COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know

What you need to know about getting the vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know.  Vaccines in general help to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and are perhaps the best hope for bringing the pandemic to an end.  Find out about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, how they work, the possible side effects and the importance of continuing to take infection prevention steps.

What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

A COVID-19 vaccine might:

  • Prevent you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19.
  • Prevent you from spreading the COVID-19 virus to others.
  • Those in the community who are protected from getting COVID-19 and making it harder for the disease to spread and contributing to herd immunity.
  • Prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading and replicating, which allows it to mutate and possibly become more resistant to vaccines.

Is it safe, and how effective is it?

Is the coronavirus vaccine safe?

Yes, it is very safe.

Vaccines are only approved for use after being thoroughly tested on tens of thousands of people. On top of that, millions of people have now had the vaccines in the UK, the overwhelming majority without serious reactions.

To approve a vaccine, experts at the MHRA look carefully at all the evidence about the vaccine and make sure that it meets strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness.  All the approved vaccines are shown to be safe.

There have been an exceedingly small number of reports of allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. For most people, there is no need to worry about these reports. People receiving the Pfizer vaccine will be observed by medical staff for 15 minutes afterwards – so in the extremely rare event of a reaction, it can be treated right away.

Millions of people have now had the vaccine and the number of serious allergic reactions have been exceedingly rare, fewer than 1 in 50,000 people in the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 in the case of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The only people with allergies who should not get the vaccine are those with a history of serious reaction to the vaccine ingredients. You can have the vaccine even if you have a history of anaphylactic shock to other things – just let the person who is giving you the vaccine know beforehand.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines protect against the COVID-19 variants?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know, early research suggests that the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines can provide protection against the COVID-19 variants identified here in the UK and South Africa.

Vaccine manufacturers are also looking into creating booster shots to improve protection against variants.  In clinical trials, the COVID-19 vaccine provided protection against severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by variants identified in South Africa and Brazil.

Can a COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?

In short, the answer is No.  The COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the UK do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Keep in mind that it will take a few weeks for your body to build immunity after getting a COVID-19 vaccination. As a result, it is possible that you could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or after being vaccinated.

What are the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?

What side effects does the Oxford vaccine have?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know.  Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Many people do not get any side effects. For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (like the other vaccines), most side effects that do occur are mild and short-term.

The most common are discomfort at the injection site, or feeling generally unwell, tired, or feverish, or a headache, feeling sick or having joint or muscle pain. You can take paracetamol to treat any of these side effects.

Often side effects are a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: it can happen with many vaccines that some people might feel slightly unwell because their immune system is responding to the protein, but this is not a Covid-19 illness and the vaccine cannot give you coronavirus.

What side effects does the Pfizer vaccine have?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although many people do not get any side effects at all. For the Pfizer vaccine (like the other vaccines), many side effects are mild and short-term.

The most common are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain or chills. Do not worry if your arm starts to hurt the next day, this is not a cause for concern and is usually gone within a day or two. You can take paracetamol to treat any of these side effects.

Often the side effects are just a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: it can happen with many vaccines that some people might feel slightly unwell because their immune system is responding to the protein, but this is not a Covid-19 illness and the vaccine cannot give you coronavirus.

What side effects does the Moderna vaccine have?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know, like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although many people do not get any side effects at all. For the Moderna vaccine (like the other vaccines), many side effects are mild and short-term.

The most common are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, or chills. You can take paracetamol to treat any of these side effects.

Often the side effects are just a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: it can happen with many vaccines that some people might feel slightly unwell because their immune system is responding to the protein, but this is not a Covid-19 illness and the vaccine cannot give you coronavirus.

What are the long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Because COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials only started in the summer of 2020, it is not yet clear if these vaccines will have long-term side effects. However, vaccines rarely cause long-term side effects.

Is it okay to take an over-the-counter pain medication before or after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

It is not recommended that you take a pain medication before getting a COVID-19 vaccine to prevent possible discomfort.  It is not clear how these medications might impact the effectiveness of the vaccines.  However, it is okay to take this kind of medication after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, if you have no other medical reason that would prevent you from taking it.

When will I get the vaccine?

This depends on which group you are in. People over 70, those in the shielding group, care home residents and health and care staff should have been given their first dose or offered an appointment by now. If you are in one of these groups and have not had your first appointment, you are being asked to book in.

People over 55 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are now being sent appointments or invitations to book. If you live in England, you can book online using the NHS website or by calling 119.  If a suitable slot is not available, you can also ring your GP practice. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the NHS is asking people to wait to be invited.

The government also says all high-risk groups – that is, everyone over 50, health and care staff and those with health conditions – should receive their first dose by May. And it says all adults should receive a first dose by September.

You should get an invitation to have the vaccine when it is your turn. Currently, this is the order of priority as decided by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), the expert committee which advises the UK government on immunisation:

  1. Older people who live in a care home, and their carers
  2. Frontline health and social care workers, and all those 80 years of age and over
  3. 75 and over.
  4. Aged 70 and over, and clinically extremely vulnerable people (the shielding group) aged 16 to 69.
  5. People aged 65 and over.
  6. 16 years to 64 with health conditions which put them at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus. These include heart or circulatory disease, as well as diabetes, chronic lung, kidney or liver disease, extreme obesity and if your immune system is not working properly. People who are unpaid carers for someone who relies on them (including those who get carers’ allowance)
  7. 60 and over.
  8. 55 and over.
  9. 50 and over.

Should I have the coronavirus vaccine?

Yes, you should get the vaccine if you are offered it. Having the vaccine means you are much less likely to become ill from Covid-19, which can cause serious illness and death. Now you will only be offered it if it is considered that you will benefit from the vaccine more than the general population. If you have a heart condition, you are at increased risk of serious illness if you catch the virus, so it is important to have it.

Having the vaccine could also benefit those around you. Although it does not mean you cannot spread the virus, it may make it less likely, and if more people are vaccinated, that also reduces the potential for the virus to form new variants that might stop a vaccine from working in future.

Tell your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse beforehand if any of these apply you. You may still be able to have the vaccine, but there may be things they need to check or discuss with you first:

  • If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after any other vaccine injection.
  • Currently have a severe infection with a high temperature (over 38°C).
  • You have a problem with bleeding or bruising, or if you are taking a blood thinning medicine (anticoagulant) – read more about the vaccine if you are taking anticoagulants.
  • Your immune system does not work properly (immunodeficiency) or you are taking medicines that weaken the immune system (such as high-dose corticosteroids, immunosuppressants or cancer medicines).

How long does the vaccine last?

We do not yet know exactly how long protection will last, because the vaccines have not been around for long enough.  The second dose is more important for longer-lasting protection, so it is important to go back for your second dose when you are invited for it.

The length of protection may vary between different vaccines. It is likely to be at least several months, but it may be that repeat vaccinations are needed. Researchers are studying this closely.

How quickly does the vaccine work?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know, generally, the protection from the virus starts after 12-14 days. This is because your immune system needs to generate a response, and people’s immune systems can vary.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford vaccines both need to be given in two doses. The second dose will be given three to 12 weeks after the first (for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine) or four to 12 weeks after the first dose (for the Oxford vaccine).

You will still have a good level of protection after the first dose, so do not worry if you are not invited for the second dose as quickly as you might have hoped. The second dose is important to get the best level of protection, and for longer-lasting protection, so it is important to go back for your second dose.

Which vaccine will I get?

As the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca are the only vaccines that are currently available in the UK, now you are likely to receive one of these. The third approved vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, is not expected to become available in the UK until the spring, because Moderna is expanding its European supply chain. You will not necessarily be told in advance which vaccine you will get.

I have already had Covid-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes, it is important to get the vaccine, even if you’ve already had Covid-19. You may have some level of immunity if you have had the disease, but this varies and may not last long. The MHRA has considered the issue and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who have not.

How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know, research suggests that it is highly effective. This is based both on clinical trials and on the effects of the vaccine now it is being given widely in the UK.

Trials in 44,000 people found that after two doses the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective at preventing Covid-19 symptoms and illness in those aged 16 and over. The short-term effectiveness after one dose is estimated at 89%, although this has not been measured long term.

Now that many people have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside of clinical trials, researchers have been able to release early results on how effective the vaccine is in the ‘real world’.

Research from the University of Edinburgh, published in February 2021, found that around four weeks after the first dose, the vaccine reduces the chances of someone needing hospital treatment for Covid-19 by 85%.

At the same time, Public Health England published a report looking at the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rollout in England. Their findings suggest that the risk of needing hospital treatment for or dying from Covid-19 was reduced by 75% in those who have received at least one dose. And the vaccine appears to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection, not just serious illness.

Early results from another study looking at the effects of the vaccine in hospital staff found that those who had received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 72% less likely to test positive for coronavirus seven days after the first dose and 86% less likely to test positive seven days after the second dose, compared with those who had not been vaccinated.

How effective is the Oxford vaccine?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know, research suggests that it is remarkably effective. This is based both on clinical trials and on the effects of the vaccine now it is being given widely in the UK.

Trials in 11,000 people found that after two doses the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 70% effective at preventing Covid-19 symptoms. None of those who did develop Covid-19 despite getting the vaccine needed hospital treatment, which suggests that it gives exceedingly high protection against severe disease. The short-term effectiveness after one dose is estimated at 73%, although this has not been measured long term.

Now that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is being given widely across the UK, the first research into how effective it is at preventing severe illness from Covid-19 in the UK has been carried out. The study by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, published on 22 February 2021, found that four weeks after the first dose, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the chances of someone with Covid-19 needing hospital treatment by 94%.

How effective is the Moderna vaccine?

Trials in 27,000 people found that after two doses the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective at preventing Covid-19 symptoms and illness in those aged 16 and over. The short-term effectiveness after the first dose is similar.

How has it been developed so quickly?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know.  Because of the global emergency, developing this vaccine has been prioritised by scientists, drug companies and governments, and a huge amount of collaboration has helped this to happen as fast as possible. The vaccines that have been developed have all been through the same amount of testing and safety processes as other vaccines. Any vaccine that is approved will still have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands of people.

Before the pandemic even started, scientists had been planning for an outbreak of a new disease and thinking about how a vaccine could be developed as quickly as possible. It helped that Covid-19 is caused by a coronavirus (like SARS) so scientists already knew about how coronaviruses work, including the “spikes” on the surface which can be used to trigger a reaction from the immune system. Vaccine technology has also improved in recent years.

Some of the processes which are usually involved in scientific research have been speeded up so that the vaccine can be available more quickly. For example, trial participants were recruited whilst the study was still being set up, so that they were ready to start as soon as the research was approved. All the usual phases have been gone through, but without waiting between them, and once the initial safety trials were finished, some of the later trials were run at the same time rather than one after the other.

Drug companies also decided to start producing the vaccines on a large scale whilst the trials were still happening. That brought them the risk that they would have to destroy them if the vaccine were not approved, but means they are ready to be distributed much more quickly.

The approval by the MHRA has also been quicker than usual because it was conducting reviews as new evidence became available. The MHRA has also said its staff have been working “round the clock” to assess the vaccine. There has been a strong commitment from regulators to make sure that the vaccine has been assessed as carefully as possible, to prioritise public safety, while also working quickly.

Can women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have the vaccine?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know.  Although pregnant and breastfeeding women were at first not eligible for the vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers have reviewed the evidence and say that the benefits of vaccine outweigh the risks for pregnant women who is the risk of exposure to the virus is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that place her at extremely high risk of serious complications of Covid-19. For women trying to become pregnant, the vaccine does not mean they should delay that, and it is also ok to have the vaccine if you are breastfeeding.

Can children have the vaccine?

COVID-19 Vaccine – What you need to know.  It is not planned currently, but this may change in future as new evidence emerges. Very few children get seriously ill from coronavirus. Now, only children at surprisingly high risk of catching the virus as well as of becoming seriously ill from it, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities in residential care, will be offered the vaccine.

Researchers are currently testing the vaccine in younger people (aged 12 to 15) and trials will be expanded to children aged 5 to 11 later this year. So, the situation may change in future.

VIRUS CONTROL

COVID Vaccine

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.