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COVID vaccine rollout

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

The COVID vaccine rollout has been underway for more than a year in the UK. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers have been working day (and sometimes night), and have developed a well-oiled machine to get vaccines into arms.

They’ve also learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and medics and scientists now have good understanding of the safest and most effective way to manage the vaccine programme.

Currently you are offered two vaccinations, two months apart, and a booster at least three months later.

We've summarised some of the key things you might like to know about it.

Who gets a vaccine?

The UK’s approach to vaccine rollout has changed significantly since the beginning. There are no longer priority groups based on age, profession or certain medical conditions. The vaccines are available to anyone in the UK over the age of 12 years old.

As of January 2022, boosters are now available to all those over 16 years old, as long as it’s been at least three months after the second dose. Regardless of which brand of vaccine you have had for the first two, the booster vaccine will be a single dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

What if I don't have an NHS number?

Anyone in the UK can book for vaccination, whether you are a UK citizen, migrant or asylum seeker. It won't affect your immigration status and you won't be reported to the authorities. You do not need an NHS number, but you won't receive a specific invite - if you call 119, they will be able to help book you a vaccine appointment.

If you don't have an NHS number, you won't receive a text to invite you for your first or second dose, as this is linked to your medical records held at your GP surgery. It also means that you won't be able to get a digital vaccine passport, but the 119 team can organise a paper copy to confirm your vaccination status.

You can register at a nearby clinic if you have the relevant identification, and you will therefore get an NHS number personal to you.

How do I book a vaccine?

You may be contacted centrally by the NHS or by a local NHS service aligned to your doctor's practice. They may contact you via text, telephone call, email or letter and you may be invited to be vaccinated at your doctor, local vaccination centre or vaccination hub.

Once contacted you will be given instructions of where to go for your vaccine. You will receive this invitation for both doses. Whichever vaccine you have, you will be invited for a second dose 8 weeks after the first. This provides the maximum immune response.

Alternatively, you can book an appointment by calling 119, or asking your doctor where your local vaccine centre is - they will tell you what time to attend without an appointment, or they may fit you in there and then.

Please note that the vaccination is free, if you are contacted by anyone who is charging you for the vaccine this is likely to be fraud and is definitely not the NHS.

Which vaccine will I receive? Can I choose?

The short answer is no, all the vaccines in use offer good protection, and there are a number of factors determining which you will be offered.

Multiple vaccines have been approved for use in the UK, but in reality, there are only three in use:

the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (known as Pfizer), the Moderna vaccine (with similar mRNA technology as the Pfizer vaccine) and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (known as the Oxford one, the British one or just AstraZeneca). The booster vaccine will either be the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine.

You will not be able to choose as it will depend on which vaccine your vaccination centre has been sent, and which batch it has opened to use on the day. Your age and medical status are important factors, for example- if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Those in the older age group, those with a history of severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, or those with allergies to certain components of the mRNA vaccines, will be offered AstraZeneca.

If you're under 18, you'll only be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

All vaccines have been through rigorous testing and regulatory approval, and shown to be safe and highly effective against severe COVID infection.

*Information correct on 17 January, 2022

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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