Please find below a range of questions and answers about the covid vaccine. The questions came from care staff on the north London webinars (link) and the answers have been developed with NHS clinicians.
Q.Is the vaccine safe?
A.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. 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.
There are some resources within the Managers toolkit that some managers may find useful in helping staff - Managers Toolkit
Public Health England also has some resouces that you may find helpful:
Q. Do younger adults need to have the vaccination as Covid-19 is less serious for them?
A. Whilst Covid-19 is more serious on average for older people it can still be very serious and at times fatal for younger people. We are also finding people of all ages and levels of fitness can be impacted by long term effects of covid-19 (long covid). As well as your personal health having the vaccine is likely to reduce the risk to others and higher vaccination rates (in time) will support loosening of lockdown restrictions.
Q. Can you take the vaccines if you have any underlying health problems?
A. The vaccine was found to be safe in people with various health conditions but it is always best to discuss this with your GP beforehand. People with chronic health conditions are often at increased risk of developing complications of covid-19. They need to vaccine more than most.
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.
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:
Q. Can people with allergies have the vaccine?
A. People with common, non severe allergies can have the vaccine. Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a vaccine, should not have that vaccine. Anyone who has had an anaphylactic reaction to a number of drugs of different sorts, or who has had an anaphylactic reaction without a cause, should not receive the Pfizer vaccine. If you have a history of severe allergies in relation to whichever vaccine, should discuss it with a specialist in allergy.
Q. Can I wait to have the vaccine or wait for a different vaccine?
A.It is everybody’s choice whether they have the vaccine. However, not taking the vaccine up means you are not protected and could become unwell.
We want everyone to be able to make an informed choice with accurate information.
The vaccines have had extensive trials and by mid-January millions of people in the UK have been vaccinated with no impacts beyond the side effects that are included in patient information leaflets.
Q. Can I have just one dose?
A. It is your choice whether to have the vaccine and you could chose not to have a second dose.
However, whilst one dose does give you significant protection a second dose will give you the maximum protection for the longest time possible.
Q. Does consent for the first dose mean you agree to the 2nd dose?
A. No, you have to 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 / Az?
A. It is not usually possible to offer different vaccines to people. You will be offered the vaccine that is available at your local venue. There are no major differences between the vaccines. Given the risks of covid-19 you are highly recommend to have whichever vaccine is offered as soon as possible.
Q. Do you need to have the flu vaccine to have the covid vaccine?
A. No, but we recommend having the flu vaccine to protect yourself, the people you care for and your friends and family.
Q. Does the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine contain blood products?
Q. Do any of the vaccines contain materials from abortions?
A. None of the vaccines 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 Aluminium?
A.No, none of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK contain aluminium
Q. Are the vaccines vegan?
A. Yes. They have no animal products.
Q. Could the vaccine affect my genes?
A.The vaccine does not alter your DNA or genes. The vaccine only gets you to produce an immune response.
Q. Why do some people have a covid vaccine and then test positive?
A. The vaccines cannot give you covid.
Swab test: The levels of covid-19 in the community are very high so this will happen, for example when somebody has been incubating covid-19 before testing positive or getting symptoms (can be up to around 14 days) or that someone is 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.
Antibody test: The aim of the vaccine is to make the body produce antibodies to fight the virus. The antibody test will be positive in most people who have the vaccine.
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. 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. 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 more than once. The vaccine gives you the maximum protection and will greatly reduce the chances of having a second infection.
Q. Do the vaccines stop the spread of covid-19?
A. We don’t know yet, though it is likely that they will reduce the spread. We will soon have scientific evidence about this.
All groups offered vaccinations so far are at increased risk from covid-19.
Q. Can the vaccine make a woman infertile?
A. There is nothing in the vaccines that make one believe this may happen and vaccine testing around fertility also showed no impact. This has been confirmed by 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.”
Specific unfounded claims have been made against the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines, which are summarised here:
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. Yes. The JCVI updated its guidance for this group. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:
“The JCVI now advises that there is no known risk in giving these vaccines to breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding women should therefore be offered vaccination if they are otherwise eligible, for example if they are a frontline health or social care worker, including a carer in a residential home. Women should be advised that there is lack of safety data for these specific vaccinations in breastfeeding.”
Q. Can pregnant women have the vaccine?
A. Yes, taking consideration of the following advice. The JCVI updated its advice on pregnant woman being vaccinated who are front line workers and or have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk. The risks and benefits of vaccination should be discussed with a health professional. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) agree with this recommendation. They are recommending having your vaccine through your maternity unit or notify them when it’s received. We encourage pregnant woman to discuss further with their HCP.
There are rigorous safety procedures that reduce the risk of impact on fertility or unborn children that have been strengthened since the thalidomide disaster. All of the covid vaccines have passed these safety procedures. We know from the use of other vaccines in pregnancy (tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio and influenza) that they have no effect on the unborn baby. There is no reason to think covid vaccines would be different.
Additionally, Pfizer and Oxford vaccine teams are doing clinical trials on pregnant woman. It is normal that drug companies test new drugs on pregnant woman and there are likely to be results published in coming months.
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
A. 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.
No other vaccines impact on fertility.
Q. ill vaccine status be required for overseas travel?
A. We don’t know. This will generally be down to individual countries’ and travel companies’ policies (e.g. like Yellow Fever in some Latin America countries). Qantas (Australian airline) has stated covid-19 vaccinations will be mandatory before long haul travel.
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.
Q.Are there increased side effects from yearly vaccinations?
A. We don’t know whether covid 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 on?
A. Each of the vaccines have been tested on over 10,000 people and now have been given to hundreds of thousands of people as part of the vaccination campaign. The risk of any rare or late outcome is far outweighed by the risks of the disease.
There is no contents of any of the vaccines, or findings from the clinical trials, which suggest a significant risk. This has not been a problem with other vaccinations, which have the same checks and balances.
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: Here
You can also find a video from the MHRA here: Here
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. 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.
The vaccine does not change any of the requirements of staff to use PPE and follow IPC guidelines. This is hugely important to protect care staff and residents from outbreaks in the coming months. You have all worked incredibly hard to reduce the risk of outbreaks and to protect your staff and residents so we want to emphasise this point.
The main reasons for this are:
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, we do not know whether people who have been vaccinated can catch and pass on the virus to others.