Are you waiting for your second jab? Here’s everything you need to know
More than 30 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the Covid vaccine, and around three million have been fully vaccinated.
But with supply problems expected to affect the roll-out in April, many people are worried about getting their second jab, while others who are eligible now are struggling simply to schedule their appointment, as Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn found.
He revealed last week that when he tried to book his second jab online, he was told incorrectly that he’d already had an appointment but missed it, and then that he could only book it for a location 40 miles away.
Confused? Worried? Here we explain everything you need to know about getting your second dose.
My GP surgery called me about my first jab. Should I ring them to book my second appointment?
People who had their first dose through their GP will be invited (via text or call) to have their second dose in the same way, says the NHS. It advises against calling GPs for a jab appointment due to fears that surgeries will be overwhelmed with phone calls.
The Government says everyone who has had their first dose will receive their second within 12 weeks, so hold tight.
Many people are worried about getting their second jab, while others who are eligible now are struggling simply to schedule their appointment. A man is seen getting vaccinated in Belfast
I booked my first vaccine online, should I do the same for the second?
Yes. If you originally booked through the online NHS National Booking Service to have your jab at a vaccination centre or designated community pharmacy, you should be able to book your second dose online, too.
My wife has already been given a date for her second dose, why haven’t I?
It seems to depend on how you booked your first appointment, but the system is confusing.
If you booked your first dose online through the NHS website, you should have been able to book an appointment for your second dose at the same time.
However, if you got your appointment through your GP or at a hospital hub, you probably won’t yet have received a date for your second jab.
People who had their first dose through their GP will be invited (via text or call) to have their second dose in the same way, says the NHS. It advises against calling GPs for a jab appointment due to fears that surgeries will be overwhelmed with phone calls
Instead, you will be contacted closer to the 12-week deadline to make an appointment.
But some vaccination centres are giving people a date for their second jab when they go in for their first dose, regardless of whether they booked online or through their GP. The system seems to vary around the country.
Are there enough supplies of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines for everyone who’s had their first dose to get their second dose after 12 weeks?
The Government’s Vaccine Taskforce has announced there will be a ‘significant reduction’ in supplies starting this week. It’s triggered partly by a delay in delivery from India of five million AstraZeneca jabs.
This slowdown is expected to last for four weeks. However, the Government insists second doses will not be affected and that the NHS is on track to deliver all second doses within 12 weeks of people receiving their first jabs.
Why are some people being asked to travel miles for their second dose?
Supplies of the vaccine vary around the country. If you booked your jab appointments online, you will be offered the closest available slot.
If you’re not being offered a second dose near to where you live, this could be because some vaccine centres have now closed temporarily due to the shortages.
The NHS advises to keep checking the website, as new appointments for the second jab are being released all the time.
If you’ve had the AstraZeneca vaccine, you don’t need to have both jabs at the same centre. However, this is not the case for the Pfizer jab, due to its requirement to be stored in special fridges at very low temperatures. So you will probably receive your second dose at the same location as you had the first.
Why are some vaccination centres closing temporarily?
There are more than 1,700 vaccination sites in England and some — such as all of Kent’s five mass vaccination centres — are set to close ‘for a number of weeks’ from next month. This is due to the expected reduction in supplies during April.
Some pop-up vaccine centres, such as cinemas, are also going back to their ‘day jobs’ from May 17, as the lockdown restrictions ease.
If the interval between the first and second doses is more than 12 weeks, will the vaccine be less effective?
We don’t actually know what the ‘optimal interval’ is between doses, because this has not been formally evaluated in a trial, says Dr Chris Smith, a clinical lecturer in virology at Cambridge University and presenter of the Naked Scientists podcast.
Supplies of the vaccine vary around the country. If you booked your jab appointments online, you will be offered the closest available slot
‘For the average person, we’re probably on reasonably firm ground if the booster date drifts a bit,’ he says.
‘The immune system has not evolved with a stopwatch in its hand. It doesn’t stand tapping its foot and counting down the minutes to 12 weeks before declaring, Dragon’s Den style, ‘I’m out’.
‘We have evolved to form long-lived immune memories that can be recalled far into the future to protect us from chance re-encounters with things we’ve met before.’
Timing is probably more of an issue among the older age groups, who do not tend to generate such a good immune response to vaccines, simply because their bodies are older, adds Dr Smith.
Delaying the second dose beyond 12 weeks could leave this age group more exposed.
The great news is that even the first dose seems to provide good protection, with research published last week by Sheffield and Oxford Universities showing that one dose of the Pfizer jab generated a ‘robust’ immune response against the virus in 99 per cent of people.
Meanwhile, previous research has shown that an interval of 12 weeks or more between AstraZeneca jabs makes it more effective than if the gap was less than six weeks.
Can I change to a different vaccine for my second dose?
This is the subject of research, but currently the simple answer is no.
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