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By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

Woman being vaccinated in Penrith, England, in Marchimage copyrightGetty Images

The government aims to have offered a first vaccine jab to about 32 million people by 15 April.

For adults under 30, it says there will be enough Pfizer and Moderna jabs when it is their turn. UK vaccine advisers say they should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab because of evidence possibly linking it to blood clots.

Who is being offered the vaccine now?

In England, people aged 50 and over are being invited. You will get a text message with a link to the national booking service, which can also be called on 119. Carers can also apply.

Over-50s are also being offered the vaccine in Scotland. Unpaid carers in Scotland aged 16-64 can register online to get the vaccine, or call 0800 030 8013.

In Northern Ireland, people aged 40-45 are now eligible. They can book online or call 0300 200 7813.

When will over 40s get the jab?

Vaccine supplies are expected to be delayed in April, but the government insists all adults will still be offered their first dose by the end of July.

However, people under 50 without underlying medical conditions in England may now have to wait until May.

They will be vaccinated in order of age:

  • 40-49 years
  • 30-39 years
  • 18-29 years

Some groups at higher risk of needing hospital treatment from Covid are urged to take up the offer of vaccination promptly:

  • Men
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities
  • People with a BMI over 30
  • Those in deprived neighbourhoods
Priority group list

Who has already been offered a first dose?

Those most at risk from Covid and those caring for them were vaccinated first:

  • frontline health and social care staff
  • elderly care home residents
  • clinically extremely vulnerable people
  • over-16s with some health conditions which increase their risk from Covid
  • adult carers of disabled people and younger adults in care homes
  • over-55s
  • over-50s in Wales
  • over-45s in Northern Ireland

All four nations of the UK follow these priorities, but the rollout varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

When will I get my second dose?

More than five million people have had a second dose.

During April, the number of second doses – expected to be about 12 million – will probably overtake the number of first doses given.

This is so that everyone in the priority groups has been fully vaccinated within 12 weeks of their first jab.

Are two doses needed?

The approved vaccines require two doses to provide the best protection.

In the UK, people were initially told they would get a second dose three to four weeks after the first. But to ensure a quicker rollout of first doses, the UK’s chief medical officers extended the gap to 12 weeks.

The World Health Organization says this also increases the AstraZeneca vaccine’s effectiveness.

However, some doctors are worried a long gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine could make it less effective.

Can different vaccines be mixed?

Official guidance says everyone should get the same vaccine for both doses.

In very rare circumstances – if only one vaccine is available, or it’s not known which was given for the first dose – a different vaccine can be used.

People who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should also have a second dose. Only those who suffered a rare blood clot after the first dose should not, the regulator says.

Do the vaccines work against new variants?

All three vaccines have been shown to be effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid.

Table comparing the Oxford, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

The AstraZeneca vaccine offers a good level of protection against the “Kent” variant now dominant in the UK. Early research on other vaccines, including Pfizer, suggest they also offer protection.

There are concerns the vaccines may not work as well against variants first spotted in South Africa and Brazil, and some UK variants too. But developers are updating their jabs and plan to have them ready by the autumn.

They are likely to be offered as a routine booster for some groups.

How many vaccine doses are there?

The UK has ordered seven vaccines and expects to receive 407 million doses – more than enough for every adult to receive two.

Doses ordered

Will children be vaccinated?

Covid vaccines are being trialled for children by most companies. Pfizer has released early data which suggests children aged 12-15 are well protected, with no unusual side effects.

AstraZeneca has halted its trial involving 300 participants aged six to 17 while the UK’s medicines regulator investigates a possible link with rare blood clots in adults.

In the UK, the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for use in over-16s and the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines in over-18s.

Getting a Covid vaccine is not compulsory because experts say this wouldn’t help create public confidence. But making it mandatory for NHS staff and care workers is being considered.

What about people with allergies?

A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction – known as anaphylaxis – when vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

You should discuss any serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

Most people will not be affected in any way, although mild side-effects are possible.

media captionWhy it is normal for some people to experience short-term side effects from Covid-19 vaccines

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