Vaccination information for Burnley & Padiham residents
(Published Feb 1st 2021, updated 8th April)
A vaccine is what we have been waiting for to help us get back to normal. We have answers to your questions from local GPs, Dr Yas Naheed and Dr James Fleming. We explain why it is so important for us all to get vaccinated, how the appointments work, and we bust some common myths about the vaccine (please also see the useful links on this page for the latest from the NHS and other medical professionals).
What are vaccines?
Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against illness. Diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are either gone or seen very rarely thanks to vaccines. However, if people stop having vaccines, infectious diseases could spread again quickly.
Are we sure it is safe?
In the UK, there are currently three types of COVID-19 vaccine that have been approved as safe. The vaccines have been shown to fight the virus successfully, and no serious safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people (many millions have now been vaccinated in the UK and around the world).
UPDATE: Please see below about a safety review of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But it was developed so quickly!
The vaccine trials didn’t skip any of the usual safety steps. Instead, some of the stages overlapped. Usually vaccine trials are slowed down by long periods of waiting around, applying for permission, funding and staff capacity.
It’s those elements that were sped up, because of the huge global interest in doing so. Also, side effects usually show up quite quickly after vaccination and longer-term effects are very rare. Whereas, the effects of COVID-19 are much more common.
What is the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots? Should I be worried?
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has conducted a review and found:
- There were 79 cases of blood clotting and 19 deaths occurred after 20 million doses were administered - giving a risk of about four in one million of developing a blood clot, and one in a million of dying
- Nearly two-thirds of the cases of rare clots were seen in women
- The people who died were aged between 18 and 79, with three of them aged under 30
- All the recorded cases occurred after the first dose, although the lower number of second doses meant it was not possible to draw any conclusions from this.
The World Health Organization said the link between the vaccine and blood clots was "plausible" but not confirmed, adding that the clotting incidents were "very rare" among nearly 200 million people who have received the jab worldwide.
No treatment or vaccine is risk free. The key question is whether it does more good than harm.
The review by the MHRA demonstrates the AstraZeneca vaccine does mroe good than harm - even if you assume it's causing these clots, which has not been proven yet.
The risk of dying from one of them following vaccination is incredibly small - about one in a million.
By contrast, Covid kills one in eight people who are infected over the age of 75, and one in 1,000 infected in their 40s among those who develop symptoms.
It is less clear cut for those under 30, who are much less likely to die of Covid - although the AstraZeneca vaccine still presents more benefit than risk.
That is why the under 30s will be offered an alternative vaccine.
Read more on this update here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56665517
Drug companies stand to make a lot of money- can we trust them?
Approval is only given in the UK if the regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, is happy that a vaccine is both safe and effective. Other regulators around the world have also approved the vaccines.
Will a vaccine make me ill?
Vaccines do not give you a disease. Instead, they teach your body’s immune system to recognise and fight the infection they have been designed to protect against. Some people do suffer mild symptoms after being vaccinated, such as muscle aches or a raised temperature. This is not the disease itself, but the body’s response to the vaccine.
Does it affect pregnancy?
There is no evidence that the vaccines can affect fertility or babies that are breast fed. You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.
Then why are pregnant women not being asked to take the vaccine?
Because the vaccines have not yet been tested amongst a large number of pregnant women. So, until more information is available, those who are pregnant should not have the vaccine as matter of routine. However, some pregnant women that are at high risk from covid may be advised by their GP to get the vaccine because the danger from covid is far, far bigger than the danger, if any, from the vaccine.
Does the vaccine contain animal products or alcohol?
The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca do not contain any animal products. The British Islamic Medical Association recommend people to have the vaccine and stress that there is negligible alcohol in it - no more than in bread, for example.
I had COVID-19 and recovered - Why should I get vaccinated?
People will still be offered the jab even if they have had Covid-19 in the past. That’s because natural immunity may not be long-lived and immunisation could offer more protection.
If everyone else gets vaccinated then surely I don’t need to bother?
We need as many people as possible to get vaccinated, not just to protect yourself, but, because of herd immunity, to protect those around you. There is a mass of scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections. COVID-19 vaccines appear to stop people getting very sick and could save lives.
But I am young and healthy, what difference does it make if I don’t have the vaccine?
It is not yet clear how much protection vaccines might give in terms of stopping people from spreading Covid-19. However, if they can do this well, vaccinating enough people would stamp out the disease. That would mean that all our lives would get back to normal. So a fit, young healthy person whose risk from COVID-19 is low, is helping people around them by having the vaccine.
When will I get the vaccine?
Please wait to be contacted. You can book an appointment when you have received a letter or phone contact from the health service inviting you to book your vaccine. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn. You must have an appointment and cannot just turn up at a vaccination centre. It is a free vaccination, and you will not be charged.
You will also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. If you are not, you can register with your local GP- call a local surgery or find more information by searching online for “register GP”.
Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.
This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.
After I have had the vaccine, will I still need to follow the rules on social distancing?
Remember- immunity takes time to build up. During the gap between your first and second dose you must continue to social distance. Even though two doses of the vaccine will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill, no vaccine is completely effective and it will take a few weeks for your body to build up protection.
To protect yourself, your family, friends and colleagues, you should continue to follow the general advice at work, at home and when you are out and about:
- Practise social distancing
- Wear a face covering
- Wash your hands carefully and frequently
What is community immunity (herd immunity)?
Vaccination protects you and your family, and it also helps protect others. It contributes to ‘community immunity’. This is achieved when enough people in a population are immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) so that it is unlikely to spread from person to person. Even those who cannot be vaccinated because, for instance, they are too young, or are allergic to vaccine components are offered some protection because the disease cannot spread in the community and infect them. This is also known as ‘herd immunity’.
Three reasons why we cannot go back to normal too soon!
First, have hope! Once all the vulnerable groups have been given the vaccine, restrictions will start to be lifted. However, we cannot “get back to normal” too soon. Why?
- Scientists estimate that 70% to 80% of the population need to be vaccinated before we start to see herd immunity. That won’t happen until the summer.
- We don’t know if the vaccine prevents the spread of the virus from one person to another. This means, even if the majority of at risk groups are vaccinated, they could still spread the virus.
- While older people and those with certain clinical conditions are more at risk from hospitalisation from covid-19, we need to protect everyone until we have stamped out the virus completely. Research suggests around one in five people who test positive for covid-19 have symptoms for five weeks or longer. For around one in ten people, they last 12 weeks or longer. This is called Long Covid. The symptoms include: fatigue, breathlessness, anxiety and depression, chest pains and muscle pain.
What does “staying alert” to the virus mean in practice?
- Please, please keep following current guidance
- Get a test. If you think you are at risk of catching or spreading the virus because of where you live or your work, get tested regularly.
- Isolate for 10 days if you are positive. Local services can help you self-isolate.
- Wash hands, open windows for fresh air (this really does make a difference!), and keep your distance from people, and wear a mask.