Coronavirus/Covid 19

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

UPDATED 21 December 2020

  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective. It will give you the best protection against coronavirus
  • The vaccine is part of our defence – we need to continue with hands, face, space
  • The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine. It is important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

Who will get it when?

  • An independent group of experts has recommended that the NHS first offers vaccines to those at highest risk of catching the disease and of suffering serious complications or dying from COVID-19
  • This includes older adults in care homes and frontline health and social care workers. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible
  • The phased vaccination programme will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, among the first to receive the life-saving jab
  • Care home providers are also being asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to begin booking staff into vaccination clinics. GPs are also expected to be able to begin vaccinating care home residents.
  • Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Where the jabs will be administered?

  • There were 50 hospital hubs in the first wave, with more hospitals starting to vaccinate over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up
  • Hundreds of local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams have opened across England , with more practices in more pa rts of the country joining in on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.
  • Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently stand up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream.

Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

  • The life-saving vaccine is typically delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder but there is a complex logistical challenge to deliver from the manufacturers to patients. It needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain ahead of use
  • The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products or egg.
  • In a position statement published on the 6 December, the British Islamic Medical Association recommend the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for eligible at-risks individuals in the Muslim community. Further information is available here

How safe is the vaccine?

  • The vaccine approved for use in the UK was developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.
  • It has 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 UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world.
  • Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
  • During the trial thousands of people were given a COVID-19 vaccine and no serious side effects or complications were reported.
  • As is common with new vaccines the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely on the first day of the national roll out. Both are recovering well
  • You can read about the MHRA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 on the GOV.UK website

Where can I get my COVID-19 vaccination?

  • Vaccines will be offered in a range of settings.
  • Some vaccination teams will visit people to offer the vaccine, for example in care homes, other people may have to go to the nearest centre. Because some of the vaccine has to be stored in a very low temperature freezer, you may not be able to get the vaccine in your normal GP surgery.

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

  • When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward.
  • For most people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the national NHS.
  • This letter will include all the information you will need to book appointments, including your NHS number.
  • Please do not contact the NHS to get an appointment until you get this letter.
  • Information on the vaccine is available on the NHS.UK website.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • After having both doses of the vaccine most people will be protected against coronavirus.
  • It takes a few weeks after getting the 2nd dose for it to work.
  • There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
  • This means it is important to:

o Continue to follow social distancing guidance

o If you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it is hard to stay away from other people

COVID-19 vaccine side effects

  • Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

o a sore arm where the needle went in

o feeling tired

o a headache

o feeling achy

  • You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.
  • If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection.
  • If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
  • It is very rare for anyone to have a serious reaction to the vaccine (anaphylaxis). If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.
  • Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

What if the centre I am offered is not easy to get to?

  • Please try to attend the vaccination centre you are offered. If you cannot attend that centre you may have to wait to get the vaccine in a more convenient location.

Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?

  • No, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination

Is it mandatory?

  • There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory.

Why do I have to wait?

  • The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest risk.
  • The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine.
  • Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This is because only some vaccines can be transported to people’s homes.

Advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

  • You should wait to have the COVID-19 vaccine:

o if you are pregnant – you should wait until you have had your baby

o if you are breastfeeding – you should wait until you have stopped breastfeeding

o If you are trying to get pregnant, you should wait for 2 months after having the 2nd dose before getting pregnant.

  • There is no evidence it is unsafe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. But more evidence is needed before you can be offered the vaccine.


This information was written by South West London Health & Care Partnership – last updated 21/12/2020. You can download a copy of the information below. 

Download SWLHCP Covid Vaccination Key Messages and FAQs

Who are we currently inviting? 

We have invited all over 75 year olds who have not yet had the vaccine, have not declined it, are not housebound and do not have a medical reason as to why they cannot have the vaccine.

Housebound patients will be vaccinated by the Central London Community Health Services (CLCH) – they are working hard to get this rolled out as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they are unable to provide specific time frames.

If you have not been contacted and feel that you should have been then please call our Care Navigation team on 020 8772 8772 – option 2.

Where will the vaccinations be given?

Wandsworth Community Transport are offering free rides for the elderly on their mini buses to get them to their vaccine. They can be called on 020 8675 7460 once you have been booked in to arrange this. 

Patients of Balham Park Surgery will be asked to go to:

Balham Health Centre

120-124 Bedford Hill


SW12 9HS


Mitcham Lane Baptist Church

230 Mitcham Lane

SW16 6NT

Public Transport to Mitcham Lane: 155/ 355 towards Mitcham get off at Tooting The Mitre (Stop TJ) and then get a 57/ 333 towards Elephant & Castle and get off at Dahomey Road (Stop R) you will then need to walk down the Alleyway/ Path to get to the Church.

Patient Leaflets

Created by Public Health England

Covid-19 Vaccination What to ExpectCovid-19 Why Do I Have To WaitCovid-19 Guide for Health Care Workers

If you currently have covid-19 symptoms, and would like to ask for a test, please use this link

Shielding restrictions put in place during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in England will not be imposed automatically at any of the three tiers – one, two and three – the government has confirmed.

However, patients in ‘exceptionally high-risk areas’ may still be advised to begin shielding again in future for a limited time. If this was to happen clinically extremely vulnerable patients in affected areas would receive a personal letter advising them what to do.

The DHSC said that if shielding advice is reintroduced people ‘will also be eligible for a support package – including food access support, medicines deliveries and any additional care or support required’.

Patients are still being encouraged to attend any NHS appointments or seek help from the health service for their existing conditions if they require it.

The advice for clinical extremely vulnerable patients, which is in addition to the basic restrictions that  everyone must follow, is detailed below.

For Tier 2 

These measures are in addition to restrictions that require everyone to not meet other households indoors, unless part of a support bubble, and to only meet in groups of up to six people outdoors:

  • Reduce the number of different people met outside
  • Avoid travel except for essential journeys
  • Work from home where possible and reduce the number of shopping trips made or go at quieter times of the day
  • People can still go to work if they cannot work from home because all workplaces should be COVID-secure, and children should still attend school

Please do continue to contact us if you need medical care. We are here to help and have measures in place to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19.


Over recent weeks, you may have heard about ‘Long Covid’ in the media. This is a fluctuating condition affecting multiple systems in the body following Covid-19, lasting for a prolonged period of time. The presentation can vary widely, from profound fatigue, breathlessness, and chest pains, to more generalised and non-specific symptoms such as dizziness, mood changes and ‘brain fog’.

There have been over 80 scientific papers published on ‘Long Covid’ thus far, and yet the cause is still unknown. Theories range from a prolonged inflammatory process in the body, an auto-immune reaction (where the body ‘turns against itself’), to reservoirs of the virus persisting in our body.

Although numbers quoted in current studies vary greatly, it is clear that a significant proportion of people with Covid-19 have a delayed recovery, which in some people can go on as long as 3-6 months. Furthermore, the severity of the illness does not seem to correlate with later outcomes; meaning people with mild Covid infection can still have significant long-term symptoms.

What we do know is that for most people who are not hospitalised with the illness, a significant improvement in symptoms generally occurs within 4-6 weeks, and taking things easy and living a healthy lifestyle are all that is needed.

However, for those suffering with ongoing or severe symptoms, there is support available. This should start with booking an appointment with one of your GPs. They will go through your symptoms, assess whether an examination or further investigations are necessary, then discuss the next steps.

Rest assured there are a wealth of resources available to help get you through what can be a challenging recovery period. A number of organisations have produced helpful guides for patients on recovering from Covid-19 (see below). We particularly recommend the ‘Your recovery website’, which has advice on symptom control as well as getting back to normal activities. Your GP may also recommend having some supervised rehabilitation through our physiotherapy service, or referring you to the local psychological therapy service, Talk Wandsworth. They can help with those suffering with ongoing fatigue or low mood/ anxiety.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) are working with the Royal College of General Practitioners to develop more guidance on managing persistent symptoms of Covid-19. We hope these will be published by the end of the year, and should help further enhance our support for patients with ‘Long Covid’.


Links to trusted information on recovery after COVID-19

NHS Your Covid RecoveryGuys and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust - information on recovery after Coronavirus

If you do need to speak to someone about Coronavirus, please call NHS 111.

You can use NHS 111’s online tool as well, to assess your symptoms and get advice. This will be the same advice as given if you phone NHS 111.

Links to information and support regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Click here to read more about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please click here if you are Struggling with COVID-19? 

Click here to access information to support your recovery from Covid-19

Self certification form for employers due to Covid-19

NHS 111 Isolation Note

Guidance on Shielding & Protecting Vulnerable People

Mental Wellbeing Resources

Face Coverings: When to wear one & make your own

Face Covering exemptions

Wandsworth residents can access the wellbeing Covid-19 Support Line for patients who may be struggling with social isolation and lockdown:

Wellbeing support line (9am – 5pm) 020 3513 6264 – choose option 4

COVID-19 Conjuntivitis

Advice for Parents during Covid-19

Are you struggling with Coronavirus?

Document detailing support available for patients during Self-Isolation

ACERS Post COVID-19 Patient Information Pack – helping you to recover and manage your symptoms following COVID-19