With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gathering pace, those yet to receive their jabs will naturally have questions regarding when and how they'll be contacted, and what to do if they haven't. Plus, with headlines about 'vaccine scams' appearing, it's important to understand how the process works and what you should (and shouldn't) expect.
Are the vaccines safe?
The UK regulator and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (the independent experts that advise Government on all vaccines) have assessed all available vaccines as safe and able to offer a ‘high’ level of protection against becoming severely unwell with coronavirus.
Will I get two doses of the vaccine?
All of the approved vaccines requires 2 doses to be fully effective, with the second dose given up to 12 weeks after the first.
If you have already received your first dose, it is likely your appointment for the second dose will be postponed for another few weeks. This news may be disappointing for a lot of people that were expecting to get their second dose sooner. The evidence shows that 1 dose of a vaccine gives significant protection in the short term, and the Government has decided to prioritise getting as many people as possible their first dose as quickly as they can. However, everyone will receive 2 doses within 12 weeks and benefit from the maximum protection of the vaccine.
Where will I get the vaccine?
You will receive the vaccine in one of the following places:
- At a hospital.
- In the community – through GPs and pharmacists.
- In specially designated vaccination centres.
In some cases, there may be no convenient or available appointments at a vaccination centre when you first try to book. If this is the case, you can keep trying to book an appointment through the national booking system either online or over the phone as more appointments and locations are being made available.
People who do not want or are not able to travel to a vaccination centre can wait to receive an invitation to book an appointment through their local GP or hospital service, but they may have to wait longer. You do not need to contact your GP to say you are not attending an appointment at the vaccination centre.
If you cannot travel to get a vaccine, you should still be contacted. The NHS is working on special arrangements for people who are housebound.
You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.
The initial groups being prioritised for the vaccine are:
- People aged 80 and over.
- People who live or work in care homes.
- Health and social care workers at high risk.
- People aged 70 and over.
- People who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.
The Government have said that people in these 5 categories should be invited to receive their first vaccine dose by the middle of February. Those aged 80 and over and those in care homes remain the priority to receive their vaccination first. All other adults should receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the autumn.
How will I be contacted?
The NHS will contact you and invite you to book an appointment when it is your turn. You may receive a phone call from your GP practice, or be contacted by email, text message or letter. Keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message (for example if you have a mobile phone but do not typically use text messages). If your contact details have changed recently, make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information.
If you receive a call, the person on the phone will tell you the time and location of your appointment. They will also ask if you want them to confirm your appointment time by text or email.
Booking a vaccine
If you have already received a letter inviting you to book a Coronavirus vaccine, you can do so by phoning 119 or online. This webpage also has more information about the vaccine and what will happen on the day of your appointment.
Please do not try to book if you have not received a letter.
When you book you will need to provide the following information:
- Name and date of birth.
- NHS number.
You should be able to find your 10-digit NHS Number on your appointment letter, or any other letter or document you have received from the NHS, including prescriptions, test results, and hospital referral or appointment letters.
If you cannot find your NHS Number at home, you can ask your GP practice to help you.
Things to watch out for
Unfortunately, some criminals have been using the vaccine roll-out as an opportunity to take advantage of older people waiting to get one. While scams such as these are rare, it is still very important to be aware of what to look out for.
The advice is very simple: The vaccine is only available on the NHS, and you will never be asked to pay for it or to provide your bank details. Anything that suggests otherwise is a scam.
The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine. The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
When you are contacted about your vaccine appointment, anyone calling should confirm who they are. If you in any doubt, hang up and call back on a phone number that is verified. This could be by looking up the number online or by finding it on an official letter you previously received.
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If someone is vulnerable and you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police by calling 101.
Things to watch out for:
- Don’t click on links or attachments in unexpected texts, emails, or instant messages. Challenge every request for your personal details.
- It doesn’t matter what they say or what they know about you, don’t respond to phone calls that feel 'off' or seem a little too out of the blue, hang up, then verify their claims via a trusted method (such as the usual website or official phone number).
- Anyone coming to your door claiming to offer the vaccine.
Coronavirus vaccines explained
Do you have any other vaccine questions? We've got a comprehensive list in the dedicated section on the Age UK website.