Vaccines – your questions answered

As the Covid-19 vaccines are gradually rolled out across the UK, we’ve seen a lot of questions about the programme on social media. We’ve tried to answer some of the most frequently asked ones below.

How are vaccines regulated and authorised for use? 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK’s independent regulator. Their role is to ensure medicines, devices and vaccines work effectively and are safe for use.  

It’s been produced so quickly, have vital stages been missed?

No. There has been such a huge, concentrated focus from scientists across the world to tackle this global health emergency, enabling them to find volunteers, scale up the trials and evaluate results in record time.

If it is safe, why are pregnant women not allowed to have it?

This is just through an abundance of caution, as pregnant women were not routinely included in the clinical trials.

Where/how are vaccines going to be administered? 

The first stage is offering it to at-risk individuals. To make it easy for as many people as possible regardless of their location or individual circumstances, there will be three ways to get a vaccine:

  1. Hospital Hubs – NHS providers vaccinating staff onsite. 
  2. Local Vaccination Services – community and primary care-led service based on local and logistical considerations but is likely to include GP practices, local authority sourced buildings or other local facilities, and potentially roving teams if vaccines are transportable in this way.  
  3. Vaccination Centres – large-scale centres such as sports and conference venues set up for high volumes of people. 

Those eligible will be contacted directly, so you don’t need to do anything.

Are there any significant side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone will experience them.

No significant side effects have been noted on the 43,000 people who have been involved in the trial process.

However, it is advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergies do not receive this vaccine. Two NHS staff had adverse reactions due to their allergic history, but recovered well and quickly.

What ingredients does it contain?

It does not contain any animal products or egg and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and is halal. Vaccines are given in small doses so do not contain anything that will cause you harm or damage.

Is one vaccine better than another? Can I choose which vaccine I have?

While you can’t choose which vaccine to have, it shouldn’t matter. All vaccines must pass the MHRA’s rigorous and extensive tests on safety and efficacy before they are available in the UK, so you can rest assured that whichever one you receive will be to your benefit.

Who gets it first?

Due to the limited number of doses available, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended offering the vaccine to people in order of risk.

The full prioritisation list can be found here and is as follows (in order of priority):  

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers 
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers 
  • All those 75 years of age and over 
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals 
  • All those 65 years of age and over. All individuals aged 16 to 64 years old with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality 
  • All those 60 years of age and over 
  • All those 55 years of age and over 
  • All those 50 years of age and over 

How will it be recorded?

Like all other NHS jabs, patients will be given a vaccine record card with details of where and when they had it, and when they should return for a second dose. It will also be recorded on your GP’s patient record for you.

Will there be vaccine passports?

No, there are no plans to introduce any immunity passports following this vaccination programme. It’s important to note that the record card people receive is not intended to be an immunity certificate.

What is the plan for vaccinating care home residents and staff?

This group is a high priority and so as soon as it is possible for them to do so, GPs and local primary care networks will begin to vaccinate care home residents. This is likely to begin before Christmas.

In the first instance care home staff will be offered the vaccine as safely as possible in hospital hubs in the immediate days and weeks.

Then, the vaccine will be taken into the community and care homes over the following weeks.

I have read that the vaccine does not work.

Each of the vaccines will offer you good protection, however, it is not yet known whether they can stop you spreading the virus to others.

That is why as many people as possible need to have the vaccine, so that we can develop widespread individual protection.

In the meantime we all need to maintain social distancing, wash hands regularly and wear face coverings when in enclosed spaces.

Where should I go for more information about the vaccine?

Always use a trusted source such as www.nhs.uk, your GP or medical practitioner. Their advice is based on the best available evidence and scientific research. Be careful not to rely on social media rumour.