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Frequently Asked Questions Covid Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions Covid Vaccine

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Frequently Asked Questions Covid Vaccine

1. Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines teach your immune system how to protect you from diseases. It's much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and attempting to treat them.

Vaccines can reduce or even eradicate some diseases, if enough people are vaccinated. Since vaccines were introduced, diseases like smallpox and polio that used to kill or disable millions of people are gone from the UK.

The long term response to the pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all who need it. It’s a way to keep friends and family safe, potentially leading to lifting of restrictions.

2. When will the vaccine be available?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines have been approved for use in the UK and are available in Northern Ireland.

3. Will there be enough vaccine available to vaccinate the whole population over time?

The UK government has placed orders for a number of candidate vaccinations, there is expected to be enough doses to cover the whole UK population over the coming year.

4. Will the covid vaccine be compulsory?

The UK operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations. There are no plans in place to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory.

5. Who decides who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.

JCVI guidance has identified the first priority groups to be care home residents and staff, health and social care workers and people aged over 80, who will be offered the vaccine first.

It is anticipated that further priority groups based on age and clinical vulnerability factors will be added to those eligible to receive the new COVID-19 vaccinations as supplies increase in 2021.

6. Are there any precautions I need to take before or after I receive the covid vaccine?

You should follow existing advice to reduce spread of COVID-19 as this will enable you to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, before and after vaccination. Wear a face covering when attending the Vaccine Clinic.

7. Which covid vaccine will I get?

You will be offered a vaccine which has been approved by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as safe and effective and recommended by the JCVI for persons of your age or risk group.

8. Is one vaccine better than another?

Each candidate vaccine will have completed a full programme of research, including considerations of vaccine efficacy and safety. Each vaccine will be reviewed by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which will grant approval and licencing of vaccines if they meet the required effectiveness and safety requirements. Any vaccine offered will be effective and safe.

9. Can I choose which vaccine I receive?

As people have to complete a course of two vaccinations and the programme will be delivered in a phased approach to ensure those most at risk are vaccinated first, it is not possible to choose one vaccine over another.

10. Is it a live vaccine?

Neither of the first two vaccines expected to be used in the UK are live vaccines. They are therefore suitable to use in those who are immunosuppressed, although the response may be sub-optimal and other measures to reduce risk will need to continue to be observed.

11. Who can get the vaccine?

It is expected that all adults aged 18 years will be offered the vaccine in due course. There are very few individuals who cannot receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. Where there is doubt, rather than withholding vaccination, appropriate advice should be sought from the relevant specialist, or from the local immunisation or health protection team, to allow individuals to make an informed decision.

The vaccine should not be given to those who have had a previous systemic allergic reaction (including immediate-onset anaphylaxis) to:

  • A previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine
  • Any component of the COVID-19 vaccine being offered

Or to individuals with:

  • Current COVID-19 infection or history of COVID-19 infection within the last 4 weeks.
  • If you have severe illness and a high fever on the day of vaccination.

Vaccine recipients should be monitored for 15 mins after vaccination, with a longer observation period when indicated after clinical assessment.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine contains polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and also in household goods and cosmetics. Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but people with this allergy should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs. The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain PEG and is a suitable alternative.

12. I’ve had COVID already/tested positive for antibodies, do I need to be vaccinated?

Vaccination should be deferred until clinical recovery from COVID-19, for at least four weeks after onset of symptoms or four weeks from the first PCR positive specimen in those who are asymptomatic.

13. I don’t know anyone who’s had COVID, so why do we need a vaccine?

The number of people worldwide who have died with COVID-19 has passed one million, with many regions still reporting surging numbers of new infections.

In Northern Ireland, there have been many deaths and thousands more people hospitalised, or with ongoing health complications.

People continue to get infected, and once the virus starts to spread it can do so rapidly. Even if you, your family or friends haven’t experienced it first hand, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a threat. Protect your family and others. Being vaccinated will help to protect you and reduce the spread of this deadly virus.

14. Will the vaccine be free if I’m in a priority group? Will it be free if I’m not?

The vaccine will be provided free to those recommended to be vaccinated by JCVI. It may take a while to get to everybody, but, when you are invited, make sure you get yours.

15. Will other measures (social distancing/face coverings/lockdowns) still apply to me if I’ve had the vaccine?

Yes, you should still act to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community and stick to the regulations.

16. Once we get a vaccine, can we end restrictions and lockdowns?

An effective vaccine will be the best way to protect the most vulnerable from coronavirus and the biggest breakthrough since the pandemic began. It will be a huge step forward in the fight against coronavirus, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives. Once vaccinations begin, the Government will closely monitor the impact on individuals, on HSC pressures and on the spread of the virus.

The full impact on infection rates will not become clear until a large number of people have been vaccinated, but as larger numbers do get vaccinated, we will hopefully move further along the path back to a more normal way of life.

As large numbers of people from at risk groups are given a vaccine, the Government will be able to examine the impact on infection rates, hospitalisation and reduced deaths; if successful this should in time lead to a substantial reassessment of current restrictions. Given the numbers of people to be vaccinated it is likely to be many months before the full impact of the programme is seen in the community.

17. What about treatments, are there effective ways to treat COVID?

There are some treatments that have been proven to make a difference, for example antiviral drug remdesivir can reduce the length of illness. Two steroid drugs, dexamethasone and hydrocortisone, have been shown to save lives but only in people who are seriously ill in hospital.

However, it is best not to get the illness at all, rather than get it and treat it. A vaccine can help stop you getting it, lessen the impact of the disease and slow it spreading. This will help stop others getting it and passing it on.

18. Will the vaccine become a yearly injection like the flu vaccine?

Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine are not yet recommended because the need for, and timing of, boosters has not yet been determined.

19. How effective is the first vaccine injection without getting the second one? 

It is important to have both doses of the vaccine to give you the best protection. While the first dose acts as an important immune response primer, the second dose is needed to boost your body’s immune response to the COVID-19 virus providing the best protection for you.

20. Have the vaccines been tested in people over 80 years old or just in younger populations?

The vaccines have been tested in people aged 80 years and above. SARS-C0V-2 vaccine trials have only just begun in children and there are therefore, very limited data on safety and effectiveness in this group at present.

21. If I receive a RNA-based vaccine what are the implications for it tampering with my DNA in longer term?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a messenger RiboNucelaic Acid (mRNA) vaccine. The mRNA that is used to make a virus protein is read by your cells and that protein is produced for a short time. The code for creating that protein is never incorporated into your DNA , mRNA is read directly by the cells and a protein which generates a protective immune response is produced from it. The vaccine will therefore not affect your DNA.

22. Can I still spread the virus to others if I am vaccinated?

The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, this should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill. However, as the vaccine is new it is not been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated. Therefore, the best protection you can have is to have the vaccination when you are invited to attend.

 

  1. If a person has received the vaccination and is subsequently notified that they have been in direct contact with a positive case - are they still required to isolate?

Yes. While the purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, which should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill; as the vaccine is new it is not been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated. Therefore if you are a household contact of or are advised by Contact Tracing or the STOPCOVID NI App you are a close contact of a case of COVID-19 you need to self-isolate.

24. What percentage of the population needs to get the vaccine to have herd immunity?

When a high proportion of a population receive an effective vaccine it becomes difficult for the disease to spread, this gives protection to vulnerable people such as newborn babies and other people who can’t be vaccinated which is known as herd immunity. It is not clear what proportion of people would be required to be vaccinated to achieve this because the vaccines against the disease are new and COVID-19 is a global pandemic infection. Therefore, the best protection you can have is to have the vaccination when you are invited to attend.

25. Is there gluten in the vaccine as I am coeliac?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in certain cereal grains. COVID-19 vaccinations do not contain gluten.

26. Can the COVID-19 vaccine lead to people having a positive COVID-19 nose or throat swab test?

No. The vaccines being used produce a protective immune antibody response which can be measured by serology blood tests.

They do not affect a PCR swab test, which is the basis of diagnosing COVID-19 infection by detecting viral RNA in the nose and throat.

PCR tests will be used as part of the vaccine effectiveness assessment in those who are vaccinated and subsequently develop symptoms of COVID-19.

How the vaccine is given

27. How long is the course of treatment? How many injections and over what period of time?

This will vary between the vaccines.

28. How long do I have to wait between the first and second doses of the vaccine?

You will be given an appointment to receive your second dose up to 12 weeks after the first. More information on rescheduling of the 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

29. What happens if I don’t go for my second appointment?

The first dose of both COVID-19 vaccines will provide short term protection. It is important to get the second dose to provide more full, longer term protection against COVID-19.

30. How long do I have to wait after getting the vaccine before I can leave the clinic?

Everyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine will be observed for any immediate reactions during the period they are receiving any post-immunisation information and confirmation of their second appointment, if required.

We advise that people being vaccinated should either be driven by someone else or, if this is not possible, should not drive for 15 minutes after vaccination.

Safety and effectiveness of the vaccine

31. Will the vaccine fully protect me against Covid-19?

The current vaccines have demonstrated a high level of protection against COVID-19 but no vaccine provides 100% protection. However, as more people in the population are vaccinated with an effective vaccine the risks of circulating virus should increase protecting those people who either do not respond fully to the vaccine or who are unable to have the vaccine because of allergic reactions.

32. If I have the vaccine will I be immune for life?Can I still catch COVID after I’ve been immunised?

Duration of protection remains unknown, and further doses may be necessary. 

33. Has the vaccine been rushed? Is it safe?

For a vaccine to reach the general public it will have to work and be safe.

There may be a misconception that vaccine research takes a long time but it isn’t the research that takes the time – it’s all the steps beforehand, like getting funding and approval. What’s sped up in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is the funding. The UK Government funded trials to get them up and running quickly.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Medicines Research Authority have sped up the process of approval – things like administrative paperwork that used to take months is now being done in days. This is what’s brought down the time for delivery of the clinical trials.

Processes have been streamlined and run in parallel. The length of the trials themselves has not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place and high standards must still be met.

It has also been enabled by new technology, including the ability to rapidly manufacture vaccines. And supply – the vaccine is being produced already so that as soon as it’s known to be safe and effective it can be made available.

34. I have a health condition. How will I be sure the vaccine is safe?

The vaccines do not contain living organisms, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine. Any person with a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine. A second dose of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of Pfizer BioNtech vaccination.

Vaccine recipients should be monitored for 15 mins after vaccination, with a longer observation period when indicated after clinical assessment.

35. Do I have to wait after getting the flu vaccine before I can get the COVID vaccine?

Current recommendations are that you should wait for 7 days after having another vaccination before having the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to avoid incorrectly attributing any side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine.

36. Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or if I’m planning to get pregnant?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has amended its previous highly precautionary advice on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy or breastfeeding. Vaccination with either vaccine in pregnancy should be considered where the risk of exposure SARS-CoV2 infection is high and cannot be avoided, or where the woman has underlying conditions that place her at very high risk of serious complications of COVID-19, and the risks and benefits of vaccination should be discussed.

Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination, and breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with either vaccine following consideration of the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19. The UK Chief Medical Officers agree with this advice.

37. I’ve heard the COVID-19 vaccination can affect your chances of getting pregnant?

Social media posts claiming that the “head of Pfizer research” said the company’s COVID-19 vaccine would cause infertility in women have been shared widely in recent days.

The person referred to is a former employee of Pfizer who left the company in 2011 and who has shared misinformation about COVID-19 in the past.

38. What happens if I experience side effects/adverse or unexpected events, how do I report it?

Vaccines are very safe. As with all medicines, side effects can occur after getting a vaccine. However, these are usually very minor and of short duration, such as a sore arm or a mild fever. An uncommon side effect is swelling of the local glands. More serious side effects are possible, but extremely rare. Tests have been done in thousands of adults to ensure the vaccine is safe.

At the point of vaccination, you will receive information about how to report any adverse events. It is essential that any events are reported and investigated. The safety of patients/ recipients is paramount.

39. What’s in the vaccines? Will they have any ingredients which are unsuitable for [religious group/vegan/ allergies etc]?

Patient leaflets explaining the different vaccines and ingredients will be developed and information made available to people prior to vaccination so they can make an informed decision.

  • The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products.
  • The British Islamic Medical Association has released a position statement recommending the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for the Muslim community at https://britishima.org/covid19-vaccine-az/

Any person with a history of anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine being offered should not receive it. A second dose of the same vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of it.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine contains polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and also in household goods and cosmetics. Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but people with this allergy should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs. The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain PEG and is a suitable alternative.

40. What vaccines will we have?

The UK has secured access to seven different possible vaccines, across four different vaccine types, reflecting the government’s strategy to ensure the UK has a supply of vaccines should they prove safe and effective in clinical trials. These are at separate stages of development.

The UK has secured early access to over 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several separate vaccine developers at various stages of trials, including:

  • 100 million doses of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
  • 40 million doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
  • 7 million doses of Moderna vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
  • 60 million doses of Novavax vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
  • 60 million doses of Valneva vaccine – pre-clinical trials
  • 60 million doses of GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine – phase 1 clinical trials
  • 30 million doses of Janssen vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials

The UK has invested over £230m into manufacturing any successful vaccine and an enormous amount of planning and preparation has taken place across Government to be able to quickly roll out the vaccine, including ensuring we have adequate provision, transport, PPE and logistical expertise to do so.


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