COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs – Who is eligible, and what are the side effects?
Following extensive research and testing, there is now a COVID-19 vaccine available in the UK. Having been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials, the vaccine is currently being rolled out across the country.
The vaccine requires two doses – the first to provide initial protection, and the second to act as a booster.
With vaccinations for the novel Coronavirus now being distributed, we’ve compiled a list of the frequently asked questions surrounding the roll-out plan, who is eligible, and what some of the expected side effects might be.
Why should I be vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus can cause serious illness, which may lead to long-term health complications, particularly in older people or those with underlying clinical risk factors and conditions.
Unfortunately, being healthy does not reduce your risk of catching the virus, or of passing it on. You can catch COVID-19 and not experience any symptoms, but then pass it on to friends, family and co-workers who are at an increased risk of falling seriously ill.
With the rate of transmission still climbing, it’s important that we each do what we can to help with stopping the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 vaccine offers a barrier to transmission, and is our best hope of having things return to normal.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is a droplet-borne virus, meaning that it is spread via droplets breathed out of the nose or mouth of an infected person, particularly when speaking, coughing or sneezing.
Wearing a mask when out in public, such as whilst travelling to your workplace if you are unable to work from home, or when shopping for essential items, will reduce the risk of you contracting the virus from an infected person, or spreading the virus should you yourself be infected and not be experiencing any symptoms.
The virus can also be transmitted if you come into contact with a contaminated object or surface.
If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, such as a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, or a lack of taste or smell, you should endeavour to stay at home until you have had the opportunity to be tested. If you test positive for the virus, you must self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
Is the vaccine for COVID-19 safe? Should I be concerned about getting vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccine has undergone extensive testing here in the UK and has been shown to be effective. During the testing period, no safety concerns have arisen in any study.
Will the vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
Being vaccinated will reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and suffering with the virus. However, no vaccine is 100% effective, and as with all vaccines, it will take a few weeks for your body to build immunity and protection against the virus, so it’s important that you continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and other restrictions that have been put into place.
After being vaccinated, there will still be a small chance that you could contract the virus, but the vaccine should lessen the severity of the symptoms should you become infected.
Can I still catch and transmit the COVID-19 virus after being vaccinated?
Yes. No vaccine is 100% effective, so there is still a small chance that you might contract the virus, although symptoms should be less severe if you have been vaccinated.
As there is still a chance for you to catch COVID-19 after vaccination, there is also a chance that you could then pass on the virus to someone else, therefore it is important that you continue to maintain social distance and wear a mask when out in public, and continue to wash your hands thoroughly and more often throughout the day.
Could the vaccine give me COVID-19?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot infect you with the virus. However, being vaccinated does not offer complete immunity. A full course (of two doses) will reduce the chances of you catching the virus, or of becoming seriously ill should you catch it.
I’m a frontline key worker. Will receiving the vaccine help me to protect those I care for?
In short, yes. Most vaccines reduce the overall risk of infection, meaning those on the frontline are less likely to contract the virus, and therefore less likely to pass it on to anyone they are caring for.
Why do I have to wait for my vaccine?
The vaccine is currently being distributed across the UK, with the priority placed on those who are most likely to suffer serious ill health or medical complications should they become infected.
The first group of people to receive the vaccine will be those living in a care home, and those working as a frontline healthcare worker or social care worker, who are more likely to be exposed to the virus on a regular basis.
The vaccine will then be rolled out following a distribution plan which categorises people by age group.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you’re a frontline worker in the NHS, or a key worker in the private health sector, you are more likely to be exposed to the virus whilst at work. Healthcare workers and those working in social care, particularly in care homes, are at a much higher risk of repeated exposure to the virus. That’s why key workers are amongst those being prioritised for receiving the vaccine.
After the first round of vaccines has been delivered to the priority group, the vaccine will then be rolled out to other groups according to the following order:
- Those aged over 80 years
- Those aged over 75 years
- Those aged over 70 years
- Adults on the NHS shielded patients list
- Those aged over 65 years
- Adults aged under 65 years with long-term health conditions, including:
– A blood cancer, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma
– A heart condition
– A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema, or severe asthma
– A kidney or liver disease
– Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, such as HIV infection, steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy
– Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or psoriasis
– Organ transplant patients
– Stroke sufferers
– A neurological or muscle-wasting condition
– A severe or profound learning difficulty
At the same time, adult who provide regular care for an elderly or disabled person, and younger adults in long-stay nursing or residential care settings, will also receive the vaccine.
Anyone in a group not listed above will be required to wait for their vaccine until more supplies become available.
Can I still be vaccinated if I’m pregnant?
As with all new vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been tested in pregnant women, therefore it is advised that pregnant women should wait until their pregnancy is completed before they receive the vaccine.
If you find out that you are pregnant after you have had the vaccine, don’t panic. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain organisms that multiply in the body, therefore it cannot cause COVID-19 infection in your unborn baby.
How long does it take to build up immunity after vaccination?
It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. This means that it is possible for a person to become infected with COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still fall ill.
Even after your body has had time to respond to the vaccine, no vaccine is 100% effective, so you should continue to follow all guidance and restrictions in your local area as closely as possible.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, however it’s important to remember that most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone will experience them.
Very common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include:
- Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm you received your injection. This pain tends to be at its worst around 1-2 days after vaccination.
- Feeling tired
- Suffering with headaches
- Suffering with general aches and pains, or mild flu-like symptoms
You might also feel feverish for the first few days after receiving your vaccine. However, should your fever be prolonged beyond this period, it may be an indication that you have contracted the virus or another infection.
You may take paracetamol in order to alleviate any of these side effects, not exceeding the advised dosage, and you should try to rest as much as possible.
These symptoms normally last less than a week, however if you grow concerned over any side effects you are experiencing, or if they appear to worsen, you should seek medical advice by contacting NHS 111.
Can I return to work after being vaccinated, or will I need to isolate?
You should be able to return to work as long as you feel well, although current guidance advises anyone who can work from home to do so.
If your arm is particularly sore after you have received your injection, you may find heavy lifting to be difficult, so it’s important to keep this in mind if you are required to lift heavy objects at work.
You should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving a vehicle if you feel unwell, or if you are fatigued.
What should I do after I’ve been vaccinated?
After you have received your COVID-19 vaccination, you should plan to attend your second appointment to receive the booster injection, which should be between 3 and 12 weeks from the date of your first.
It is important that you receive both doses of the same vaccine, as this will offer you the best protection against the virus.
Be sure to keep your vaccine record card safe, and try to keep your follow-up appointment to receive your second dose.
If you are unwell when the time comes for you to receive your second dose, it’s better to wait until you have recovered from your illness. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating, exhibiting symptoms, or waiting for a COVID-19 test. You should make arrangements to receive your vaccine as soon as possible once you have recovered from your illness.
I’ve already had a flu jab – do I still need to have a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. The flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines, you should have them both, but you should try to arrange your appointments so that there is at least one week separating the two vaccination dates.
When will things get back to normal?
Unfortunately, it is still unknown when things might return to normal. However, having the vaccine approved and rolled out across the country is a huge step in the right direction.
In the meantime, it’s important that we each do everything in our power to help stop the spread and prevent our NHS from facing additional pressures. Be sure to continue to follow social distancing guidance, only mix with people in your own household or support bubble, wear a mask in public spaces, and wash your hands thoroughly and regularly throughout the day.