With NHS Lanarkshire making good progress in delivering its largest ever vaccination programme and your turn to receive an invitation for the jab getting closer, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub explores some of the common questions that people have been asking about the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
Over one million Scots have now had their first dose of the vaccine, and with the opening of more mass vaccination centres imminent, it could be time for your inoculation sooner than you think. Understandably, you may have a range of questions on your mind in relation to the consequences of the vaccine and what you can and cannot do after receiving it.
Experts know and are still learning a lot about the coronavirus vaccine, shots that offer many a glimmer of hope as the pandemic continues to rage on. With millions of Brits now having received the vaccine, scientists and health experts are developing a clearer picture of the treatment and its impact on large groups of people.
There are still many unknowns about the vaccine, however. To help citizens of Greater Cumbernauld feel more reassured, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has collated the below answers to some key vaccine questions, as sourced from NHS and leading health experts.
COVID-19 VACCINATION: KEY QUESTIONS ANSWERED
What Is a COVID-19 Vaccine?
A COVID‑19 vaccine is an injection administered to people intended to provide acquired immunity against COVID‑19. As of February 2021, there were 66 different vaccines undergoing clinical research worldwide. The UK has currently approved three vaccines as safe for use on the general population; the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Each of these vaccines requires the recipient to have two doses, spaced a few weeks apart.
Prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic, work to develop a vaccine against other coronavirus diseases like SARS and MERS established knowledge about the structure and function of coronaviruses. This, coupled with huge investment and a worldwide scientific effort, resulted in development of the first approved COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.
The UK Government has outlined a plan to vaccinate its entire adult population by Autumn 2021, starting with the 15 million people considered most vulnerable by mid-February 2021.
When Will I Be Vaccinated?
NHS Lanarkshire is currently working through a process of vaccinating three waves of identified priority groups. The first wave focussed on residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, all those aged 80 and over and patient-facing health and social care workers. Almost every person in each one of these groups has now been vaccinated.
In February 2021, vaccination of a second wave of priority groups commenced. This incorporates all those aged 65 and over and all individuals aged 16-64 year-olds with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk. The current target is that everyone in these categories will receive their first dose of the vaccine by early March 2021. The next wave after this will involve all those aged 50 and over. Once these groups have been vaccinated, the final objective is to immunise all those aged 16-49 years-old.
NHS Lanarkshire has emphasised that every person will be contacted when it is their turn to receive the vaccination. As such, individuals are asked not to contact their GP but instead wait to receive notification of appointment.
Where Will I Be Vaccinated?
Vaccination appointments are taking place at a number of facilities across Greater Cumbernauld, including local GP surgeries, Muirfield Community Centre (Cumbernauld), Garrell Vale Community Facility (Kilsyth) and Iain Nicolson Recreation Centre (Chryston), to name just a few.
If you are not deemed fit enough to attend one of these facilities for vaccination, alternative arrangements will be made for you by NHS Lanarkshire.
How Should I Prepare for My Vaccine Appointment?
On the day of your vaccine, wear practical clothing so that it’s easy to access your upper arm and remember to wear a face covering while travelling to, from and during your appointment. If you feel nervous about the jab, remember that it will take a just a few minutes to be vaccinated and the person carrying out the vaccination will be able to support you and answer any questions you may have.
How Safe Are COVID-19 Vaccines?
Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. According to NHS, the vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
NHS reports that so far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported. It is important, however, that you tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction before.
Some mild and short-term side effects have been reported by vaccine recipients, including a sore arm where the needle went in, feeling tired, a headache, feeling achy and feeling or being sick. There is no risk whatsoever of individuals catching COVID-19 from having the vaccine.
It is recognised that some people hold and have expressed alternative views on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. In this respect, it is the role of Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub to provide information from verified sources, most notably the NHS.
How Effective Are COVID-19 Vaccines?
Compared with other vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine, experts believe that the COVID-19 vaccines developed and approved are of high efficacy, although a definitive answer on this will not be known until a much later stage. Generally, it is thought that it takes a few weeks for the vaccine to take effect and provide protection.
The first dose of any approved COVID-19 vaccine should provide good protection from coronavirus. For longer lasting protection, a second dose of the vaccine is required. It is important to note that vaccines do not provide 100% protection, hence it is still possible that individuals may contract or spread coronavirus even after being vaccinated.
Data from Pfizer suggests its vaccine is around 52% effective after the first dose, compared with 95% efficacy following the second. Studies have suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers 64.1% protection after the first dose, compared to 70.4% efficacy after two doses.
Do I Need to Keep Wearing a Mask and Social Distancing After Being Vaccinated?
Everyone will be required to continue to follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on social distancing and wearing a mask where required, even after vaccination.
Not enough information is currently available to say when we can stop taking these precautions, as scientists need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide and how it affects transmission before making a decision.
Do I Still Need Vaccinated If I’ve Already Had COVID-19?
Due to the health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection is possible, individuals should still have the vaccine even if they have previously tested positive. However, people that have contracted COVID-19 are required to leave a gap between their positive test and getting the vaccine.
Experts do not know how long someone is protected for after recovering from COVID-19, as immunity varies from person to person. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long and vaccination should provide longer immunity, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
Will I Still Need to Get a COVID-19 Test If I Have Symptoms After Vaccination?
If you find you are suffering from coronavirus symptoms after being vaccinated, then it’s important that you still get tested and follow isolation rules if a test comes back positive. Despite having boosted immunity to serious illness from the virus, self-isolation will be required as further information on transmission of the virus still requires to be known.
Can I Still Be Vaccinated If I’m Pregnant?
At the moment there is no indication that the vaccine could cause harm to pregnancy, but as the vaccine is still in the early stages of the roll-out there is insufficient data to recommend routine COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy
If you are pregnant and fall within a clinically vulnerable category outlined by the NHS, then you should speak to your GP about the risks and benefits of having the vaccine. Your GP will support you with making a decision that is right for you and your baby.
Can I Drink Alcohol After a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Some alcohol charities have urged individuals to err on the side of caution by not drinking alcohol for two weeks after getting the jab, although some experts do not think drinking will cause any problems.
Notably, the charity Drinkaware has indicated that there is a chance heavy drinking could interfere with the body’s ability to develop immunity after taking the vaccine. Anyone with concerns over this are advised to speak to their GP or allocated healthcare professional in advance of being vaccinated.
NHS inform has established a national helpline as a first point of contact for all coronavirus vaccination enquiries. This can be accessed free of charge by telephoning 0800 030 8013 between 8am and 8pm any day of the week.
Meanwhile, Cumbernauld CHaT (Community Help and Talk) provides a telephone helpline, open from 9am-9pm every day, and an email support service which aim to act as a first stop shop for advice, guidance, signposting, social contact and practical assistance for those in the Greater Cumbernauld area in need of help as a result of coronavirus.