Your vaccine questions answered

Anyone can get Covid-19. It doesn’t discriminate. Even if you’re lucky enough not to get ill, you could be passing it on without knowing. It’s thought that 1 in 3 people could have Covid without showing any symptoms. That’s why it’s so important that we stick to the lockdown rules, keep washing and sanitising our hands, wearing our masks – and get vaccinated.

Why do I need to be vaccinated?

Vaccination is our ticket to moving towards normality again. The vaccination programme has been revolutionary. It’s meant that not only will fewer people get Covid, but those who do are much less likely to get seriously ill, suffer long-term Covid symptoms, or die.

When you get vaccinated you’re not just protecting yourself, but your friends, family and everyone else in your community. If you don’t want to have it for the sake of your own health, do it for those you love.

What groups are top priority?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – an independent group of experts – recommended vaccines should be given first to those at highest risk.

This includes not just those who might become seriously ill or die, but also those who are at the greatest risk of catching it:

  • Anyone aged 65 of over
  • Adults living or working in care homes for the elderly.
  • Domiciliary cares who look after older or vulnerable adults
  • Frontline healthcare or social care workers
  • Those with serious underlying health condition

People in England who are over 70 and haven’t had their first jab, are being urged by the NHS to call 119 to book their vaccination. Calls are free and lines are open seven days a week, from 7am to 11pm.

Does the vaccination work?

Studies have shown that the vaccine is working. There has been a huge drop in hospital admissions of those in the most vulnerable groups; for the over 80s the drop has been an incredible 75%.

Evidence also indicates that vaccines can also reduce the spread of the virus. It’s been shown that health workers who have had one dose reduced their risk of catching the infection by 70%.

So how does it work?

Vaccines send a signal to our immune system, which in turn creates the antibodies that fight the virus – and potentially save our life.

When enough people are vaccinated, the virus can’t spread. Thanks to vaccines, killer diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus are very, very rare.

Is the vaccination safe?

Yes. We have very strict rules in the UK, and only after rigorous testing can a vaccine be approved. These vaccinations are no exception.

Since the first vaccine on 8 December 2020, by mid-March over 23 million people had received their first jab, with no cause for concern.

But hasn’t the vaccination been rushed through?

Only if you read mis-informed opinion on social media – you’ll notice none of these people are scientists.

Long before the pandemic, scientists had been working on developing coronavirus vaccines (for viruses like SARS) so they were already ahead of the curve.

What the pandemic did was prioritise this research and force pharmaceutical and governments to work round the clock.

What vaccine will I get?

At the moment there are two vaccines available in the UK. The Pfizer and Oxford ‘AstraZeneca’. A third vaccine, the Moderna should be available from early spring.

You can’t choose which vaccine you’ll get, it depends on the supply in your area. Both have been shown to be highly effective in preventing people from becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid-19.

Are there any side-effects?

Any medicine can have side-effects. If you buy a box of Paracetamol or Aspirin, you’ll see that the leaflet warns of possible side effects – yet most of us don’t think twice about  it.

Most people who have had the vaccine have reported no side effects whatsoever. In fact, many who normally get the flu jab say it hurt even less.  Reported side-effects have been found to be mild and only last for a day or so and tend to be headaches, feeling tired, general aches and pains or mild flu. Nowhere near as severe as Covid-19 could be.

Does everyone need two doses?

Although the first dose gives good protection after about 12-14 days, it’s the second dose that gives you optimum protection. That’s why it’s really important that you get both.

The original plan was to administer the second dose between three to four weeks after the first. But to ensure the optimum amount of people had basic protection, the Chief Medical Officer extended it to eight to 12 weeks. An approach which has the full backing of the World Health Organisation.

I have a serious health condition, can I still have the vaccine?

All vaccines have to be safe for people with long-term health conditions. In fact, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has prioritised those with long-term health conditions.

There are only a small amount pf people who shouldn’t have the vaccine. If you have severe allergies talk to your health practitioner as additional precautions can be taken.

Who can’t get the vaccine?

There’s no known risk to pregnant or breast-feeding women, but at the moment pregnant women aren’t being routinely invited until after their baby is born unless they’re in a highly vulnerable group. You can talk through your options with your GP or midwife.

You can find more information here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/health-conditions/

Women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should read the detailed information on www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination.

Am I immune to Covid-19 once I get the vaccine?

The vaccination will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill, but there’s not enough data yet on whether it will stop you from catching and passing it on. That’s why it’s vital that we still continue to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash and sanitise our hands
  • Follow lockdown rules in our area

When will I get my vaccination?

The NHS is working tirelessly to roll-out the vaccination as quickly as possible. They’ll notify you when the time comes. Please don’t chase up your appointment as it puts further strain on the system. However, if you’re over 70, live in England and haven’t been called yet, you should call NHS on 119 to book. Calls are free and lines are open from 7am to 11pm seven days a week.

The  chart below shows an approximate time frame of when you should be called.

If you’d like to read more about Covid or the vaccination, go to the NHS website:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/