AS A GP, I believe it was my duty to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect myself and the public from this deadly virus that I’ve seen affect so many lives. Although a third of all UK adults have now had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, I know some people are worried about the safety of a new vaccine. It’s completely natural to have questions about new medicines – I had some myself. But it’s vital we seek factual information from trusted sources. Here I’ve answered some common questions about the jab for you:
How do we know that the vaccine is safe?
As is the case with all other medicines we use in the UK today, the COVID-19 vaccines have been independently assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). At every stage of development, the vaccines have been subjected to the same stringent testing as other medicines and only approved once they were proven to be safe and effective.
It can be difficult to get black participation in clinical trials, but we can take a lot of comfort knowing that the black representation in trials for the COVID-19 vaccines is one of the highest we have seen in trials for vaccines to date. In the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trials around 10% of volunteers were black and in the trial for the Oxford vaccine, approximately 11% of participants were black. This means scientists have evidence to prove the vaccines are safe and effective regardless of your race.
All vaccines offered on the NHS are both safe and effective.
Does the vaccine cause any long-term side effects?
There is no data to suggest any of the COVID-19 vaccines will cause long term or irreversible side effects. With vaccines these often arise within a few weeks and are picked up in clinical trials. To date, tens of thousands of volunteers have participated in trials and millions of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine worldwide, and no long-term complications have been reported.
Can the vaccine affect my fertility?
There is no data to suggest that taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines could lead to any fertility issues in women or men. A widespread theory that immunity to the spike protein contained in the vaccine could lead to fertility problems is not supported by scientific evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibodies to the spike and research shows no evidence of fertility problems in people who have had COVID-19. There is no need to delay taking the vaccine if you are of childbearing age or want to have children now or in the future.
How long will the protection from the vaccine last?
Research shows that the COVID-19 vaccine offers longer term protection, but it’s not yet known exactly how long this will last. Once a large amount of the population is vaccinated and there has been enough time for sufficient data to be gathered, we’ll have a better idea of how effective the vaccine is over an extended period of time. Scientists are looking into whether annual or booster vaccines will be needed in future.
If someone is taking other medications regularly, will taking the vaccine cause complications?
Many people who have been prioritised for the vaccine because they are clinically extremely vulnerable or have underlying health conditions are on regular medication and this has not been a barrier to them getting the jab. Receiving a COVID vaccine while taking many regular medicines won’t be a problem but if you’re taking medication regularly and you’re unsure if you should get the vaccine because of this, you should discuss the matter with your doctor.
What is the vaccine made of?
There are currently three vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK. These are: the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. None of the vaccines contain any animal products, making them suitable for vegans or those who want to avoid consuming animal derivatives for any religious, cultural or dietary reasons. You can view a list of ingredients for the vaccines on the gov.uk website.
If you have any other questions, please talk to a trusted health professional such as your GP or phamacist or visit nhs.uk/covidvaccine