COVID-19 vaccine and people living with severe mental illness

In early December 2020, the first vaccine developed to protect people against the coronavirus pandemic was launched in the UK. Other vaccines have since been approved. Under current proposals, people diagnosed and living with severe mental illness are classed as a high priority group to receive the vaccine. This page will help you understand more about the vaccine, as well as where you can find additional information.

What are COVID-19 vaccines?

Different COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and many people have now received the first dose of a vaccine.  The vaccines have been approved by the medicines regulator, The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  They say that the vaccines are safe.    

You can read information about the vaccines on the NHS website and on the government website. It will help you to read this information if you’re worried about having a vaccine.  It says that:

  • the vaccines have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, and
  • thousands of people have been given a coronavirus vaccine and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.

Who will be offered the vaccine first?

As millions of people will want the vaccine, the government must decide what groups of people will be offered it first.  The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the government on vaccines and immunisation.  They have advised on who should be offered the vaccine and when they should be offered it.

The JCVI say that people with underlying health conditions are a priority group.  This includes people living with severe mental illness. 

So, if you live with severe mental illness the JCVI say you should be offered a vaccine once one has been offered to people who are:

  • residents in a care home for older adults,
  • frontline health, social care and care home workers,
  • 65 and over, and
  • clinically extremely vulnerable.


What do they mean by severe mental illness?

For the purposes of the vaccination, Public Health England say that people who live with severe mental illness are:

“Individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment.”

We will update this information when we know more about exactly who with severe mental illness will be offered the vaccine and how they’ll be offered it.

How will I be offered a vaccine?

When the NHS are ready to offer you a vaccine, they will send you a letter inviting you to book an appointment.   Once you receive your letter you can book an appointment online.

At your appointment, you’ll be asked questions about your medical history. This is so NHS staff can make sure it’s safe for you to have the vaccine.

If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine before your appointment you can speak to your GP or call NHS 111.

Where can I read JCVI’s advice to the government?

You can read JCVI's advice to the government on the gov.uk websiteThe full priority list is on page 8 and information on ‘Underlying health conditions’ starts on page 5.   You can find out what is meant by ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ on page 4. 


This page was last updated on 12 January. We will continue to update this page with news and information about vaccinations for patients living with severe mental illness as we learn more over the coming months. 

We care about your privacy
This website uses cookies to give you the best experience.
Read our updated privacy policy and cookies policy