More than half of adults in the UK have now been vaccinated. This phenomenal achievement is testament to the efforts of the NHS and GPs across the country.
But it’s absolutely critical that everyone gets a vaccine when their time comes. The two vaccines currently being administered in the UK meet strict safety, quality and effectiveness standards set by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
However, as with any new drug, people may have questions they would like answered. Below, experts provide answers to some of the most common.
It is absolutely crucial that everyone gets the vaccine when their time comes
I am young and fit so why do I need it? I am not expected to have the flu shot – why is this different?
Dr. Farzana Hussain
Dr. Farzana Hussain, a family doctor in Newham, East London: ‘Covid is not like the flu. Young people do not experience long-term side effects after influenza and do not die from the flu it is mainly the elderly who die. For Covid, if you are younger you are less likely to die, but several factors, such as ethnicity, can put you at greater risk.
There is also a phenomenon we see more often – Lange Covid. This is a terrible disease. We also want to protect everyone – unless we all protect ourselves, we just won’t get the immunity we need for our society. ‘
I’ve had Covid, so the antibodies. Why should I have the shot?
Dr. Hussain: ‘What we don’t know is how long that immunity lasts after you’re infected, and of course we know there are many variants. It’s still important that people get the vaccine – it will give you better immunity for much longer. ‘
I’ve been called up for the vaccine, but I want to wait for more people to have it to make sure it’s safe. Is this sensible?
Dr. Raghib Ali
Dr. Raghib Ali, Senior Clinical Research Associate at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge and a first-line NHS physician: “Millions of people have taken the vaccine around the world.
‘We don’t have to wait any longer – we know it’s safe.
‘Some people get short-term side effects such as fever, tiredness or fatigue. In my case, I’ve been through some of these for a few days.
“I’ve seen the alternative: get Covid and possibly end up in intensive care or die.”
Has the vaccine been tested in all sectors of society to make sure it is safe for everyone? Were there people of ethnic minority background in the lawsuits?
Dr. Ali: ‘Vaccine tests have been conducted all over the world, in Asia, South America, China and Africa. So people from every background have taken part in these studies, including ethnic minorities in the UK. We know it works in all ethnic groups. The other point is that our immune system doesn’t really vary based on ethnicity. ‘
I have seen in the press that there have been some very serious allergic reactions. How do I know if this won’t happen to me?
Dr. Ali: ‘Serious allergic reactions are very rare – there have been only a handful of cases. As long as you do not have an allergic reaction to the ingredients themselves, it is safe to take the vaccine. ‘
Is the vaccine safe for people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma, and will it interact with my medications?
Dr. Ali: ‘It is completely safe in people with diabetes, heart disease and asthma – there are no increased side effects and it does not interact with medications used to treat these conditions. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor. ‘
Can I ask my doctor for a specific Covid shot? Is it true that some have worse side effects than others? Was the testing of some more rigorous than others?
Dr. Ali: ‘No – both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines are effective, equally well tested and equally safe. There is also no evidence that the side effects of one vaccine are worse than another. The most recent Public Health England study on the effectiveness of vaccines shows that they provide a high level of protection, reducing the number of people needing hospital treatment and dying from Covid. ‘
Why is there a gap between the required two doses?
Dr. Ali: “The interval is based on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. Data from clinical studies shows that a 12-week interval is best for the Oxford vaccine and is also fine for the Pfizer vaccine. In total, this saves more lives than we could do by giving two quick doses to half that many people. ‘
Reverend Dr. Temi Odejide
The vaccine was developed so quickly – I don’t understand how they managed to make a vaccine for such a new disease?
Reverend Dr. Temi Odejide, resident pastor of House on the Rock London, a Christian church and a qualified physician, said: “When you talk to people in this field, you understand that yes, the vaccines were produced extremely quickly, but none of the security processes were compromised.
“Technology has also advanced significantly, so we can now produce vaccines on scale much faster than before.”
I accept that the studies have shown that the vaccine is safe, but how do I know that dangerous side effects will not occur in a few years?
Dr. Nikki Kanani
Dr. Nikki Kanani, a South West London general practitioner and medical director of primary care for NHS England: “Our confidence comes from knowing how other vaccines behave. We are constantly vaccinated, whether in childhood or when we go abroad.
If side effects do occur, they usually occur within 24 hours or a few weeks, rather than years.
What’s more, scientists have been testing the vaccines for months and have been using them in the real world since December.
“All the evidence shows that serious side effects are very, very rare.”
Do the vaccines protect against new variants?
Dr. Kanani: “Everything we’ve seen so far says they do, probably to varying degrees. We also know that over time all viruses change, creating a need for new vaccines – like every year for flu – and that scientists can adapt them relatively quickly. ‘
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan
Do religious groups endorse the vaccine?
Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation: “People are asking if the vaccine is compatible with their religion, and many religious leaders have said yes.
The British Islamic Medical Association considers all types of vaccines to be recommended, as do the Muslim Council of Britain, the British Sikh community, the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
“There is also a letter from 80 Jewish doctors in the UK confirming that the vaccines do not contain ingredients considered to be non-kosher.”
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent MBE
I am 21 years old and I want to have children someday. Is there any evidence that having the vaccine can affect my fertility?
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, England’s Chief Midwifery Officer: “There is no evidence or any reason why the vaccine could affect fertility.”
Is It Safe To Get The Vaccine While Breastfeeding?
Professor Dunkley-Bent: ‘Yes, you can absolutely take the vaccine.
“We have no evidence that there is any risk associated with giving a non-live vaccine while breastfeeding.”
‘THE VACCINE HAS CHANGED LIFE’
Auditor Mary Adeson, 34, from South London, is taking care of her mother.
‘Having the vaccine changed my life for me. My anxiety level was off the scale.
‘I am a caregiver for my mother who has a mental illness. This is a responsibility I share with my brothers and sisters. I have been taking care of her for a long time and I am very aware of the impact it has on my own well-being.
‘In addition, I have an underlying health condition that makes me have breathing difficulties. Covid’s symptoms suggest that I could die a painful death if I get it. ‘
Happy with the vaccine: Mary Adeson, 34, is nursing her mom
‘I WAS CHAMPING ON THE BIT TO HAVE IT’
Zena Forster, 65, who lives just outside of Newcastle, has a heart condition and suffered a stroke in 2016.
‘I had my first dose a few weeks ago. I am excited and glad I had it. It’s about protecting yourself, but also your family, friends and loved ones.
“I would feel terrible if I were responsible for passing the virus on to someone else.”
Glad to have it: Zena Forster, who lives just outside of Newcastle