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Below is a range of frequent questions and answers about the Covid-19 vaccine asked by care staff across north central London.

 

Mandatory Vaccinations

Deciding whether to have the covid-19 vaccine

Covid-19 illness and the vaccine

Covid-19 vaccine and pregnancy

Future implications for covid-19 vaccines

Wider safeguards

IPC and PPE requirements 

Updated guidance on the AZ / Oxford vaccine

 

Mandatory Vaccines

Is the vaccine mandatory?

A: Taking the vaccine is a matter of choice for us as members of the public. We highly recommend that anyone interested in working in adult social care is fully Covid-19 vaccinated. Vaccination makes yourself, the people that you care for and the people around you safer.

However, the government has announced that everyone working in a care home must be fully vaccinated by 11th November and to achieve this staff must have a first dose by 16th September. The exception is if someone is medically exempt. The link to the guidance is below.

The government has also announced that it will consult on making vaccinations a condition of deployment in other care and NHS settings.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vaccination-of-people-working-or-deployed-in-care-homes-operational-guidance

Q: Are there any adults who shouldn’t have the vaccine?

A: People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated. Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine.

The vaccine ingredients for the vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Any ingredients with potential to cause harm, for example, an allergic reaction, are listed even if present in such small amounts.

Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

If you have an existing health problem, you may want to contact your health care team for their advice about getting vaccinated. The vaccine will reduce your risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus. The NHS has worked with a range of charities to produce guidance about the COVID-19 vaccine and health conditions.

Q. Can I choose which vaccine I get?

A: If you book an appointment through the national booking service, you will be offered a vaccine that is suitable for your age group. The JCVI advice states that it is preferable for people under 40 to have a vaccine other than AstraZeneca. On the NHS list of walk-in clinics in North Central London, the available vaccines are shown along with the clinic times, so you can choose to go to a clinic that is offering the vaccine you would prefer. It is recommended to have the same vaccine for both doses, so if you had the AstraZeneca vaccine for your first dose and did not have any serious side effects, you should have it for your second dose.

Deciding whether to have the covid-19 vaccine

Q: Is the vaccine safe?    

A: The Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK and are now available. Currently the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has advised that it is preferable for people under 40 to have a vaccine other than Oxford/AstraZeneca. The vaccines have been approved as safe by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). The vaccines have been through 3 phases of clinical trials with thousands of volunteers with no serious safety concerns. As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process.

At your vaccine appointment you will speak to a clinician who will check that you are suitable to receive the vaccine and can answers any that questions that you might have.

Q: How were these vaccines developed so quickly when it usually takes so long?

A: The vaccines have been developed and trialed in the same way as other medicines and vaccines available in the UK but there are several reasons why they have been developed quickly compared to other medicines.

  • The different phases of the vaccine trial were run at the same time, rather than one after the other, which sped up the clinical process.
  • The data from the trials was shared with the MHRA as soon as it was available, rather than waiting until the end.
  • Funding for all the trials was available at every stage, so there were no delays often caused by seeking funding to continue.
  • Thousands of people were recruited to take part in the clinical trial very quickly, as it was a global effort and many people wanted to volunteer.

Q: What do I do if my staff won't don't want to take the vaccine?           

A: It is everyone’s individual choice whether to have the vaccine. We want to make sure everyone makes an informed choice.

We would suggest talking to staff about their fears and share the information when it comes available. You might want to do this as a group and give people an opportunity to discuss individually. Do share the information in this FAQ or presentations from our webinars with staff.

Staff in care homes will be required to be vaccinated, unless they are medically exempt, in order to work in that setting so you must follow the guidance referenced above for these settings.

 Please see the below credible sites which offer information relate to Covid-19 and the vaccines:

Resources from Public Health England that you may find helpful:

  • General vaccine fact sheets and patient information leaflets, which can be downloaded here
  • Video about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be viewed here
  • COVID-19 vaccine social care worker leaflet
  • Leaflet on what to expect what to expect after vaccination leaflet 

Q: Do younger adults need to have the vaccination as Covid-19 is less serious for them?              

A: Even if you are younger, you can still get seriously ill from Covid, including longer lasting symptoms from 'Long Covid' like severe fatigue.

Early research is showing that Long Covid – where COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone – affects both younger and older people.  The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated will help us all get life back to normal by reducing the spread of the virus and protecting your family and friends.

Q: Has the vaccine been used with people like me?

A: The vaccines have been tested with thousands of people from a broad set of ages, ethnicities and long-term conditions. The vaccines have been shown to protect all groups. There is no evidence that side effects were any commoner in people of certain ethnicities or with long term conditions. There is some evidence for one of the vaccines that side effects were less common in older people.

All vaccines that are approved for use in the UK have been trialed on people from a variety of different ethnic groups.

  • Out of the participants in the phase 3 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, 58% were White, 26% Hispanic/Latino, 10% Black, 5% Asian and 1% Native American.
  • Out of the participants in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial, the 75.5% of recipients were White,10.1% were Black and 3.5% were Asian.
  • Out of the participants in the Moderna vaccine trial, 19.7% were Hispanic or Latino, and 9.7% were African American.

There is no evidence any of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups. 

Q: What are the side effects?

A: Most side effects are mild or moderate and go away within a few days of appearing. If side effects such as pain and/or fever are troublesome, they can be treated by medicines for pain and fever such as paracetamol. The common side effects are pain at injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.

Rarely the vaccine may give rise to an allergic reaction. All staff giving vaccines have been trained to treat these.

Side effects are listed in the information leaflets:

•             Public Health England COVID-19 vaccination patient leaflet

•             Public Health England COVID-19 vaccine health and social care worker leaflet

•             Leaflet on what to expect after your COVID-19 vaccinations 

Q: Can people with allergies have the vaccine? 

A: If you've ever had a serious allergic reaction, you should tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated.

You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

Q: Can I have just one dose?

A: It is your choice whether to have the vaccine and you could choose not to have a second dose. However, this is not recommended as you will have less protection.

All of the vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death following the 2nd dose and recent research shows this is particularly important protection against the Delta variant on the virus. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses.

Q: Does consent for the first dose mean you agree to the 2nd dose?      

A: No, you must consent to both doses of the vaccine, these are recorded in separate documents.

Q: Can I have the vaccine of my choice, such as the Oxford-AstraZeneca?             

A: You will be offered the vaccine that is suitable for your age as per the JCVI advice therefore, national booking site you will be guided to an appropriate vaccine.

Covid-19 Illness and the vaccine

Q: Can the vaccine give me Covid-19?

A: No. Vaccines are developed by taking parts of the virus itself. The parts of the virus in the vaccine cannot reproduce in your body and cannot give you Covid-19

Q: Why do some people have a Covid-19 vaccine and then test positive?    

A: The vaccines cannot give you Covid-19. You cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught Covid-19 and not develop the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment. You could also be infected shortly after taking the vaccine as the vaccine does not fully protect for 2-3 weeks. Additionally, no vaccine is 100% effective so some people will test positive later, however, even in this instance the vaccine should reduce the severity of the infection.

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell.

If you have symptoms or are a contact of someone that has had Covid-19 you should get a test and follow instructions around isolation.

Q: I want the vaccine but have tested positive for Covid-19, can I have the vaccine?

A: It’s recommended you wait 4 weeks from the date you tested positive before having the vaccine.

Q: Should I have the vaccine, even if I know I have had the disease or if I have long Covid-19?

A: Experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from Covid-19. Some people have had Covid-19 more than once. If you are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ and you are eligible for a vaccination, you can get your vaccination. 

However, if you are still under active investigation, if your condition has recently got worse, you might consider getting it at a later date.  This is so any changes in condition can be correctly attributed to either long covid or the vaccine.   If this situation applies to you, please discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.

Q: Do the vaccines stop the spread of Covid-19?              

A: There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

This means it is important to:

  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it's hard to stay away from other people
  • Follow infection, prevention and control (IPC) approaches that social care providers have developed to keep yourself and the people you care for safe

However, the vaccines do reduce the spread and are one of the key ways we can protect other people as well as ourselves.

Covid-19 vaccine and pregnancy

Q: Can the vaccine make a woman infertile?

A: There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby Covid-19.

The leading experts in this field are the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data.

“There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women's fertility.  Evidence has not been presented that women who have been vaccinated have gone on to have fertility problems.”

  • https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/RCOG-and-RCM-respond-to-misinformation-around-Covid-19-vaccine-and-fertility/
  • Specific unfounded claims have been made against the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines, which are summarised here:
  • Pfizer: https://fullfact.org/health/vaccine-covid-fertility/

Oxford/AstaZeneca: The vaccine contains polysorbate 80, which is also present in other vaccines, including that against HPV. Critics of the HPV vaccine have said that it causes infertility. There is no evidence to support this. https://ebm.bmj.com/content/25/6/191

Additionally, no other vaccines impact on fertility.

Q: Can women who are breast feeding now have the vaccine if they chose?

A: The JCVI has recommended that the vaccines can be received while breastfeeding. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Find more information on fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the vaccine here or download a leaflet in a range of languages on the gov.uk website. Read more information from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Q: If you are trying to become pregnant can you have the vaccines?

A: Yes, those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

Q: Do the vaccines impact on male fertility?

No. There is nothing in any of the vaccines that is likely to impact male fertility and no evidence whatsoever in trials and tests conducted. In addition, no other vaccines impact on fertility.

Future implications for Covid-19 vaccines

Q: Will vaccine status be required for overseas travel?

A: There is increasing use of vaccination status around overseas travel regulations (e.g. reduced quarantine requirements) and this seems likely to be commonplace. 

Q: Is yearly vaccination necessary?         

A: At this stage we do not know the answer to that question, but it is possible as, like the flu virus, the Covid-19 virus does mutate and a new flu vaccine is needed on a yearly basis. It is likely that there will be booster vaccinations at some point in autumn/ winter 2021 for some at risk groups.

Q: Are there increased side effects from yearly vaccinations?

A: We don’t know whether Covid-19 will require an annual vaccination (see above). However, for the annual vaccinations that are in use such as flu there is no evidence that yearly vaccines have an increased risk of adverse side effects.

Q: Can you guarantee no rare adverse reactions or reactions that occur later?

A: So far, millions of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No contents of any of the vaccines, or findings from the clinical trials, suggest a significant risk. This has not been a problem with other vaccinations, which have the same checks and balances. No long-term complications have been reported.

Wider Safeguards

 Q: Has the vaccine has been ‘rushed through’, how can I be sure no corners have been cut?

A: The Covid-19 response has seen unprecedented resources, collaboration and funding for a vaccine search.

The NHS will offer a Covid-19 vaccination only when it has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the official UK regulator, like all other medicines and devices.

The vaccines went through all the normal stages of development and approval. It happened more quickly because of several reasons including:

•             There had been vaccine work on other coronaviruses

•             There was no waiting for funding

•             Development stages were run in parallel

This video explains how COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=ddDiyIKUP0M&app=desktop        

You can also find a video from the MHRA here: https://youtu.be/3HPpWelo1ro

Q: Why do Pfizer and Oxford need protection from legal action if the vaccine is safe?

A: Every company and majority of people need to have insurance and legal protection ranging from those who administer the vaccines to the manufacturers. Having legal protection is not a reflection on the efficacy of the vaccine.

Q: Are clinicians being paid by vaccine companies or vested interests to vaccinate people?  

A: No. NHS staff are being paid for their time to vaccinate people as part of their usual NHS contracts. The regulatory bodies that have approved the vaccine are fully independent. They are not paid by vaccine companies or other vested interests.

Q: Am I likely to be given 1 dose of each vaccine and is this safe?            

A: At this stage the expectation is that people will be given two doses of the same vaccine. There is enough supply going to the right places to ensure that everyone can get their second dose of either Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca. Your GP or the national booking system, depending on how you booked your first appointment, will have a record of which vaccine you received at your first appointment. The place you receive your second dose will also check that you are receiving the same type of vaccine before you are vaccinated. It is useful to take your vaccination card with you on the day as a reminder, but it’s not essential.

It is possible that if there are supply issues with one of the vaccines people may be given two doses of different vaccines. As the vaccines work in a similar way (to boost the production of the spike protein) it is likely that this would stimulate the same / a similar booster response.

Contents of vaccines

Q:What is in the vaccine?

A: The vaccine ingredients for all vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Q: Does the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine contain blood products? 

A: No.

Q: Do any of the vaccines contain materials from abortions?

A: The vaccines do not contain any materials from abortions. The virus used in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is grown on cells derived from a single legal termination carried out in 1972. None of these cells are part of the final vaccine. The Vatican and the British Islamic Medical Association have said that, if this is the only vaccine offered to an individual, it is morally acceptable.

Q: Do the vaccines contain aluminum?

No. None of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK contain aluminum.

Q: Are the vaccines vegan?

A: Yes. None of the vaccines contain: animal, meat or egg products.

Q: Could the vaccine affect my genes or DNA?

There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines alter your genetic material.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses MRNA technology. This teaches our cells to make protein that triggers a protective immune response. The MRNA is broken down soon after it enters the body. MRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept.

Further information about the vaccines approved for use in the UK can be found here:

IPC and PPE requirements

 Q: If we have all been vaccinated with our setting do we need to continue to use PPE?

A: Yes. The vaccine is one key tool in tackling Covid-19. Care providers in north central London have done a fantastic job in reducing outbreaks of Covid through taking robust, evidence based measures.

It’s important to remember that no vaccine is 100% effective; it takes a few weeks to build resistance and we do not know how long it will last. Whilst the vaccine should stop you becoming seriously ill and will reduce spread, it will not entirely prevent people who have been vaccinated from catching and passing on the virus to others. You may be developing Covid-19 without showing symptoms or you maybe asymptomatic.

Staff need to follow the social distancing and hygiene measures set out by the government an implemented within your care setting. Having the vaccine should not change our behaviour at work or in social situations as you could still be putting yourself and other at risk.

Updated guidance on the AZ / Oxford vaccine

Currently the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has advised that it is preferable for people under 40 to have a vaccine other than Oxford/AstraZeneca. If you choose to have another Covid-19 vaccine you may have to wait to be protected. You may wish to go ahead with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.