About The COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

The COVID-19 vaccination is the largest vaccine programme in the history of the NHS.

The vaccine is delivered across the UK through regional hospital hubs, local vaccination centres provided by groups of GP practices and pharmacies, and large-scale vaccination centres for high volumes of people.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Vaccine

We very much understand that you may feel anxious while waiting your turn, but you do not need to contact your GP surgery as you will be contacted when it is your turn to have the vaccine.

If you do have any queries while you wait to be contacted or you have already got a vaccination appointment and have a few questions; we have outlined answers to some frequently asked questions below.

Click each of the tabs to see a list of questions.

[Last updated: 4th March 2021]

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Government has confirmed that the majority of 1st dose of Covid-19 vaccinations administered by hospital hubs and local vaccination services in the initial phase has now been completed for those in JCVI priority groups 1 – 4:

  • All adult care home residents and staff
  • All those aged 80 years and over and frontline health and social care workers
  • All those aged 75 years and over
  • All those aged 70 years and over and clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding)

Please be assured that everyone who wants to have the vaccine will be able to, but as you will appreciate a vaccination programme of this scale will take time to be rolled out.

Having delivered the 1st dose of vaccine to the majority of priority groups 1 – 4 outlined above, the next phase includes priority groups 5 – 9 below:

  • All those 65 years of age and over
  • All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality – GPs are currently focused on contacting all these people in Priority Group 6
  • All those 60 years of age and over


  • All those 55 years of age and over
  • All those 50 years of age and over

It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable deaths from Covid-19. The Government has set a target to have contacted all the priority groups 1 – 9 above by mid-April (Phase One of the Vaccination Programme.)

Details of the national advice on priority groups for the vaccine is available on the Government website and in the graphic below.

In addition to the image above please note: 

  1. See description of Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. This advice on vaccination does not include all pregnant women or those under the age of 16 years.
  2. Priority six now also includes those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.

Further details on the Government website.

How will patients be invited for a vaccination?

When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be a text or phone call from their GP or a letter from the national NHS.

This text or letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments, as well as cancel or rearrange appointments in emergency situations or due to unavoidable circumstances and illness.

We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we would ask people not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they are contacted. The NHS is working hard to make sure those at greatest risk are offered the vaccine first.

Some people who have been vaccinated by their local GP-led service in North Tyneside may still get an invitation to a national vaccination centre like the Centre for Life in Newcastle. This letter can be disregarded if you have already had your vaccine from you GP-led local vaccination service in North Tyneside.

Remember you can wait for an invitation from your GP if you would prefer to be vaccinated locally in North Tyneside, rather than at one of the mass vaccination centres in the North East region.

Your first and second doses will always be with the same service and in the same location. 

Why is the NHS vaccinating some groups before others?

Independent analysis suggests that one life is saved for every 20 vaccines given to care home residents. For other over-80s, 160 vaccines have to be given to save a life.

The numbers needed to vaccinate per life saved go up as we move down the priority groups. These figures come from actuarial analysis of the pandemic so far, and are completely independent.

Getting our most vulnerable vaccinated as quickly as we can while transmission rates are high will undoubtedly save lives.

The data gathered from the vaccination programme so far supports this approach, with rates of serious illness and hospitalisation being significantly reduced in those who have received their first dose of vaccine in Priority Groups 1-4.

Why have I been invited to a vaccination centre outside my area?

The NHS has opened a number of large-scale vaccination centres including one at the Centre for Life in Newcastle as well as further centres in Sunderland, Durham and Darlington.

Invitations to book an appointment are being sent to people aged 60 or over who have not yet been vaccinated and live up to 45 minutes’ drive from a centre.

This includes people who live in North Tyneside.

You are free to choose which site you wish to attend for your vaccine.

Why do I have to wait for my vaccination?

The vaccination programme is at a critical stage. The NHS is offering vaccinations to those at greatest risk from Covid-19 first, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee for Vaccinations & Immunisations (JCVI).

The first groups offered vaccinations were adult care home residents and workers, frontline health and social care staff and people aged 70 and over, and those who are extremely clinically vulnerable (or shielding)

As more vaccine becomes available, we will be able to offer appointments to a wider group of people and currently those aged 60 or over (priority groups 1 – 7) are being invited for vaccination.

Anyone who can travel safely, and is aged 60 years or over, can currently book an appointment on-line through the national booking system with one of the region’s mass vaccination centres by clicking on this link.

If you are 60 years or over and prefer to have an appointment locally in North Tyneside, please wait for your GP to contact you (this may mean you have to wait slightly longer as GPs are currently focused on inviting Priority Group 6 with underlying health conditions to local sites.)

I work for the NHS / in social care, when will I receive the vaccination?

Vaccination of patient-facing health and social care workers has been co-ordinated through hospital hubs and employers, as well as the nationally run mass vaccination centres.

Anyone who is an eligible front line worker who hasn’t yet had the vaccine can book an appointment on-line through the national booking service through this link.

I am housebound, can I get the vaccine?

Our local GP-led services have been vaccinating housebound patients from the priority groups from the start of the year. This process began as soon as we had delivered the first dose of vaccine to all 31 residential and nursing homes for older adults in the borough.

GPs will contact you to arrange an appointment but please be aware that we will vaccinate people in age order (as per JCVI Priority Groups above)

Can I get one privately?

No. Vaccinations will only be available through the NHS for the moment.

Anyone who claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee is likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police 101 service and/or Local Trading Standards.

I have been told to pay for a vaccine?

The vaccine is only available on the NHS for free to people in priority groups, and the NHS will contact you when it is your turn.

Anyone offering a paid-for vaccine is committing a crime.

The NHS will never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and never ask for payment or for your bank details.

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up.

If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by calling 101.

What vaccines for Covid-19 are currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available for use in the UK. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

A third vaccine, Moderna, has also been approved for use in the UK, but supplies of this vaccine will not arrive from America until after Easter.

Can people pick which vaccine they want?

No. Any vaccines that the NHS provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy. People should be assured that whatever Covid-19 vaccine they get will be effective.

The 16/17 year old age group in Priority 6 will receive Pfizer/BioNTech because this vaccine was licensed for use by the MHRA in those aged 16 years and over.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is only licensed for use in those aged 18 years and over.

Will the vaccines work with the new strain?

There is currently no evidence that the new strains that are circulating widely in the UK will be resistant to the vaccines we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal.

Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines.

Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.

It is likely however that booster doses of the Covid vaccine that protect against any new strains will be used in the autumn going into winter (similar to the annual flu vaccine programme that looks at which flu strains are circulating and is adapted accordingly.)

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. The NHS would not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it was safe to do so.

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through.

The MHRA follows international standards of safety. Thousands of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

Read about the approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK

Read about the approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK

Do the vaccines include any parts from foetal or animal origin?

There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine currently in use. All ingredients are published in the healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

Are there any side effects?

Like all medicines, the vaccine can cause side effects. Most side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy

Should people who have already had Covid get vaccinated?

The MHRA have advised that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19.

It is advised that if you have had Covid you need to wait four weeks before you can be vaccinated.

Will the Covid-19 vaccine protect me from flu?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu. We would advise anyone who hasn’t had a flu vaccine, who is eligible for one, to get one.

Are there any people who shouldn’t have the vaccine?

People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.

People who have ever had a severe allergy (anaphylaxis) where the cause was not identified should not have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but can have the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine.

What about pregnancy and breastfeeding?

The MHRA has updated its guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine.

Pregnant women can discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks should they wish.

Similarly, advice for women planning a pregnancy has also been updated and there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.

I’m currently ill with Covid-19, can I get the vaccine?

People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered.

The guidance says this should be at least four weeks after the start of symptoms or from the date of a positive Covid-19 test.

Why are second doses of the vaccine being rescheduled?

The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose still offers a high level of protection. This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine provides protection for most people for up to three months.

Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time which will be between 10 and 12 weeks from the first dose. Both doses will always be given by the same service at the same location or site.

We ask that anyone who needs to cancel and re-schedule their appointment only does this for unavoidable circumstances, such as illness or emergencies.

If you need to cancel and rearrange your appointment we would also ask that you do this with as much notice as possible, using the information contained in the text, email confirmation or letter supplied when you booked.

Will I be at greater risk if I don’t get a second dose after three weeks?

The science suggests that protection comes 10-14 days after the first dose. Trials show that at three weeks, the Pfizer vaccine is 89% effective and the Astra Zeneca vaccine is 73% effective.

In the Astra Zeneca vaccine trial, second doses were given after varying time periods, with no suggestion that a delayed second dose gave inferior protection.

There is no immunological reason why protection should wane between 3 and 12 weeks. Scientists are watching very carefully for any evidence that protection reduces between 3 and 12 weeks, and none has been found.

All the data collected so far on the Covid vaccination programme in the UK, supports the above findings.

Will I have less long-term protection if I receive the second dose after 12 weeks?

There is no reason to think that a second dose at 12 weeks will give inferior long term protection, and lots of science to suggest this may actually give better long term protection.

For most vaccines, the best time for a booster dose is well beyond three weeks after the primary dose. In fact, a second dose too close to the first dose often means there is a lesser immune response in the long run.

All the data collected so far on the Covid vaccination programme so far in the UK, supports the above.

I’m in a vulnerable group. Can I get a second dose after three weeks?

There is no evidence that people in clinically vulnerable groups get any lesser protection from the first dose of vaccine than the general population.

Giving people in these groups a second vaccine would delay the first dose for other vulnerable people. We do not have the option of making exceptions.

Where can I find out more?

The latest information will continue to be available and updated on our TyneHealth COVID-19 Information Hub here.

More information is also available on the NHS website. The BBC has also produced some helpful information about the vaccines in five South Asian languages.

Why are some people being sent letters and some people getting text messages?

Please be aware there are two vaccination systems running alongside each other: a national vaccination booking system, and our local GP-led vaccination services in North Tyneside. Both systems are currently inviting different groups of people, please be aware of the two different booking methods:

➡️ The national booking service will only allow you to book into a mass vaccination centre or pharmacy hub. Invites are sent out by letter or if you are eligible you will be able to book your appointment on-line hereIn our region these sites include The Centre for Life in Newcastle, Sunderland Nightingale Hospital, The Arnison Centre in Durham and Darlington Arena. Currently the national service is inviting those people who are:

  • 60 years or over
  • have a shielding letter (and so are extremely clinically vulnerable)
  • frontline health and social care staff

➡️ Local GP-led/Primary Care Network service (generally invites are sent by text message or made by phone) and these appointments will be for one of the local North Tyneside vaccine services in either Longbenton, North Shields or Wallsend depending on where you live and which GP Practice you are registered with

The National Booking System is unable to offer slots at one of three GP-led sites in North Tyneside. If you receive a letter but would rather have a local appointment please wait for your GP to get in touch.

Once you have booked at an appointment with either of these services you will need to have both vaccines with the same service, and make any alterations or cancelations to your appointment through the information you have received through that service. 

We would ask that people stick to their scheduled appointment for their second vaccine, unless there are unavoidable circumstances due to illness, Covid symptoms, they have been asked to self-isolate or other emergencies.

Why have I been invited to a vaccination centre outside my area?

The NHS has two systems operating, the first is being led by GPs and Primary Care Networks operating local vaccination services. The second system is run by the NHS nationally who have opened a number of large-scale vaccination centres including one at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

Other called mass vaccination centres have also opened at Sunderland’s NHS Nightingale Hospital in Washington, the Arnison Centre Retail Park in Durham and at Darlington Arena.

Invitations to book an appointment are being sent by letter to people (as per the JCVI priority groups detailed here) who have not yet been vaccinated and live up to 45 minutes’ drive from a centre.

This includes people who live in North Tyneside. You are free to choose which site you wish to attend for your vaccine.

The Vaccination Sites Across North Tyneside

In North Tyneside, we have three GP-led local vaccination centres in Longbenton, North Shields (also covering Whitley Bay) and Wallsend.

North Tyneside General Hospital (NTGH) are also administering vaccines as our local hospital hub.

We have mobile teams of community nurses, GPs and allied health professionals like paramedics, delivering Covid-19 vaccines to care home residents and staff as well as housebound individuals.

The nearest mass vaccination centre is at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

The NHS will contact you when it’s your turn to have the vaccine – please don’t turn up to any vaccination site without a pre-booked appointment and do not contact your GP or Hospital about getting the vaccine.