Coronavirus: Changes to restrictions

Only meet indoors with people you live with or your support bubble. Up to 6 people or 2 households can meet outside. Work from home if you can. If you have symptoms get a test and stay at home.

Coronavirus: Information and advice

2. Vaccination facts

  • The vaccine is free, safe and does not give you Coronavirus
  • It helps you fight off the disease by priming your immune system. Along with Hands, Face, Space it is the best defence you, your family, and your community have from the disease. Get your first dose as soon as it’s offered.  
  • The vaccine do not contain a chip. Rumours and stories spread mainly on social media are not based on evidence or science and sharing these stories can endanger lives.
  • The vaccine is halal. "The covid vaccines administered in the UK are halal, permissible from Islamic perspective, and there should be no hesitation in taking them from a moral perspective. It is our ethical duty to protect ourselves and others from potential harm." Imam Qari Asim, Chair of MINAB (Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board)
  • The vaccine is safe and wasn’t rushed into production - The speed of approval was mainly due to cutting red tape rather than cutting corners. Thanks to joint working and funding scientists have been able to complete years of work in months.
  • The vaccine should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives and will therefore reduce pressure on the NHS and social care services.
  • Two doses of the vaccine will reduce your chances of becoming seriously ill. Remember though – even when you’ve had them you must continue to follow the national guidance, including Hands, Face, Space. This includes isolating if you have symptoms and if you’ve come into close contacts with someone who has the disease. 

Reports of very rare blood clots

The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The problem can also happen in people who have not been vaccinated and it's not yet clear why it affects some people.

The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from coronavirus. For people aged 30 or over and those with other health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any risk of clotting problems.

For people under 30 without other health conditions, it's currently advised that it's preferable to have another COVID-19 vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Call 111 immediately if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that's unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain

MHRA new advice -  AstraZeneca and extremely rare, unlikely to occur blood clots

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection.

The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection. 

Effectiveness

The independent Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have said the vaccine is highly effective, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked in as soon as possible.

As with any vaccine, coverage is not 100% effective. Therefore there is a chance that you may still get the disease.

The way that the vaccine works is that if an infection does take hold its severity and consequence are likely to be very much reduced, meaning that people demonstrate much milder symptoms.

All the national MHRA advice supports that on balance it is safer to have the vaccine, particularly for those who are at greater risk of developing more serious consequences of the virus.

Safety

The pandemic has accelerated the development and testing of Coronavirus vaccines. The emergency nature of the situation has meant the development of the vaccine has had to move at speed.

Any vaccine that is approved must go through all the same clinical trials and safety checks as all other medicines go through.

Vaccines are only available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

Thousands of people have already received 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.

There are MHRA recommendations for some groups to not have the vaccine – these are precautionary due to a lack of data, rather than because there is an expected issue.

These include people with a history of a severe allergy to food items or medicines i.e. those who carry epi-pens including those with contraindications to penicillin-based medicines 

Side effects

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects.

Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.

Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose.

You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.

Very common side effects include:

  • Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • General aches, or mild flu-like symptoms

As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a bad reaction to the vaccine.

These symptoms normally last less than a week.

If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111.

If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them the vaccination card) so that they can assess you properly.

You can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines online through the Yellow Card scheme or by downloading the Yellow Card app from the GOV.UK website.

Testing

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met the strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness set out by the MHRA.

These are international standards of safety.

People from every ethnic background were included in the trials.

The vaccine is safe and effective for all those who will be invited.

We know death rates are higher in Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and this could be compounded by a reluctance to take up the vaccine.

Some anti-vaccine messages have also been targeted specifically towards BAME communities, and they are not based on facts. Vaccination is the best way to protect you and your community.

Medicines including vaccines are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccines. 

There a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines; 

  • The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process; 
  • There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way, and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial; 
  • Clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine involved over 43,000 participants and managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

The Public Assessment Report contains all the scientific information about the trial and information on trial participants. You can read it in full here or read a summary of the report here.

For the Pfizer trial, participants included 9.6% black/African, 26.1% Hispanic/Latino, and 3.4% Asian.  

There is no evidence the vaccine will work differently in different ethnic groups. 

There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine 

The trial sample included those of various ages, immune-compromised, and those with underlying health conditions.

Analysis of data by health condition is available in the Public Assessment Report. The efficacy of the vaccine translates through all the subgroups. 

Although the vaccine was not tested on those with very serious immunological conditions, the vaccine has been proven to be very effective and it is unlikely that the vaccine will have no effect at all on these individuals.  

There may be a very small number of people with very complex or severe immunological problems who can’t make any response at all – but the vaccine should not do any harm to these individuals. Individuals meeting these criteria may want to discuss the vaccine further with their specialist doctor. 

What's in the vaccine

There is no material of foetal or animal origin in the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. 

All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the website and are included in the Public Assessment Report

Listed are the ingredients of the vaccine, and these are standard and expected ingredients in other medicines and foods.

Pfizer: ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl)bis (hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide,  1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, cholesterol, potassium chloride, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, sodium chloride, disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate, sucrose, water for injections.

Oxford: L-Histidine, L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, Magnesium chloride hexahydrate, Polysorbate 80, Ethanol, Sucrose, Sodium chloride, Disodium edetate dihydrate, Water for injections.

If, and when, further vaccines are successful, we will publish information about known allergens or ingredients that are important for certain faiths, cultures, and beliefs.

Getting the vaccine

You are required to have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, a minimum of 21 days apart

You should get both doses in the same place. This is so we can avoid people missing their second dose.

Existing NHS staff or those recruited by the NHS specifically for the programme – including those who signed up to the NHS Bring Back scheme will be administering the vaccine.

There are a number of roles within the vaccination programme and these will require different levels of qualifications and experience. 

Legislation allows a wider group of people to administer vaccines, including more health care professionals as well as others who have passed a programme of training developed by Public Health England (PHE) and Health Education England (HEE).

New vaccinators will be assessed in person and closely supervised to ensure their and patients’ safety. 

PHE and HEE have compiled comprehensive training which includes anaphylaxis and Basic Life Support training, injection administration, training on vaccines in general and the specific ones that will be used.  

Importantly new vaccinators will be supervised and assessed by senior clinicians to ensure both their safety and of course the safety of the people they are vaccinating – just like any other vaccinator.   

You should be able to work as long as you feel well.

If your arm is particularly sore, you may find heavy lifting difficult. If you feel unwell or very tired you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.

I’m currently ill with COVID-19

People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive COVID-19 vaccine until they have recovered.

If you have already had COVID-19 you still need to get vaccinated.

There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive COVID-19 vaccine.

Flu

The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. If you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.

The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu.

If you have been offered a flu vaccine, please try to have this as soon as possible to help protect you, your family, and patients from flu this winter.