1. Are the vaccines being approved much too quickly?
Vaccine development typically takes many years, however, scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). That earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition, vaccine development has been sped up by experts working closely together, sharing information and planning for the various research studies in parallel, rather than one after the other. It is like building a house, if you have the money and all the resources, it can be done in weeks rather than months.
2. How safe is the vaccine?
Organisations which approve use of vaccines such as the MHRA in the UK and FDA in the US are committed to science and the critical evaluation of all new vaccines for their safety and efficacy in an unbiased way before their authorization for use. No vaccine will be released until it has undergone rigorous scientific and clinical testing that all vaccines in development are held to. The vaccines that have been approved our safe based on current available data and studies involving over 100,000 people.
3. Can the vaccine give me Covid-19?
The PfizerBioNtech and Moderna vaccines don’t contain live, attenuated, or inactivated vaccines. The vaccines contain the gene for a virus protein only. This means you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
4. How do the vaccines work?
There is no COVID-19 in vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines help your body make antibodies to a protein on the virus surface. This allows your immune system to attack the virus and fight off infection if you are exposed.
5. What is in the COVID-19 vaccine
You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Vaccine components include:
Active Ingredient nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike protein of SARS-CoV-2
Four lipids (including polyethylene glycol or PEG)
- PEG is used in laxatives and in bowel preparation used before colonoscopy and is the most likely component to cause symptoms or allergic reaction
- Four salts (including NaCl) which act as a pH buffer
- Sugar (sucrose)
Current COVID-19 vaccine does not contain thimerosal, mercury, antibiotics, or preservatives.
6. Can the mRNA vaccines change my DNA?
Absolutely not. mRNA does not get into the nucleus of the cell where your DNA is. In addition, it is like a text message and is deleted within hours after it has provided the instructions for your cells to produce the spike protein of the virus.
7. Will the vaccine provide immunity, and how long will this last?
Yes, it will provide immunity. We don’t know how long the immunity lasts because it is too early to know however we think it may last months and may be years. As time goes, we will understand better how long the immunity lasts.
8. Can I take the vaccine if I have severe allergies?
No severe allergy is a reason not to have the vaccine. Please discuss with your healthcare provider if you have had severe allergic reactions in the past and make sure you inform the nurse or doctor when you are offered the vaccine.
9. What are the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines?
Any vaccine or medication can cause side effects. These are typically minor, such as a sore arm or low-grade fever, and go away within a few days. These side effects are actually expected because it is a sign that the vaccine is working and that your immune system is responding to the proteins of the virus. As with all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are not approved until clinical trials have taken place that show they are both safe and effective. Safety is the top priority of any vaccine. Results from the first COVID-19 vaccines show no serious side effects.
10. Can a vaccine achieve herd immunity?
If over 60% of the population develops immunity from vaccination, there is a good chance that we can achieve herd immunity. That is exactly why we are encouraging everybody to have the vaccine as soon as they are offered.
11. Why can`t I get immunity by exposing myself to the vaccine so I can get it?
This is a risky strategy. Although people with chronic conditions and people over the age of 65 are most at risk of complications, young healthy people can also develop complications and die. In addition, some people end up with long COVID and do not fully recover months after the infection. If you develop the infection, you may spread it to friends and loved ones – they may become severely ill and die. Taking the vaccine is the most effective and safest way of developing immunity.
12. I read that Covid-19 vaccine trials killed people. Is this true?
This is not true. Two people died in the group who had the vaccine and they died from natural causes, not because of the vaccine. Four people died in the group who did not receive the vaccine however they also died from natural causes. There were no deaths related to the vaccine. There have been over 100,000 people involved in COVID-19 vaccine research, so it is the product for COVID-19 with the largest amount of safety data so far.
13. Can my children develop autism by taking the vaccine?
Absolutely not. There is no data to suggest that COVID-19 vaccine causes autism. There is also no evidence that the measles vaccine (MMR) causes autism.
14. Do I still need to wear masks and social distance after taking the vaccine?
Absolutely. No vaccine is 100% effective and we do not know how long immunity lasts. It is therefore recommended that you continue to wear masks and respect social distancing.
15. Should black people take the vaccines?
Black people have been shown to be at higher risk of developing COVID-19, complications and dying in Europe and USA. The vaccine trials for the Pfizer vaccine include 9% of people from Black and Ethnic Minority groups. The Moderna vaccine trial included 30% of people from Black and Ethnic Minority groups. The vaccine was effective in all groups of people, irrespective of race. We recommend black people take the vaccine.
16. How are the vaccines administered?
COVID-19 vaccines are administered by intramuscular (IM) injection, a shot in the arm. You will need to have two injections 21 days apart.
17. Can I get more than once COVID-19 vaccine?
It is recommended that you receive only one type of COVID-19 vaccine. Some vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, require two doses and you must receive both doses of the same brand of vaccine. The administration of more than one type of COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t been tested so there isn’t safety data available.
18. Should the vaccine be given to pregnant women?
Pregnant women were excluded from vaccine trials, so it hasn’t been tested in pregnant women. Currently available vaccines are mRNA vaccines, meaning they do not contain a live virus. The vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to a protein on the virus surface.
The theoretical risk of fetal harm from mRNA vaccines is very low. Counseling for pregnant women about the vaccine will be updated as more data is available.
19. Should the vaccine be given to people with weakened immune system?
The current available vaccines are mRNA vaccines, meaning they do not contain a live virus. The vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to a protein on the virus surface. People with weakened immune system are at high risk of catching COVID-19, developing complications and dying from the infection.
We recommend that people with weakened immune system receive the vaccine and should be prioritised to receive it. Please discuss any concerns with your doctor.
20. Should elderly people receive the vaccine?
Yes. The vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to a protein on the virus surface. Elderly people are at high risk of catching COVID-19, developing complications and dying from the infection. We recommend that elderly people receive the vaccine and should be prioritised to receive it.
21. Should you receive the vaccine if you have had COVID-19?
Yes. Data from the vaccine trials suggests that people who had COVID-19 also benefited from receiving the vaccine. We would recommend that you receive the vaccine after having fully recovered from COVID-19. Please discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns.