Liz Morgan is the Director of Public Health at Northumberland County Council and has supported the successful roll-out of the vaccine programme in our area.
Liz understands that many people may still have questions about the vaccine - or be worried they’ve missed their chance to have it. Here, she answers some of the most frequently asked questions from local people.
Q. Should I get the vaccine now?
All the Covid-19 vaccines that are approved for use in the UK are effective at preventing symptomatic disease and there's emerging evidence that they reduce the chance of the virus being transmitted. Vaccinating as many people as soon as possible should reduce levels of infection locally and allow restrictions to continue to be eased so we can get back to something like normal.
Some people may need to delay getting vaccinated, though. If you are currently unwell, self-isolating, or waiting for a Covid-19 test you should delay vaccination until later. For women who are pregnant, the latest advice is that Covid-19 vaccines should be offered at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.
Pregnant women may still wish to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances.
If you were hesitant about taking the vaccine but have since changed your mind, that is no problem. Simply contact your GP surgery and they can arrange a vaccination or try the National Booking Service.
Q. Does it have side effects?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. These include things like pain and tenderness in your arm where you had your injection, which tends to be worst after 1-2 days, feeling tired, headaches, general aches or mild flu-like symptoms. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.
Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. Resting and taking the normal dose of paracetamol should help you feel better. Even if you do have these symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose to get the best protection.
Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for two to three days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have Covid-19 or another infection. If your symptoms don’t resolve or seem to get worse or if you are concerned, seek advice by calling NHS 111.
Q. Will the vaccine give me Covid?
The vaccine cannot give you Covid, and two doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill.
It may take a few weeks for your body to build up some protection from the vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – so some people may still get Covid-19 despite having a vaccination, but if they do this should be less severe.
Whilst you cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, it is possible to have caught it and not realised until after your vaccination appointment, either because you haven’t recognised the symptoms or because you’ve had no symptoms at all.
Q. Will it affect my fertility?
There have been a lot of rumours that the vaccines could affect fertility but these are not true. There is no scientific process by which the vaccines could affect women’s fertility. They do not have any ingredients in them that would affect fertility.
It is entirely normal for new medicines not to be recommended for pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy. The JCVI has said that all pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines when they are rolled out to the wider population because they have been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues.
Now that more data is available, the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations has updated its advice and says there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after their Covid-19 vaccination. If you’re worried and you have any questions, your doctor, midwife or obstetrician will be happy to chat with you about your options.
Q. How does the Covid vaccine work?
Vaccines train the immune system to recognise harmful organisms that cause disease. All the vaccines currently approved for use in the UK work by giving the immune system the instructions to build the Covid-19 spike protein which is found on the outside of the virus.
When we have our jab, our immune system recognises that the spike proteins are part of a virus and produces an immune response. This includes producing memory cells that remember the shape of the spike protein and respond rapidly when the Covid-19 virus is encountered.
Q. Does the vaccine contain meat products or alcohol?
No. There have been lots of rumours that the vaccines contain animal products and alcohol but they don’t. There is a minimal amount of ethanol in them, but less than you would find in a banana or a slice of bread. So they’re suitable for those who wish to avoid consuming animal products or alcohol for cultural, religious or dietary reasons.
You can visit the MHRA website (the body that regulates medicines in the UK) for a full list of vaccine ingredients.
Your GP will be happy to talk through any questions you may have about the vaccine and I would urge you to speak to them, as well as your friends and family who have already had the vaccine to inform your decision.