. These are all signs of a scam and should be reported and deleted.
What happens after I’ve been vaccinated?
You will need two doses of the vaccination in order to be fully protected. The second dose will be given between 4-12 weeks after your first one. It takes several weeks for your immune system to respond to the vaccine, so you are not instantly protected.
It is not yet known whether vaccinated people can still pass the virus on or not. After both doses it is still recommended that you:
- Practise social distancing
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly
- Wear a face covering (if you are not exempt)
- Follow local guidance
This information was accurate on date of publish. For further advice and guidance on rules in your area, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.
The pandemic has caused hardship for many, and we are here to support you in any way we can. You are not alone.