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COVID-19 vaccine – frequently asked questions

Last reviewed on 9 February

Here are some answers to questions you may have about the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in St Helens Borough.

The last invites to those aged 70 and over on the Shielded Patients List who are yet to be vaccinated have now either been delivered or are due to arrive this week (w/c 8 Feb), meaning vaccines have been offered to everyone eligible whose contact details the NHS has.

To ensure that nobody is left behind, the NHS is now asking people in this group who have not had their first dose yet to come forward now and make an appointment by visiting www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination or calling 119 (7am to 11pm, seven days a week).

The first six questions below relate to this process; the rest are general FAQs about the vaccination roll-out.

We will continue to review and add to these in response to your queries.

Broadly, vaccines are being given to the most vulnerable first, as set out in a list of nine high-priority groups, covering around 30 million people.

They are thought to represent 90-99% of those at risk of dying from Covid-19.

  1. Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
  2. 80-year-olds and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. 75-year-olds and over
  4. 70-year-olds and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. 65-year-olds and over
  6. 16- to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions
  7. 60-year-olds and over
  8. 55-year-olds and over
  9. 50-year-olds and over

People aged over 90 were the first to get the Pfizer jab at our mass vaccination clinic in St Helens – as well as our larger care homes.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is better suited to protecting people who are housebound and in smaller care homes because it's easier to store and transport.

The aim of NHS England is to have given the first vaccination to:

  • every care home resident by the end of January
  • everyone over 70 and anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable by mid-February
  • the rest of the priority groups after that, possibly by Easter

The second dose of the vaccine will follow approximately 11-12 weeks later.

The second phase of vaccination will focus on the rest of the population, mainly the under-50s, who are much less likely to be seriously ill with Covid-19.

Teachers, transport workers and the military etc could be prioritised at that point, but more data on how well the vaccines are working will be needed before that decision is made.

The current limiting factor is supply of vaccine. In the borough we are working as hard as we can to access the maximum supplies of available vaccine and we are using all of those supplies weekly. Our aim is to not waste any vaccine and so far we have been really successful in using every dose that has been delivered to us. 

No. You will need to make an appointment in advance before going to any vaccination service. This is important because booking slots are carefully managed to allow for social distancing and the number of appointments is based on the supply available that day.

No. It’s easier if you do have your NHS number but, if you don’t, both the NHS booking website and phone line 119 can still book appointments using other details, provided you are registered with a GP practice. You can find your NHS number on the NHS App or at www.nhs.uk/find-nhs-number.

No. You will only be able to book if our records show you have yet to have your first dose. If you have already had your first dose, please wait for the NHS to contact you about your second.

The vast majority of people in the 70 and over and shielded patients groups have already either had their first dose or are booked in to be vaccinated shortly.

The NHS is confident that the supplies and booking slots are available to accommodate the expected number of people who may now come forward.

No. For the moment this only applies to people aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

When the time comes to start vaccinating other priority groups, this will be by invitation only so that we can manage the supplies of vaccines available in the fairest possible way.

The National Booking Service also handles booking for pharmacy-led vaccination services, of which there are around 200 across the country, including two (so far) in St Helens Borough. Only a small number of people don’t live within travelling distance of at least one of these services.

Alternatively, you can also choose to wait to be contacted by your local GP services. If they haven’t been in contact already, this will be soon.

If you are 70 or over or on the Shielded Patient List, then you it is likely that you have been contacted by the NHS already. If you haven’t, this could be for a number of reasons, but is most likely to be because you are not registered with a GP or have recently moved, and we therefore don’t have your contact details.

If you have never registered with a GP or haven’t been to a GP for a number of years, we would recommend speaking with your local practice about registering.

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

Find more information on registering with a GP.

You may already have an NHS number but just don’t know it. You can find out if you have an NHS number and what it is

If you don’t have an NHS number this is likely to be because you are not registered with a GP. If this is the case, we would recommend speaking with your local practice about registering.

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

Find more information on registering with a GP.

Yes. Only those who have had a vaccination recorded are marked on the NHS system and are therefore unable to book again.

If you need to rearrange an appointment that you booked through the NHS website, you can do this through the ‘manage your appointments’ section on the booking page.

If you booked through 119, you can also ring to rearrange your appointment.

If you can’t attend your appointment for any reason, please cancel or rearrange it so that the appointment slot can be given to someone else who needs it.

No. Unless you are aged 70 or over or on the Shielded Patients List you will not be able to book an appointment.

If you receive a letter for someone who does not live at your address anymore, please return to sender in the usual way so that our records can be updated.

Our GP practices are all working together to run the mass vaccination clinics so no GP surgery has received a specific number of doses for their patients.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) determines the prioritisation of vaccination. Age is the predominate factor for immunisation and the JCVI has determined that those over 50 years of age, and all those 16 years of age and over, in a risk group, would be eligible for vaccination within the first phase of the programme.

This prioritisation captures almost all preventable deaths from COVID-19, including those associated with occupational exposure to infection. As such, JCVI does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the programme.

Occupational prioritisation could form part of a second phase of the programme, which would include healthy individuals from 16 years of age up to 50 years of age, subject to consideration of the latest data on vaccine safety and effectiveness.

We are required to work through the JCVI list of priorities and utilise our vaccines on the first 4 priority groups initially. GPs are aware of their most vulnerable patients and as soon as enough vaccine is available they will contact these groups for vaccination.

The vaccine is not yet available for anyone under 16 and further testing is ongoing for this age group. Therefore we have to wait for more national guidance on the vaccination programme for children.

Initially, based on JCVI guidance, care homes with elderly residents have been prioritised. As more vaccine becomes available, we hope to expand this to care homes with younger residents.

The government, in their announcement on 4 January, have reinstated shielding for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV). GPs have collated lists of patients in each practice that are known to them as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. If you think that you should be on this list, you will need to contact your GP in the first instance to query if you should be listed as CEV.

Read the government's definition of CEV groups.

We took the decision in St Helens for all GP surgeries to come together to deliver mass vaccination clinics, as this combined resources and expertise and meant that we were better able to ensure social distancing, which made the process safer for both patients and staff.