Covid-19 vaccinations Q&A

Covid-19 vaccinations Q&A

Coronavirus vaccination Q&A

August 2021

These questions and answers (Q&A) have been created to help all staff understand more about the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The Government have committed to giving every adult a vaccine who wants it but have obviously had to prioritise the rollout of the vaccines across the population.

Vaccinations are an important tool in tackling the spread and consequences of COVID-19 along with following the relevant guidance and COVID secure practice - *hands *face *space *fresh air – both within and outside the workplace.

 

Vaccination information is available in lots of accessible formats and can be found on the Public Health England campaign resource centre web page
which includes BSL, Braille, Easy Read, LD and Autism, Large Print and multiple languages.

 

The aims of the COVID-19 vaccination programme are to protect those who are at highest risk from serious illness or death from COVID-19, and to support the NHS and social care system. Firstly, the priority groups are part of phase 1 of the COVID-19 Vaccination roll out and are listed below: 

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  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 individuals deemed clinically extremely vulnerable
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

The priority list is against an evidence base as to who is most at risk. It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.

We have entered the second phase of the programme and now all people aged 16 years and over can be vaccinated. Visit this web page for more information about how you can get your vaccine in the city

Furthermore, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the expert vaccination and immunisation advisory committee for the UK Health Department, have advised that healthy young people aged 16 and 17 years, as well as children and young people aged 12 years and over with specific health conditions that put them at risk of serious COVID-19 should be offered COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, children and young people aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of people (adults or children) who are immunocompromised should be offered COVID-19 vaccination. If aged 16 years and over, visit this web page for more information about how you can get your vaccine in the cityFurther details will be shared regarding how to get the vaccination for the other groups when available.

Once you have had the vaccine, this isn't a ‘passport to freedom’. You must still follow the COVID-19 regulations and guidance. From the 19th of July, the advice is to be cautious, be considerate and be kind. Therefore, the advice continues to be: follow the guidance and regulations, practice social distancing, meet outdoors where possible, continue to wash hands regularly and continue to wear a face covering indoors, particularly in busy or crowded situations and on public transport. Although once vaccinated, you will be much better protected from the virus, you might still be able to transmit or carry it, passing it on to others. Following this advice will help protect you and others, and help prevent the virus from spreading.

Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.

 

Three vaccinations have been authorised and are available for use in the UK which are Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Your questions have been answered regarding the COVID-19 vaccination programme with the Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines:

Q. Is vaccination mandatory? 

A. No, it is not mandatory, but we would strongly advise you to get vaccinated. The aims of the vaccination programme are to protect those at most risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, and to support the NHS and social care system. COVID-19 vaccines should provide protection by preparing your immune system so that in the event of exposure to the virus, your immune system is more able to prevent or reduce the severity of infection.

In June, the government announced a new legislation that states from October, subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period, anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine unless they are medically exempt. This would apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider, those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home and volunteers in the care home. People who come into the care home to undertake work, such as healthcare workers and tradespeople, will also have to follow the new regulations, unless medically exempt. The reason for introducing this new legislation is to reduce the risk of serious illness and death due to COVID-19 in care home residents, a particularly vulnerable group. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

 

Q. How do I know these vaccines are safe?

A. The vaccines have been reviewed and authorised by the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) – the body that regulates medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion in the UK.

The MHRA has ensured that these COVID-19 vaccines have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, and that they are safe to use.

 

Q. Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe to have after the reports of blood clots in a very small number of people following this vaccine?

A. Yes, AstraZeneca is still a safe vaccine to have and the benefits of being vaccinated continue to outweigh the risks. Following reports of extremely rare events of concurrent blood clots (thrombosis) and low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia) in a very small number of people after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the expert vaccination and immunisation advisory committee for the UK Health Department, have produced further guidance. The risk of such events is estimated to be very low at approximately 15 cases per million doses after the first dose. As a precautionary approach, JCVI have advised that it is preferable for healthy people aged under 40 be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Within this age group, individuals who are over 30 years of age, male, from certain minority ethnic backgrounds, in certain occupations at high risk of exposure and those who are obese, remain at high risk of COVID-19. Therefore, in absence of suitable alternatives, these individuals should still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine and may choose to receive this vaccine, provided they have been informed and understand the risks and benefits. For individuals 40 years old or over, individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable and those in clinical risk groups are at high risk of complications from COVID-19. JCVI, MHRA and WHO consider the risk from the rare side-effects seen after AstraZeneca vaccine being outweighed by the benefits of vaccination. Therefore, these individuals can be offered any of the three vaccines, unless contra-indicated.

For all those who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, they should be offered a second dose of the same vaccine, unless contraindicated (for example severe allergy to the vaccine, such as anaphylaxis, or blood clot with low platelets).

 

Q. How much time can I have to attend my appointments?

A. This will depend on your workplace policies.  

 

Q. Do I qualify as a frontline health and social care worker?

A. Frontline Newcastle City Council (NCC) employed or staff working for voluntary organisations who are frontline health and social care workers will fall into priority group 2 and vaccinations for this group are underway. Home carers, social work staff, those providing 'day services', 'short break services' (respite care - helping informal carers), 'homelessness services' (frontline) and those working in children’s social care fall into priority group 2.

A reminder to health and social care staff to maintain infection control 

Dr. Wei Shen Lim is a chest physician and chair of the COVID-19 Immunisation for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, also known as the JCVI. This video is for health and social care staff and explains why despite having the vaccine, it is most important to understand that we can still transmit the disease. This means that we need to maintain all our infection prevention and control measures such as wearing PPE and continue following national guidance to remain protected.

 

Q. What about informal carers?

A. The COVID-19 vaccination advice published on the 30th of December 2020 from JCVI recommends that carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer contracted COVID-19 should be included in priority group 6 alongside people with underlying conditions.

 

Q. How will I be contacted and how will the vaccination programme know to contact me?

A. The COVID-19 vaccination programme is now open to everyone 16 years and over, and you do not need to wait to be called. You can visit this website to see how you can get vaccinated in the city.

There are still methods of communication or 'calls to be vaccinated' which are different for different groups. For those people falling into priority groups 'by age' the cascade is being led by primary care providers e.g. GPs. For those employed by NCC and for those working within NCC commissioned services, the Local Authority will continue to cascade messages either directly to individuals, via existing management structures or through the commissioned organisation management structures. These communications will contain a link so that staff can book themselves for the vaccination. For Voluntary Care Organisations, communications will be sent from NCC to Connected Voice for cascade OR NCC will contact those organisations directly. Alternatively, NCC may contact you directly.

 

Q. Why has there been a change to the timing of the second dose?

A. Currently, JCVI advises an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between the first and second dose for all COVID-19 vaccines. The advice is to leave at least 8 weeks since your first dose to attend for your second. The gap helps boost the immune response, enables a good balance between rapid and long-lasting protection as well as enables more people to get their first dose. The evidence is reviewed continuously and the current advice maximises protection to those most at risk.

 

Q. Can I get COVID-19 from these vaccines?

A. These vaccines cannot give you COVID-19 infection. The vaccines will reduce your chance of becoming infected or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

 

 

 

Q. Are the vaccines effective?

A. Yes, these are very effective vaccines. All three vaccines offer considerable protection after one dose. After your first dose, your body should build up protection (immunity) against COVID-19, particularly in the short term. Currently, JCVI are advising a minimum interval of 8 weeks between doses of all the available COVID-19 vaccines. The gap helps boost the immune response, enables a good balance between rapid and long-lasting protection as well as enables more people to get their first dose. We are still learning how long protection lasts for, and how vaccination affects COVID-19 transmission. Additionally, like all vaccines, no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, but vaccination should lessen the severity of infection.

JCVI have recommended a COVID-19 vaccine booster programme starting in September 2021. This would be in two stages, starting with those most at risk of serious disease including care home residents, people aged over 70, clinically extremely vulnerable adults as well as frontline health and social care workers.

 

Q. Is the vaccination the solution to COVID-19?

A. It is a very important part of the solution, but we do not see the effects immediately after the first dose. From the 19th of July, we entered Step 4 of the roadmap with a lifting of most legal COVID-19 restrictions. However, the advice is to be cautious, be considerate and be kind. Therefore, the advice continues to be follow the guidance and regulations, practice social distancing, meet outdoors where possible, continue to wash hands regularly and continue to wear a face covering indoors, particularly in busy or crowded situations and on public transport. These measures will help protect you and others, and help prevent the virus from spreading.

 

Q. What should I do after receiving the vaccination?

A. It is vital that we continue to follow all the control measures currently in place to help reduce the spread, this will help protect yourself as well as family and friends. The vaccine will offer considerable protection, but no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, but vaccination should lessen the severity of infection.

 

Q. When will I receive the greatest protection?

A. Although the vaccination will offer considerable protection after the first dose, it is believed that the greatest protection will come up around 14 days after the second dose. Highlighting the importance of maintaining social distance, continuing use of face coverings indoors (particularly in busy or crowded situations and on public transport), regular hand washing and meeting outdoors where possible.

 

 

Q. I am pregnant, what does this mean for me?

A. On the 16th of April 2021, JCVI issued new guidance and now advise that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group. JCVI have advised that it is preferable that Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, where available, be offered to pregnant women of any age. This is because there is more extensive experience of using these vaccines in pregnancy. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more data is required. It is recommended that the risks and benefits of vaccination are discussed with women who are pregnant.

Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum period or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine according to their age and clinical risk group. There is an absence of full safety data for the vaccine in breastfeeding women or in infants who are breastfed. This is normal at this stage in new vaccine rollout and more evidence will be acquired over time. The benefits of breast-feeding are well known and mothers’ who breastfeed should be supported.

For those that have concerns about present or future fertility:

Dr. Gayatri Amirthalingam is a consultant in the National Immunisation team at Public Health England. Watch this video where she explains that there are no concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines affecting present or future fertility providing important reassurance.

 

Q. What are the side effects of these vaccines?

A. The reported common side effects for these vaccines are similar to most vaccines for example pain, redness or swelling at the site of injection. Other common side-effects include tiredness, headaches, muscle and joint aches, feeling generally unwell, chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes which are generally mild to moderate and resolve within a few days of vaccination. However, not everyone has side-effects following vaccination.

As with all vaccines, there is a very small risk of an allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis, but the evidence so far shows that this is very rare.

There have recently been reports of extremely rare blood clots with low platelet counts following vaccination with AstraZeneca. These events are extremely rare with the risk being estimated at approximately 15 cases per million after the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. The advice is to seek medical advice urgently if any of the following symptoms start from 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination:

  • New, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers, or is getting worse
  • A headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over
  • An unusual headache that may be accompanied by:
  • blurred vision
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficulty with speech
  • weakness, drowsiness or seizures
  • New, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain

 

There have been very rare cases of inflammation of the heart usually occurring within a few days of the second dose (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines), typically in young men. Most cases have recovered quickly. The advice is to seek medical advice if any of the following symptoms occur within a few days of being vaccinated: chest pain, shortness of breath and/or fast beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations).

 

To find out more, visit this website.

 

Q. What if I have allergies, which vaccine should I have?

A. You should check with your GP whether your allergy may affect which COVID-19 vaccine you are able to have. If you have had a serious allergic reaction (confirmed anaphylactic reaction) to a previous dose of the vaccine you are due to receive or to any components of the vaccine you are due to receive, you should not receive it. Alternatives should be considered. Everyone who receives these vaccines will be observed for a period of time (for example after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, it is recommended that individuals be monitored for 15 minutes after vaccination, and this period may be longer if a clinical assessment is indicated).

Note: MHRA has updated their guidance and now advises that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to food, an identified drug or vaccine, or an insect sting can receive any of the three COVID-19 vaccines, as long as they are not known to be allergic to any component of the vaccine they are to receive.

 

Individuals with a history of immediate onset-unexplained anaphylaxis or anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs or unexplained anaphylaxis should not be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, except on expert advice of an allergy specialist. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be used as an alternative (if appropriate).

 

Q. Do the vaccines contain any animal products?

A.  No, none of the vaccines contains animal products.  

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