lifestyle

Vaccines – your questions answered


Experts address common queries about the Covid-19 vaccines

More than half the adults in the UK have now been vaccinated. This phenomenal achievement is testament to the efforts of the NHS and GPs around the country.

Experts address common queries about the Covid-19 vaccines

But it is absolutely crucial that everyone gets a vaccine when their time comes. The two vaccines currently being administered in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

But, as with any new medicine, people may have questions they would like answered. Below, experts provide answers to some of the most common ones.

I am young and fit, so why do I need it? I wouldn’t be expected to have the flu jab –  why is this any different?

Dr Farzana Hussain (Picture credit: RANKIN)

Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP in Newham, East London: ‘Covid is not like flu. Young people don’t get long-term side effects after flu and they don’t die from flu; it’s mainly the elderly that die. While for Covid, if you’re younger, you are less likely to die, but various factors such as ethnicity can put you more at risk. There is also a phenomenon we are seeing more of – long Covid. This is a horrid illness. We also want to protect everyone – unless we all protect ourselves, we’re just not going to get the immunity we need for our society.’

I’ve had Covid, so have the antibodies. Why should I have the jab?

Dr Hussain: ‘What we don’t know is how long that immunity lasts after you’ve been infected, and, of course, we know there are lots of variants. It’s still important for people to have the vaccine – it will give you better immunity for much longer.’

I’ve been called up for the vaccine, but want to wait for more people to have it to ensure it is safe. Is this wise? 

Dr Raghib Ali

Dr Raghib Ali, Senior Clinical Research Associate at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge and a frontline NHS doctor: ‘Millions of people have taken the vaccine around the world. We don’t need to wait any longer – we know it’s safe. Some people get short-term side effects such as fever, fatigue or tiredness. In my case, I experienced some of these for a couple of days. I’ve seen the alternative, which is getting Covid and potentially ending up in intensive care or dying.’

Was the vaccine tested on all sectors of society to ensure it is safe for everyone? Were people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the trials?

Dr Ali: ‘Vaccine trials have been carried out all over the world, in Asia, South America, China and Africa. So people of every background have taken part in these trials, including ethnic minorities in the UK. We know that it works in all ethnic groups. The other point is that our immune systems do not really vary based on ethnicity.’

I’ve seen in the press that there have been some really severe allergic reactions. How do I know this won’t happen to me?

Dr Ali: ‘Severe allergic reactions are very rare – there have only been a handful of cases. As long as you do not have an allergic response 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 medication?

Dr Ali: ‘It’s perfectly safe in people with diabetes, heart disease and asthma – there are no increased side effects and it does not interact with any medications used to treat these conditions. If you are concerned, ask your doctor.’

Can I ask my doctor for a specific Covid jab? Is it right 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 from one vaccine are worse than for another. The most recent study from Public Health England on the effectiveness of vaccines shows that they provide a high level of protection, and reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment and the number of people who die from Covid.’

Why is there a gap between the required two doses?

Dr Ali: ‘The interval is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. Data from clinical trials show that a 12-week gap is best for the Oxford vaccine, and is also fine for the Pfizer vaccine. This saves more lives overall than we could do by giving two quick doses to half as many people.’

The vaccine was developed so quickly – I don’t understand how they’ve managed to make a vaccine for such a new illness?

Reverend Dr Temi Odejide

Reverend Dr Temi Odejide, resident pastor of House on the Rock London, a Christian church, and a qualified medical doctor: ‘If you talk to people in this field, you understand that, yes, the vaccines were produced extremely quickly, but none of the safety processes were compromised. Technology has also advanced significantly, so we can now produce vaccines at scale much faster than before.’

I accept that the trials have shown the vaccine to be safe, but how do I know that dangerous side effects won’t show themselves in a few years’ time? 

Dr Nikki Kanani

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP in South West London and medical director of Primary Care for NHS England: ‘Our confidence comes from knowing how other vaccines behave. We are vaccinated all the time, either in childhood or when we go abroad. When side effects occur, they usually happen within 24 hours or a few weeks, rather than years. Plus, scientists have been testing the vaccines for months and using them in the real world since December. All the data show that serious side effects are very, very rare.’

Do the vaccines protect against new variants?

Dr Kanani: ‘Everything that we’ve seen so far says that they do, probably to differing extents. We also know that over time all viruses change, which results in the need for new vaccines – as happens every year for flu – and that scientists will be able to tweak them relatively quickly.’

Do religious groups endorse the vaccine?

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation: ‘People ask if the vaccine is compatible with their religion, and many religious leaders have said yes. The British Islamic Medical Association considers all types of the vaccine as recommended, as does 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 to confirm that the vaccines do not contain ingredients considered non-Kosher.’

I am aged 21, and one day want to have children. Is there any evidence that having the vaccine could affect my fertility?

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, England’s Chief Midwifery Officer: ‘There is no evidence nor any reason why the vaccine could impact fertility.’

Is it safe to have the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Professor Dunkley-Bent: ‘Yes, absolutely you can take the vaccine. We’ve got no evidence that there’s any risk associated with giving a non-live vaccine while breastfeeding.’

Information relevant for England, Scotland and Wales only.





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more