More than 28 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and more than 2.5 million a second dose.
The government has warned supplies will fall in April, but says all adults will still be offered a first jab by the end of July.
Who is being offered a vaccine now?
The UK is using the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines to protect people against Covid-19.
Adults aged 50-54 in England are being urged to get their first dose in the next few days.
Text messages are being sent out with a link to the national booking service website. People can also call the service on 119.
The over 50s are also being offered the vaccine in Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is hoped everyone over 50 in Wales will be offered their first dose by mid April.
Which groups have been given a first dose?
Those most at risk from Covid were vaccinated first.
One dose has already been offered to:
- frontline health and social care staff
- elderly care home residents
- clinically extremely vulnerable people
- everyone over 16 with a health condition which increases their risk from Covid
- adult carers of disabled people and younger adults in care homes
- over 55s
All four nations of the UK follow these priorities, but the roll-out varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
When will over-40s get a jab?
The under-50s may now have to wait until May before the first jabs are offered.
They will be vaccinated in order of age:
- Those aged 40-49 years
- Those aged 30-39 years
- Those aged 18-29 years
Priority will not be given to people in particular jobs, such as teaching, because this could slow down the vaccine programme. Risk is very closely linked to someone’s age, making vaccinating by age group the most efficient way to protect the population.
But some groups at higher risk of needing hospital treatment from Covid are urged to take up the offer of vaccination promptly:
- Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities
- people with a BMI over 30
- those in deprived neighbourhoods
When will I get my second dose?
Nearly 2.5 million people have had a second dose.
During April, the number of second doses – expected to be around 12 million – will probably overtake the number of first doses given.
This is so that everyone in the priority groups gets fully vaccinated within 12 weeks of their first jab.
Do the vaccines work against new variants?
Two vaccines – developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca – are being used in the UK. A third – from Moderna – has been approved.
All have been shown to be effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid.
The Oxford vaccine offers a good level of protection against the “Kent” variant now dominant in the UK. Early research on other vaccines, including Pfizer, suggest they also protect against this variant.
There are concerns vaccines may not work as well against variants first spotted in South Africa and Brazil, and some UK variants too, but they can be updated.
Vaccine developers are already updating their jabs and plan to have them ready by the autumn.
They are likely to be offered as a routine booster against Covid for some groups.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Vaccines mean fewer people will get Covid-19 and those who do are far less likely to go to hospital or to die.
As well as protecting you, vaccines also help to protect your family, friends and other people you come into contact with.
Are two doses needed?
The approved vaccines require two doses to provide the best protection against Covid.
In the UK, people were initially told they would get a second dose three to four weeks after the first. But to ensure a quicker roll-out of first doses, the UK’s chief medical officers extended the gap to 12 weeks.
This approach is now backed by the WHO which says giving two doses eight to 12 weeks apart increases the Oxford vaccine’s effectiveness and provides greater protection.
However, some doctors are worried a long gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine could make it less effective.
Can different vaccines be mixed?
The official guidance says everyone should get the same vaccine for both doses.
In very rare circumstances – if only one vaccine is available, or it’s not known which was given for the first dose – a different vaccine can be used.
However, a UK trial is investigating whether mixing vaccines could offer better protection than two doses of the same one.
How many vaccine doses are there?
The UK has ordered seven vaccines and expects to receive 407 million doses – more than enough for every adult to receive two.
The Moderna vaccine has been approved in the UK and is expected to arrive in April.
A vaccine from Novavax has shown promising results and will be made in north-east England.
A single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has also been shown to be effective. Both of these vaccines are being reviewed on a rolling basis by the UK’s regulator.
Will everyone be vaccinated?
The aim is to vaccinate everyone aged 18 or over in the UK with one dose by the end of July.
The vaccines have not been tested in children so they won’t receive them – except for a small number of very vulnerable ones who are shielding – until more research has been carried out.
The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for use in over-16s because this age group were included in the clinical trials.
Getting a Covid vaccine is not compulsory for the public because experts say this wouldn’t help create public confidence. But making it mandatory for NHS staff and care workers is something being considered.
What about people with allergies?
A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction – known as anaphylaxis – when vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.
You should discuss any serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.
Most people will not be affected in any way, although mild side-effects are possible.
I’m pregnant – can I be vaccinated?
Vaccination should only be considered for pregnant women when the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks.
This may be where the risk of catching coronavirus is high, or where underlying health conditions mean a high risk of Covid complications.
There are no specific safety concerns with the vaccines – but they were not tested on pregnant women.
Women who are breastfeeding can be given either vaccine. The vaccines have no impact on female fertility.
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