Covid-19 Vaccine Information (NHS)
Covid-19 Vaccine Information (NHS)

The NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Programme is the biggest immunisation effort in the health service’s history. If we are to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that everyone has the chance to get vaccinated.

I know there are many people, particularly among our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, who are hesitant about getting the Covid-19 vaccine. Sadly, we are seeing a lot of disinformation and fake news being spread online which has the potential to stop vulnerable people from getting immunised against the virus.

I want to assure you all the available Covid-19 vaccines are safe for everyone. They have all been rigorously tested and approved by doctors and scientists around the world.

Earlier this month, I joined MPs from across the House of Commons with South Asian heritage to encourage vaccine take-up and Black MPs from across Parliament also came together to counter dangerous disinformation.

Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about the Covid-19 vaccines however, if you have any remaining concerns please consult NHS.UK or GOV.UK or alternatively reach out to your GP or local healthcare professionals.

 

What vaccine for COVID-19 is currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This includes:

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by the MHRA but is not expected to be delivered to the NHS until Spring.

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe? 

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.

The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.

There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

Should people who have already had Covid or are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ get vaccinated?   

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t, including those who have mild residual symptoms. Where people are suffering significant ongoing complications from Covid they should discuss whether or not to have a vaccine now with a clinician.

Can I get a Vaccine if I don’t have an NHS Number?

Yes. People do not require an NHS number or GP registration to receive a vaccination and should never be denied one on this basis. Local leaders have been asked to take action to ensure this is not the case.

If someone does not have an NHS number but is within an eligible group, services have been advised to vaccinate now, record locally via a paper system, and ensure vaccination is formally documented later.

Can I get a vaccine if I am a Refugee/Asylum Seeker?

Yes. The Government have decided that there should be no charges for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, treatment and vaccination.

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • testing for COVID-19 (even if the test shows they do not have COVID-19)
  • treatment for COVID-19, including for a related problem called multisystem inflammatory syndrome that affects some children
  • vaccination against COVID-19

No immigration checks are needed for overseas visitors if they are only tested, treated or vaccinated for COVID-19.

Why aren’t BAME groups being prioritised?  

There is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease and mortality. The reasons are multiple and complex.

What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

Prioritisation of people with underlying health conditions will also provide for greater vaccination of BAME communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions.

Tailored local implementation to promote good vaccine coverage in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within a vaccine programme in reducing health inequalities in these groups.

The NHS will provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, including working closely with BAME communities, to support those receiving a vaccine and to anyone who has questions about the vaccination process.

Throughout the pandemic increasing attention has been given to reducing health inequalities and we have invested more than £4 million into research into Covid-19 and ethnic disparities so that we can go further.

Are there any side effects?  

These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing candidate vaccines for use.

For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials.

All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting them to the MHRA.

More information on possible side effects can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

When will they publish vaccine ingredients?  

A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found at https://britishima.org/pfizer-biontech-covid19-vaccine/

How were vaccines developed so quickly? 

Medicines including vaccines are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccines. There a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines;

  1. The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process;
  2. There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial;
  3. clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

Were the trial participants reflective of a multi-ethnic population? 

The Public Assessment Reports contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants.

For the Pfizer trial, participants included 9.6% black/African, 26.1% Hispanic/Latino and 3.4% Asian.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine 10.1% of trial recipients were Black and 3.5% Asian.

There is no evidence either of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups.

Were the vaccines tested on high-risk groups? 

For both vaccines trial participants included a range of those from various ages, immune-compromised and those with underlying health conditions, and both found the efficacy of the vaccine translates through all the subgroups.

Details of trial participants for both vaccines are published online.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin? 

No. There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

Can the vaccine alter your genetic material? 

There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection.  The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.

Are there any groups that shouldn’t have the vaccine?

People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated. Clinicians will discuss this with people before vaccinating them.

Can I have the vaccine if I’m pregnant?

Yes. The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

Does the Covid-19 vaccine affect fertility?

There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after Covid-19 disease.

Can I have the vaccine during Ramadan/does the vaccine invalidate fasting?

The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, drawing on analysis from Islamic scholars which says that injections for non-nutritional purposes do not invalidate the fast

Further information is available here: https://britishima.org/operation-vaccination/hub/statements/#FAST

Does the vaccine work on those taking immune suppressants? 

Although the vaccine was not tested on those with very serious immunological conditions, the vaccine has been proven to be very effective and it is unlikely that the vaccine will have no effect at all on these individuals.

There may be a very small number of people with very complex or severe immunological problems who can’t make any response at all – but the vaccine should not do any harm to these individuals. Individuals meeting these criteria may want to discuss the vaccine further with their specialist doctor.

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