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Covid vaccine - FAQs

Last updated: 15 December 2021

We have compiled some reliable information about the COVID-19 vaccine to answer your most common queries.

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What's the latest news on the booster vaccine?

The booster programme has been extended to all 18-39 year olds so that all adults in the UK will have the opportunity to increase their protection levels against the COVID-19 virus. 

The roll-out of the booster started taking place across the UK from the 20 September 2021. Everyone who is aged 18 and older is being offered the booster vaccine in England and Scotland. (If you are 16 or over and the main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19, you can also book one.)

In Northern Ireland, the booster is being offered to priority groups including carers and those aged 30 and over, and the programme will be extended to 18-29 year olds as soon as possible. In Wales, the government is also accelerating the speed of the booster roll out. Health boards are working through priority lists and will contact you as soon as you are eligible for yours if you are based in Wales.

Among those prioritised will be anyone who lives in a residential home for older adults and household contacts (aged 16 or over) of immunosuppressed individuals.

When will I receive my booster jab?

With the Omicron variant circulating quickly now in the UK, there is an urgent goal for all adults to have the opportunity to receive the booster as soon as possible – Boris Johnson has now requested a new target of offering the booster to all adults by the end of December 2021.

You will be invited to take the booster jab from three months after your second jab (or third for those with a weakened immune system). Previously it was six months after the last dose, but the NHS is now offering booster doses with a shorter minimum gap of three months. Experts approved halving this in the light of the Omicron variant. Read more here.

The JCVI has advised that booster jabs should take place in the same priority order as the first vaccination phase. This means that carers will continue to be in group six for the booster jab, but you may qualify to have one sooner. Check for England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland

As with the flu vaccine, you will be able to receive your booster jab at a local medical practice such as your GP practice or pharmacy. We understand that carers will be contacted by the NHS when it is time to arrange a booster jab, but you won't necessarily be called forward unless identified as a carer.

If you are new to caring, then we suggest you contact your GP and let them know that you are a carer. We also recommend contacting your local carers’ organisation to find out how carers are being identified locally. You will be contacted when it’s your turn or you can check if you can book one directly (see links above).

You will also be able to receive the free flu vaccine this winter if you are eligible for that too.

For unpaid carers in Scotland

An online portal opened on the 15 November providing the opportunity for unpaid carers to book a booster jab. This can be booked from 12 weeks since your previous vaccine. You can also book a flu jab via this portal. There is further information about this, including a helpline number you can call, on our Carers Scotland site. You can also find more details here.

For unpaid carers in Northern Ireland

Currently, the booster is being offered to carers (among other priority groups including frontline health and social care workers, and the over 30s), providing three months have passed since the last vaccine was taken. You can find detailed information here: http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/booster-covid19-vaccination/.


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How is the vaccine roll-out going?

The vaccine roll-out has made considerable progress in the UK, with the majority of the UK population having received the recommended vaccine doses. However with the risks posed by the latest Omicron variant, it is considered critical that all adults, if possible, now take up the offer of the booster to provide greater protection.

Although there has been an overarching UK plan, there are some differences between the nations' roll-out programmes – for an overview, please see 'What are the details of the vaccination programme where I live?'

Will those who are immunosuppressed receive a fourth dose of the vaccine?

Yes, the JCVI confirmed on 29 November that a fourth dose will be offered to those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system: 'The JCVI advised yesterday that those who are immunosuppressed and have received a third dose of the vaccine will also be offered a fourth dose to boost their defence.' (Gov.uk website)

How is the vaccine roll-out going for 12-15 year olds?

12-15 year olds are now being invited to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine. Consent will need to be provided by a parent, guardian or carer. For more details, see this NHS page


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Getting vaccinated

If you are 18 or over (or within three months of turning 18) and registered with a GP surgery in England, you can apply for the vaccine using the national online booking system. For eligible young people and children from 12-17, there is also the offer of the vaccine with details via this link and on the Gov.uk website, there is information covering COVID-19 vaccination resources for children and young people available in different formats including a variety of languages, Braille and Easy Read. They are designed to help parents, young people and carers of children make decisions about having a vaccine.

You should have automatically been notified about your vaccine if:

  • you have been receiving Carer's Allowance or have an underlying entitlement
  • you are receiving support following a carer’s assessment
  • your GP record already records that you are eligible as a carer.

In England, if you haven’t been called up yet and believe you are eligible for a vaccine, it is advisable to request one as soon as possible. If you are 16 or 17, you can visit a walk-in vaccination centre to get vaccinated. Read more.

There are lots of benefits to being recorded as an unpaid carer on your GP record. It helps your GP to know, so that you can be advised of local support services and prioritised for certain vaccines including COVID-19 and the flu vaccine. You can refer to this government guidance for more information. It may be helpful to clarify your status as a carer – see our template letter

In Scotland, unpaid carers should have been invited to get their coronavirus vaccine by phone or letter. You can register to get the vaccine on the NHS inform website or by calling 0800 030 8013. Most health boards also have drop-in vaccination clinics. Over-12s can go to drop-in clinics or register online: https://www.nhsinform.scot/vaccineregistration. In Wales, all unpaid carers are being encouraged to register here if you haven't already received your vaccine. Contact your local health board if you've not been offered your jab yet. In Northern Ireland, you can book online or call 0300 200 7813. Walk-in centres are another option. See the relevant link for more details:

England    Scotland     Wales     Northern Ireland   

Can I get vaccinated at the same time as someone I care for? 

Every effort will be made to ensure that you can be vaccinated at the same time as someone you care for if you are accompanying them to their appointment. If you wish to receive your vaccination at the same time, you must make this known to the GP surgery in advance to confirm an appointment. Note that the vaccination sites are not able to support walk-in appointments.

Will I have to prove my status as an unpaid carer when I go to get my vaccine? 

When you go and get your vaccine, it’s advised that you take along with you the confirmation of your appointment, photo ID to prove your identity, and your NHS number (if you have it). You should not have to prove that you are a carer for more information, see this government guidance (page 8). However, we have heard that some people have been asked for proof, so you may wish to take something with you to indicate your status just in case. If you don’t have photo ID, you won’t be turned away but you might have to prove your identity in another way – for example with your name and date of birth and address.

What can I do to prepare for the vaccine? 

  • When notified about your vaccine, book your appointment as soon as possible.
  • Take steps to arrange alternative support for the person you are caring for while you are at your vaccination appointment. If you need help to arrange this, please contact your local council (trust in Northern Ireland) or local carers organisation.
  • Read the coronavirus vaccination leaflet so you know what to expect when being vaccinated.
  • Ensure you have some time to rest afterwards.

Seeking information 

If you have any questions about the vaccine, it may be helpful to look at reputable sources, such as the NHS site, and make a few notes in advance of your appointment so that you can gain clarity about any concerns. You may wish to provide additional reassurance to someone you care for about the protection the vaccine could offer them, both now and in the long term. 

It is also worth looking at the websites of local carers' organisations or trusts. The roll-out is likely to differ from area to area, and many of these provide useful details about what options will be available where you live.

Watch out for scams

A false NHS text message has been circulating requesting that you click on a link to apply for a vaccine. It then takes you through to a fake NHS website platform requesting more information. For further details on how to spot this, see this helpful link from Which?

Action Fraud's website states that there has been a recent increase in medical/NHS related email and text message scams. If you feel worried that you or someone you know has been affected, you can contact Action Fraud: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.

We would also urge you to spread the word among friends and family about scams like this, and only follow information that's available from trustworthy sources. No one should be claiming that you need to pay for the vaccine as there are no shortcuts (see below).


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Will I need to pay and how will I be notified?

You will not need to pay for the vaccine. It will be rolled out through the NHS and you will be notified about the process of getting one. It is advisable to be wary of any schemes suggesting that paying is necessary which are likely to be scams.

When it's your turn, you will be contacted by the NHS. You may be contacted by phone, email, letter or text so it's a good idea to keep an eye on all your channels.

You may be asked to go:
- to hospital
- to local GP practice or community pharmacy
- to a vaccination centre
- or special arrangements will be made if you are unable to travel.


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Will the Covid vaccine be safe?

The vaccines cannot be approved by the UK regulator (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - MHRA) until they have been rigorously tested to meet the highest safety standards. Therefore, at this stage of public roll out, we can be assured that they have met these standards.


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How will this work alongside the flu vaccine? Will we need to leave a gap?

The current recommendation is that there should be a gap of at least seven days in between the vaccines according to the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation).

You will be contacted directly when it is possible for you, or those you care for, to receive the vaccine and it is important to discuss any concerns you might have with a medical professional.


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Where do private carers (paid care workers), who are employed via a direct payment, sit within the priority list?

Personal Assistants or private carers are covered in the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) list under priority 2 – you can find out more here.

Local authorities should be communicating with direct payment (or personal budget) employers and assisting with information as well as covering costs to enable that worker to attend an appointment.

If you have a private carer and would like more information, we would suggest you contact your direct payment lead at the local authority for further guidance.  


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What are the details of the vaccination programme where I live?

The roll-out of the programme will differ slightly across the nations. You can contact your local carers’ organisation and/or local authority (or trust if you are based in Northern Ireland) for clarity if you're unsure if you are eligible to receive the vaccine at this stage. 

You can read the guidance specific to where you are based here:

England     Scotland     Wales     Northern Ireland


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Will I lose my appointment if I can't reach a vaccination centre?

A number of new vaccination centres have recently opened to assist with the roll-out of the vaccines. Some people have expressed concerns that they cannot travel easily and worry they may miss out.

If you have been advised to travel to a vaccination centre but cannot get there – for example if you're assisting someone you care for who's too vulnerable – we would suggest that you contact your local GP to explain your circumstances and ask what alternative arrangements can be set up for you. You should not lose your priority position because of this and you/ the person you care for will still be able to receive the vaccine.


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What can I expect after having the vaccine?

Any side-effects from the vaccine or booster should be mild and short-term. If you continue to feel unwell, it is important to get a test for COVID-19 and self-isolate as a precautionary measure. The possible side-effects you might experience can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/safety-and-side-effects/.


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