COVID-19 vaccines

What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations are currently being offered to residents in Bexley care homes, all those 80 years of age and over, frontline health and social care workers, those 75 years of age and over, all those 70 years of age and over plus clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

We are working closely with our local NHS colleagues to help make the vaccination programme a success. Please return to this page, follow us on social media or sign up for our Bexley Magazine Extra email newsletter for the latest updates.

To help the rollout please remember:

  • if you are aged under 70 do not contact the NHS for a vaccine, the NHS will contact you. Anyone who is over 70 and has not yet been vaccinated should contact the NHS to arrange a jab. You can book at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or ringing 119 free
  • when the NHS contact you, please attend your booked appointments
  • please continue to follow all the guidance to control the spread of the virus and save lives: wear a mask, wash hands and keep a safe distance

Priorities

The priority order for vaccination was decided by the national Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, with the primary aim of preventing deaths from COVID-19, as well as protecting the health and social care staff and the systems in which they work.

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. all those 65 years of age and over.
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

Like any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once they have been authorised and are being used.

More information on the COVID-19 vaccine - South East London CCG

Bexley’s Primary Care Network COVID–19 Vaccination Programme

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is being offered the vaccine right now?

In line with national targets, by 15 February 2021 we aimed to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI):

  1. all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

As the next chapter commences in the COVID vaccination programme, residents over the age of 65 and those with an underlying health condition at high or moderate risk from COVID-19 will be invited to have their vaccination from Monday 15 February onwards.

Eligible adult carers will be contacted via the National Booking System (NBS) to book a vaccination appointment once a list compiled by NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) in conjunction with the London Borough of Bexley is complete. Adult carers who are flagged within GP systems will also be offered vaccination through this route, and carers aged 16 and 17 will also be prioritised.

Where in Bexley is this being offered?

We are delivering local vaccination services through our Primary Care Networks (PCNs) to the JCVI cohorts. In Bexley, there are 4 PCNs which are made up of groupings of GP practices and community services in Bexley.

More than 18,000 vaccines have already been delivered in Bexley through our PCN sites - the highest in south-east London. Patients are invited to attend the sites by appointment only:

  • Erith Health Centre is being used to facilitate vaccinations for the practices that make up the North Bexley PCN; Lakeside Medical Centre, Northumberland Heath Medical Centre, Bulbanks Medical Centre, Riverside Surgery, Crayford Town Surgery, Slade Green Medical Centre, Bexley Medical Group and Belvedere Medical Centre.
  • Bursted Wood Surgery is being used to facilitate vaccinations for practices that make up the APL PCN; Lyndhurst Medical Centre, The Albion Surgery, Plas Meddyg Surgery and Bursted Wood surgery.
  • Queen Mary’s Hospital is being used to facilitate vaccinations for practices that make up the Frognal PCN; Woodlands Primary Care, Station Road Surgery, The Barnard Medical Group, Sidcup Medical Centre.
  • Westwood Masonic is being used to facilitate vaccinations for practices that make up the Clocktower PCN; Bellegrove Road Surgery, Bexley Group practice, Dr Thavapalan & Partners, The Westwood Surgery, Welling Medical Practice.

Why weren’t all the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) live at the same time?

For purely logistical reasons, we took a phased approach to the mobilisation of the sites and roll-out of the vaccine. This has meant that some PCNs offered the vaccine before others to the JCVI cohorts. This phased roll-out was also the national approach to the delivery of the vaccine.

However, all four PCNs are now live and we are already seeing a levelling-up of the distribution of the vaccine across Bexley as a whole. Regardless of where in Bexley you live, our aim is to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority cohorts by 15 February 2021.

Within Bexley, we have already successfully delivered thousands of vaccines and continue to be one of the highest performing boroughs in south east London in terms of our vaccinations.

Why are some PCNs offering appointments to patients aged 70+ whilst I know people 80+ who are still waiting?

Our PCNs are working through their patient lists in a methodical manner and offering appointments in line with JCVI priority cohorts. Some PCNs are ahead of others, for the reasons mentioned in the previous response. However, we are already seeing a levelling-up of the distribution of the vaccine across Bexley as a whole. It is important to note that whilst age is one determinant there are others including existing health conditions, such as a heart problem or a chest complaint. So it may be that a younger patient is offered an appointment before someone older due to health reasons.

How do I book my appointment?

For those who are not in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), we are asking residents to remain patient and not contact the NHS to request an appointment. When it is your turn for an appointment you will be contacted by the NHS, and so we are asking you do not contact your local hospital or GP practice. The NHS is asking everyone to wait their turn and remain patient.

What should people do if they think they have been forgotten?

Our guidance has recently been changed and so if you are over 70 and haven’t yet been invited for your first Covid vaccine, you can now book by visiting www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or ringing 119 free. You no longer need a letter. The booking system is not for PCNs but only for acutes or pharmacies. People in other priority groups (for example, those age 65 and above) are asked to wait to be contacted.

How will people be invited for a vaccination?

When it is the right time you will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people, this will be in the form of a letter either from their GP or the national booking system but could also be in the form of a mobile text or call. Whatever the method it will include all the information you need. Some services are currently also phoning and texting patients to invite them in. Obviously, we wish to minimise queues, adhere to social distancing rules and waiting times, and so please arrive no more than 5 minutes early for your appointment.

When will housebound residents be vaccinated?

Housebound residents are included in the JCVI priority cohorts 1-4. It has only recently been nationally agreed that home vaccinations for those who need it can start. We know how anxious it can be waiting to hear, but we do ask that everyone is patient as they will be notified in due course and no-one will miss out. It is not possible to give a definite timeframe for individuals because it depends on vaccine supply. However, home visits have now started and some in Bexley are already receiving jabs at home.

Will vaccines still be provided and is it safe for me to still attend my appointment during the national lockdown?

Yes. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. Vaccinations will continue as normal in all areas through the national lockdown and beyond. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it.

The place that have your vaccine will keep you safe from COVID-19 through a range of measures including cleaning and disinfecting and having social distancing in waiting areas. Please also wear a face covering ensuring that it covers both your mouth and nose to your appointment. You should also take the usual steps to minimise your risk as you travel to your appointment.

What vaccines are currently available in Bexley?

Across south-east London, the Pfizer vaccine and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are currently available.

How will residents registered with a GP surgery which is located in Bexley but is a branch surgery of a GP practice located in a neighbouring borough be offered or have access to the vaccine?

The PCN covering the main branch GP practice will provide the vaccination for all patients registered with branch surgeries. For example, a Bexley resident registered with a Greenwich branch GP surgery located in Bexley will be offered the vaccine by the corresponding Greenwich PCN, in line with the JCVI priority cohorts.

Why are you postponing second doses?

Following national guidance, an emphasis has been placed on offering the first dose to as many people as possible. The UK Chief Medical Officers 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 after two weeks. Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

What are you doing to avoid waste?

We are actively engaging with patients to remind them that when they receive their COVID vaccination appointment, to only turn up five minutes before their slot to avoid waiting a long time or standing in queues. Everyone who has an appointment will get the vaccine. PCNs have standby lists of patients they can call on to avoid wastage.

Does the vaccine contain any egg or animal products?

The Pfizer vaccine and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg. The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found at www.britishima.org/pfizer-biontech-covid19-vaccine.

What should I do if I am pregnant?

The current national clinical advice is that if you are pregnant you should not be vaccinated unless you are at high risk - you can be vaccinated after your pregnancy is over. If you have had the first dose and then become pregnant you should delay the second dose until after the pregnancy is over, unless you are at high risk. If you are breastfeeding, you may decide to wait until you have finished breastfeeding and then have the vaccination.

Is there any evidence to suggest the vaccine makes you infertile?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any impact on fertility.

How important has the role of volunteers been in helping deliver the vaccination programme?

We could not do without them. In Bexley, hundreds of people have come forward to volunteer their time. They are greeting patients at the door and checking temperatures. They are guiding patients to book in at reception and to clinic rooms. They are helping us keep patient flows running smoothly so we can get as many vaccinations done as possible but keep socially distanced. Our thanks to everyone who is giving up their time to help us.

What engagement has there been with faith leaders?

On 20 January we ran a webinar briefing session specifically for faith leaders, in order to provide them with information about the vaccination programme and also answer questions and concerns that are specific to certain faith communities within Bexley. In all we had 23 faith leaders from the local community dial in for that meeting. We have also used the Bexley Interfaith Forum to cascade additional information for us.

Have we any evidence that our Black, Asian, and minority ethnic residents are not engaging in the programme?

We do not yet have enough data locally to determine the picture in Bexley, but nationally there are great concerns that Black, Asian, and minority ethnic residents are more likely to decline a vaccination. We are therefore working locally to address these concerns by beginning to better understand the evolving data and engaging directly with community leaders, community champions and local councillors to respond to some of the specific concerns from those residents.

What risk is there to Care Home residents if care home workers decline to have the jab?

Regardless of whether a resident or staff member has been vaccinated, we maintain all existing safety procedures within all Bexley care homes – such as mask wearing and social distancing – in order to keep all residents and staff members safe. All care home residents have now been offered the vaccine and the take up rate has been extremely high. We continue to engage with care home managers and staff to encourage vaccinations and respond to any specific concerns which may cause hesitancy.

When can residents expect to be contacted for their second jab please i.e. how much notice will they be given?

The second dose will be offered approximately 12 weeks after the first. Patients will be contacted and offered an appointment in the same was as they were for their first, once vaccination sites have confirmed vaccine supply dates.

How are you ensuring that all new admissions to care homes are vaccinated before being admitted?

To minimise the risk to residents in care homes during periods of sustained community transmission, all residents being discharged from hospital or interim care facilities to the care home, and new residents admitted from the community, should be isolated for 14 days within their own room. This should be the case unless they have already undergone isolation for a 14-day period in another setting, and even then, the care home may wish to isolate new residents for a further 14 days.

Should I get vaccinated if I have already had COVID or I am suffering from ‘Long COVID’?

It is important that you have the vaccine even if you have already had COVID. And if you are suffering the symptoms of 'long COVID' it is still safe to have the vaccine.

Can I still get the virus if I have been vaccinated?

The vaccine reduces significantly the risk that you will catch COVID, but it is possible that you can still transmit the virus to others after vaccination even if you do not get the disease. And so after being vaccinated (even after the second dose) you will still need to follow public health measures like ‘Hands-Face-Space’ and wearing a face mask.

When can residents expect to be contacted for their second jab please i.e. how much notice will they be given?

The second dose will be offered approximately 12 weeks after the first. Patients will be contacted and offered an appointment in the same way as they were for their first, once vaccination sites have confirmed vaccine supply dates.

Vaccinations - Over 70s booking

From 8 February anyone aged 70 and over who has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 should now contact the NHS to arrange a jab.

Prior to this, the NHS had asked people to wait until they were contacted to help ensure those most vulnerable are protected first.

Over 70s booking FAQ

Does this mean people can turn up at vaccination services without an appointment?

No. People will still 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.

Do I need to know my NHS number to use the booking website/phone line?

No. It’s easier if you do have your NHS number, but if you don’t both the NHS booking website and phone line 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.

If I’ve already had my first dose will I be able to book my second in this way?

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.

What if I don’t live close to one of the large Vaccination Centres?

The National Booking Service also handles booking for pharmacy-led vaccination services, of which there are around 200 across the country. 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.

Does the NHS have the capacity and supplies available if lots of people now book?

The vast majority of people in these 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.

Why have I not been contacted by anyone about a vaccination?

If you are 70 or over or on the Shielded Patient List, then 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.

More information on registering with a GP is available at www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/.

Will this approach also apply to the next priority groups when it is their turn to be vaccinated?

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.

How do I get an NHS number?

You may already have an NHS number but just don’t know it. If you don’t know your NHS number, you can find out if you have one and what it is at digital.nhs.uk/services/nhs-number.

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.

More information on registering with a GP is available at www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/.

What if I book an appointment through the NHS website or 119 and I need to rearrange it?

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.

Can I still book if I previously had an appointment but didn’t attend or cancel it?

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

A letter came to my home but it was for someone else. Can I still use it to book an appointment?

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.