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Covid-19 Vaccination FAQs

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Here we try to help if you have concerns with the Covid-19 vaccinations by answering some of the questions you may have and allowing you to be more informed in your decision-making.

Why should I have the vaccine? I’ve had Covid why do I need it? I’ve seen some scary stuff on TikTok is the vaccine safe?

Here we try to help if you have concerns with the Covid-19 vaccinations by answering some of the questions you may have and allowing you to be more informed in your decision-making.

How do we know a Covid-19 vaccine is safe?

The Covid-19 vaccines have undergone lab-based safety trials with tests and research on cells and animals before moving on to human studies.

As shared on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, “there are strict protections in place to help ensure the safety of all Covid-19 vaccines”.

This has also been a global operation and with large government investment and unprecedented scientific involvement and cooperation.

What vaccines have been approved in the UK?

There are currently 3 Covid-19 vaccinations in the UK that have been given approval:

  • Pfizer BioNTech – December 2020
  • Oxford AstraZeneca – December 2020
  • Moderna – 8 January 2021

Vaccine development seemed really quick is that safe?

As this has been a global effort, there have been tens of thousands of volunteers instead of a few thousand with a diverse population providing different races, ethnicities, and ages. (Source University of East London).

The three vaccinations that have already approved in the UK had thousands of volunteers:

  • Pfzier/BioNTech – More than 46,000 in USA, Germany, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, and Argentina
  • Oxford – Astra Zeneca – More than 23,000 in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa
  • Moderna – More than 30,000 in USA.

As shared in the Public Health England guidance, “while it normally takes several years to develop a vaccine, scientists across the world have worked collaboratively and rapidly to achieve the same amount of work in a few months in order to make a safe and effective vaccine available as soon as possible. Although clinical trials have been carried out more rapidly than they have for other vaccines, this has been achieved by conducting some of the steps in parallel rather than sequentially and vaccine safety has not been compromised. The vaccine trials have been subject to all of the usual strict trial and regulatory requirements.”

Will the vaccine give me side effects?

All vaccines and medicines have some side effects, however, this should be balanced against becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.

Some people do suffer mild symptoms after being vaccinated. This is not the disease itself, but the body's response to the vaccine.

Common reactions that may affect more than one in 10 people and typically get better within days include:

  • sore arm
  • headache
  • chills
  • tiredness
  • feeling sick
  • fever
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • aching muscles

What about severe allergic reactions?

Severe allergic reactions are rare however the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says there have been serious but treatable allergic reactions in a small number of people given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The MHRA has provided advice for people with a history of severe allergic reaction and as a precaution it says people with a history of significant allergic reactions to any of the ingredients in this vaccine should not currently have this vaccine.

Be aware that anti-vaccine stories are spread online through social media. These posts are not based on scientific advice (and attempt to blend facts with misinformation).

Who approves vaccines or treatments?

Approval is only given in the UK if the regulator, the MHRA, is happy that a vaccine is both safe and effective. The MHRA continues to monitor safety during widespread use of a vaccine to make sure there are no further side effects or long-term risks.

Independent experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation decide how best to use a vaccine and who should get it.

What's in the Covid vaccines?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use bits of genetic code to cause an immune response and are calledmRNA vaccines. It does not alter human cells, but merely presents the body with instructions to build immunity to Covid. The WHO website states that “the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology has been rigorously assessed for safety, and clinical trials have shown that mRNA vaccines provide a long-lasting immune response. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for several decades, including in the contexts of Zika, rabies, and influenza vaccines. mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines and do not interfere with human DNA.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless virus altered to look a lot more like the pandemic virus.

Vaccines sometimes contain other ingredients, like aluminium, that make the vaccine stable or more effective. For any approved vaccine, the ingredients are listed.

I’ve had Covid do I still need the vaccination?

People will still be offered the jab even if they have had Covid-19 in the past. That's because natural immunity may not be long-lived and immunisation could offer more protection.

Government Guidance says there are no safety concerns about giving jabs to people with "long" Covid either, but people who are currently unwell with Covid-19 should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered.

Are the Covid-19 vaccinations animal-friendly and do they contain alcohol?

The Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca do not contain this or any other animal products.

The British Islamic Medical Association says there is negligible alcohol in it — no more than in bread, for example.

Where can I find out more about the Covid-19 vaccine and when can I have it?

NHS South East London has a comprehensive website, with the latest updates, FAQs and information about how and when you will be eligible to receive your vaccination.

What about the rumours about the vaccine I have seen online and social media?

There have been lots of widely shared false claims on social media but government and social media platforms are working hard to debunk these claims by proving them false by providing correct information.

The BBC has provided a lot of information to help debunk rumours and false claims, and you can read more about them here:

Acknowledgements and Sources