What you need to know

A COVID-19 vaccine is our best defence against the virus used alongside effective social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands.Getting vaccinated means protecting yourself and may also help to protect your family, friends and patients from the virus.

The vaccines have been developed and approved following a number of clinical trials involving thousands of people. They have also undergone mandatory safety tests to ensure it is safe for humans.

It is given in two doses by your local NHS service.

Vaccine safety and effectiveness

Is the vaccine safe? 

Yes. As with any medicine, vaccines are highly-regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.   

The NHS does not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public unless it is approved as safe and effective by the UK regulator.  The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the official UK regulator authorising licensed use of medicines and vaccines by healthcare professionals, make this decision for each potential vaccine, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.

Are there any side effects? 

The vaccine is very well tolerated with reported side effects similar to the flu jab – soreness or redness at the injection site and some have reported a headache. Further detail on side effects can be found in the Public Health Endland leaflets.

Are there any longer-term side effects? 

These are important details which the MHRA will consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use. NHSE plans currently include provision for monitoring patients immediately after their dose is administered, and all patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting them to the MHRA.

How long does immunity last for after the vaccination?

COVID-19 remains a new infection and close observation by experts continues. At this stage it is unclear whether the vaccine will need to given yearly, like the flu vaccine, or less frequently. Trials for length of vaccine protection continue and will also inform how vaccination for COVID-19 is recommended in the future.

How is the vaccine given?

The vaccine is given by injection into the arm or shoulder.
You will need two doses of the vaccine to gain the maximum protection. These doses will be given a 12 weeks apart therefore you will need to attend two appointments to receive both doses. If you do not have both doses the vaccine will not be fully effective.

Does the vaccine contain the 'live' virus? Can it give me or anyone around me COVID-19?

No. The vaccines are designed to produce an immune response to just a small part of the virus, the spike protein. This is the part of the virus that allows it to enter into human cells and cause infection. No whole COVID-19 virus or live virus is used in the vaccines. This means the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 and does not make you infectious after you have had the vaccine. This means it is also safe for people with a suppressed immune system.

How long does it take immunity to take effect?

You will not develop full immunity until approximately 7 days after the second dose, therefore it is vital that you continue to adhere to social distancing, mask guidelines and practice good hand hygiene. No vaccine is 100% effective so it is also important you to continue to follow any government or workplace advice even after you have completed the vaccination course.

Can I have the flu vaccine at the same time?

No. You should not have your flu jab either a minimum of 7 days before the first COVID-19 vaccination dose or 7 days after you have had the second dose.

Do you have to have a test for COVID-19 before you have the vaccine?

No. You are not required to have a test prior to your vaccination, however if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 infection you must follow government guidelines and must not attend the appointment. You should follow advice you have been given to re-book your appointment.

Does the vaccine cure COVID-19 if you are positive?

You should not have the vaccine if you have had confirmed COVID-19 infection in the previous 28 days unless you are advised by your doctor that it is suitable for you to do so.

Are the vaccines suitable for vegans?

There are no animal products listed in the ingredients.

Are there any non-intramuscular options non-injection options such as a nasal spray or pill? 

Not at this time. 

Do people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated?

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). We don’t yet know how long immunity lasts after having been infected with COVID-19, so getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had it as it is for those who haven’t.

If I have antibodies do I need a vaccine?

Yes; it is unclear how long antibodies produced following infection may provide protection and whether the protection is as effective as that provided by vaccination. It is therefore recommended you have a vaccine if offered one.

Can people pick which vaccine they want?

No, both vaccines have been approved by the medicine regulatory authorities so you should be assured that whatever vaccine you are offered, it is safe and effective. 

Does one vaccine have the potentail to be better than the other?

We will need to see the final clinical evidence from trials on this. The important point for any vaccine is whether MHRA approve it for use – if it does then that means it’s a worthwhile vaccine to have and people should have it if they are eligible.

Once vaccinated can people stop wearing a mask/social distancing? 

No. While the vaccination prevents the development of the infection in around 90-95% of people, there is still a chance of contracting the virus or transmission to others. It is therefore very important to continue wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.

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