We're entering into the crucial final step in our fight against Coronavirus.
Covid-19 vaccinations are being rolled-out across the world and it's important that people understand exactly what this means for them.
I have therefore put together a short FAQ page to help answer any questions and reassure constituents of the safety of the vaccine:
Q: Is the Covid-19 vaccine safe?
Vaccines are designed to improve our immune response by training our bodies to recognise and fight Covid-19 should be become infected with the virus.
The MHRA is the official UK regulator and is an independent body. They have said the vaccine is very safe and highly effective. By their nature, vaccines are highly regulated products and have to pass stringent tests and scrutiny at every single stage of the development and testing process.
Speaking specifically about the Pfizer vaccine, the MHRA Chief Executive, Dr June Raine, said this:
"We have carried out a rigorous scientific assessment of all the available evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness. The public’s safety has always been at the forefront of our minds – safety is our watchword."
Important to note: the vaccine does not actually give you Covid-19. It contains something called mRNA cells which instruct your body to make a piece of the "spike" protein which is found in the Coronavirus that causes Covid-19. These proteins do not hurt your body, they simply trigger your immune system to respond and fight them off. Your body is then much better prepared if you are later infected with Covid-19.
Q: How do I make an appointment to be vaccinated?
A: Wait for the NHS to contact you.
The NHS will get in touch with you to confirm an appointment to have your Covid-19 jab. Your follow-up appointment to have your second dose will then be scheduled on the day you have your initial jab.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - an independent body - have recommended that the vaccine should be administered in order of the priority groups their analysis has identified. The Government and NHS leaders have agreed to this approach and are currently implementing it.
We are currently in the first phase of the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine and only the top four priority groups (as identified by the JCVI) are currently being vaccinated.
1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults.
2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
3. All those 75 years of age and over
4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)
You can find more information on this here.
As each group becomes vaccinated, the vaccine will be offered to those in less vulnerable categories in order of priority (usually connected to age), moving down the list until the entire population is vaccinated.
Q: Do I still need to be vaccinated if I have already had Covid-19?
Scientific evidence suggests that a person can catch Covid-19 twice, despite having built up a certain amount of anti-bodies against the virus from the first infection.
In order to stop the spread of the virus, as many people as possible need to be vaccinated, regardless as to whether they've already had Covid-19.
Q: How long does the vaccine take to become effective?
A: The Covid-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of your suffering from COVID-19 disease. You may not be fully protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.
Q: Why do we need two jabs?
A: During trials, both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were proved to provoke a better immune response if given in two separate doses at least 21 days apart.
Q: What's the difference between the two vaccines currently available in the UK?
A: The MHRA has, to date, approved three different vaccines for use in the UK:
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive approval for use in the UK and has been administered in this country since early December.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine use bits of genetic code to cause an immune response in the body, and is called an mRNA vaccine.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless virus altered to look a lot more like the pandemic virus. This is the most common method of developing vaccines historically.
Q: Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly/ suitable for Muslim and Jewish people?
A: Yes, none of the approved vaccines contain any meat derivatives or porcine products.
The vaccine contains RNA (like a virus) and not DNA (like the animal).
If, and when, further vaccines are approved we will publish information about known allergens or ingredients that are important for certain faiths, cultures and beliefs.
Q: Are there any known or anticipated side effects?
A: Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.
Common side effects include:
- Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
- Feeling tired
- General aches, or mild flu like symptoms
As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration.
Q: Does the vaccine alter human DNA?
Though some vaccines for other flu and diseases can alter human DNA, that is not the purpose of the Covid-19 vaccine and therefore this science does not exist within it.
There are also no ingredients contained within the Covid-19 (or any vaccine for that matter) to hook us up to an artificial intelligence interface. You can be sure of this because: this technology simply does not exist.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been the subject of the 'micro-chip' conspiracy theory surrounding this. There has not been a single piece of credible evidence put forward to support this theory. Mr Gates and his wife have a track-record of donating money to scientific research into vaccines for diseases like Malaria, however, he - nor Microsoft - have had absolutely no involvement in the creation or manufacturing of any of the Covid-19 vaccines. To repeat: the technology to implant micro-chips into vaccine doses does not exist.
Q: Does the vaccine contain human tissue?
A: Absolutely not.
No vaccine uses human tissue as part of the solution because using human tissue would most likely promote a negative immune reaction inside a person's body that could be dangerous.
Human stem cells are used in laboratories when developing vaccines as a testing method, however, contrary to some false-information on social media, these stem cells are not obtained from aborted babies and no foetus cells are used in the Covid-19.
Without research on human stem cells, vaccines could not be developed.
Q: Was the pace of the vaccine trials too fast?
A: The vaccine was developed at record speed, but that does not mean it is unsafe.
Rather than the result of shortcuts or the loosening of safety standards, the speed with which Covid vaccines have been developed is due to the phenomenal money and effort thrown at the problem – the UK government alone has spent £6bn in total to develop and procure them.
Also, contrary to popular belief - scientists were not starting from scratch. Previous science for the development of previous vaccines have been used as the base-point to solve this problem.
A record number of people took part in the efficacy trials to ensure the vaccine was tested and developed in the safest possible way.
Q: Once I receive the vaccine, do I still need to abide by the lockdown restrictions?
You must continue to abide fully with the lockdown restrictions even after you have been fully vaccinated. There is not yet enough information to conclude whether a vaccinated person can still spread the virus, even if they're protected from becoming ill themselves.
The vaccine is also not 100% effective and there is a very small chance you will become ill from Covid-19 even after you have been vaccinated.
In addition, you are breaking the law if you disregard the lockdown and will be liable to fines and penalties if you do not comply, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated.