COVID-19 Vaccination Programme questions and answers

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Information on where to get a vaccine is available here.

All children aged 12-17 years old in Northern Ireland are now eligible to receive a second dose of the vaccine, see here for more information.

Table of Contents

  1. COVID-19 vaccine booster programme
  2. 1. What is the COVID-19 booster programme?
  3. 2. Where can I get my booster vaccine?
  4. 3.  Which vaccine will be administered during the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme?
  5. Primary Course of COVID-19 Vaccine - About the vaccine
  6. 4. Why are vaccines important? 
  7. 5. What vaccines are available?
  8. 6.  Will the vaccine be compulsory?
  9. 7. Where can I get my first or second vaccine dose?
  10. 8. Are there any precautions I need to take before or after I receive the vaccine?
  11. 9. Is it a live vaccine?
  12. 10. What’s in the vaccines?
  13. 11. Who can get the vaccine?
  14. 12. What if I’m under 18 years old and have received my vaccine within 12 weeks of a prior infection?
  15. 13. Should I cancel my appointment (if I am under 18) if it has already been booked for less than 12 weeks after my recent COVID-19 infection?
  16. 14. Can the COVID-19 vaccines cause inflammation of the heart?
  17. 15. What signs and symptoms of myocarditis should I look for?
  18. 17. I am worried about developing myocarditis, should I stop exercising following COVID-19 vaccination?
  19. 18. Are there any people who can’t have the vaccine?
  20. 19. I have a condition that puts me at increased risk of bleeding or I am on blood thinners/anticoagulants. Can I get the vaccine?
  21. 20. I have a clotting disorder. Can I get the vaccine?
  22. 21. I’ve had COVID-19 already/tested positive for antibodies, do I need to be vaccinated?
  23. 22. Will other measures (social distancing/face coverings) still apply to me if I’ve had the vaccine?
  24. 24. What about treatments, are there effective ways to treat COVID?
  25. 25. How effective is the first vaccine injection without getting the second dose/booster dose? 
  26. 26. Have the vaccines been tested in people over 80 years old or just in younger populations?
  27. 27. If I receive a RNA-based vaccine, can it tamper with my DNA?
  28. 28. Can I still spread the virus to others if I am vaccinated?
  29. 29. If a person has received the vaccination and is subsequently notified that they have been in direct contact with a positive case - are they still required to isolate?
  30. 30. Is there gluten in the vaccine as I am coeliac?
  31. 31. Can the COVID-19 vaccine lead to people having a positive COVID-19 nose or throat swab test?
  32. 32. How long is the course? How many injections and over what period of time?
  33. 33.  How long do I have to wait between the first and second doses of the vaccine?
  34. 34. What happens if I don’t go for my second appointment?
  35. 35. Will the vaccine fully protect me against COVID-19?
  36. 36. If I have the vaccine may I be immune for life? Can I still catch COVID-19 after I’ve been immunised?
  37. 37. Has the vaccine been rushed? Is it safe?
  38. 38. I have a health condition/allergy. Can I still get the vaccine?
  39. 39. Do I have to wait after getting the flu vaccine before I can get the COVID-19 vaccine?
  40. 40. Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breast feeding?
  41. 41. I’ve heard the COVID-19 vaccination can affect your chances of getting pregnant or cause infertility?
  42. 42. I am currently going through or planning to go through IVF. Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
  43. 43. I have had my first vaccine and am now pregnant.  Should I get my second dose vaccination?
  44. 44. Can COVID-19 vaccination cause changes to my period or abnormal vaginal bleeding?
  45. 45. What happens if I experience side effects/adverse or unexpected events, how do I report it? 
  46. 46. Do the vaccines have any ingredients which are unsuitable for religious groups?
  47. 47. Do they have ingredients which are unsuitable for vegans?
  48. 48.  Do they have any ingredients which are unsuitable for those with allergies?
  49. 49. I am a transplant recipient/I am on the transplant waiting list, how can I find out information about the vaccine specific to my clinical situation?
  50. 50. Does drinking alcohol impact on how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is?There is no evidence to indicate that drinking alcohol within the recommended weekly limits will have any impact on the vaccine’s effectiveness.
  51. 51. I am a member of the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community, should I have the COVID-19 vaccine?
  52. 52. I have heard that there are COVID-19 vaccination scams. How do I know if an email/phone call or text is genuine?

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COVID-19 vaccine booster programme

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1. What is the COVID-19 booster programme?

On 07/01/2022 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) released a statement outlining the vaccine programme and Omicron. This statement included the following:

“The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that while protection against mild symptomatic infection appears to wane substantially by about 3 months after the booster dose (~30% vaccine effectiveness), protection against severe disease (hospitalisation) is well maintained in older adults (~90% vaccine effectiveness)” This data underlines the importance of the booster programme for protection against severe disease.

For full statement please see here.

With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact, we are seeing that COVID-19 is now co-circulating alongside other respiratory viruses, including seasonal influenza virus. We know that protection with only two doses of a COVID vaccine wanes overtime this is why a booster dose is now recommended, no sooner than 3 months after the primary course.

Anyone who is 18 years old or older and has completed a primary course of COVID vaccination programme is eligible for a booster dose.  

 The following groups are also eligible for a booster dose:

  • 16 and 17 year olds

  • those aged 12-15 who are at higher risk from COVID-19 (See table 4 in Green Book or

  • those aged 12-15 years who are household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals of any age (defined as immunosuppressed in tables 3 or 4 in Green Book).

  • This also includes high risk individuals who received primary vaccination as part of the 5-11 year cohort who have now turned 12 years of age

JCVI has advised that a lower dose of vaccine is preferred for those aged 12 years alongside those aged 11 years in the same academic year (year 7 in England and Wales, year 8 in Northern Ireland and year S1 in Scotland). In NI this section of the vaccine roll out is being delivered by Trust Vaccination Clinics. Children will be given the age appropriate vaccinations based on their age at their first primary dose for their schedule.

Children aged 5-11 years who have commenced immunisation with the paediatric dose of Pfizer BioNTech and then turn 12 years of age should also complete vaccination with the paediatric dose.

An adult/adolescent (30 micrograms) dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty®) has approval for use from 12 years old and currently has the most extensive safety data in those aged 12-17 years. This vaccine is therefore the preferred vaccine for children and young people.

Women who are pregnant who are over 18 or are in one of the eligible groups above can also get a booster dose.

Spring 2022 Booster Programme

In February 2022, JCVI recommended a spring booster campaign for those at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Many of the oldest adults received their booster vaccine dose in September or October 2021, and protection against severe disease is expected to continue to wane gradually by the autumn of this year.

As a precautionary strategy, an extra spring dose is being advised, to sustain protection whilst JCVI continues to monitor effectiveness, ahead of an expected booster programme in autumn 2022.

The JCVI has recommended that a further booster dose should be given around 6 months after the last vaccine dose to:

● adults aged 75 years and over

● residents in a care home for older adults, and

● individuals aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed (defined as immunosuppressed in tables 3 or 4 of the Green Book).

Between March and June 2022, it will be 6 months since the last vaccine dose for most people aged 75.

Immunosuppressed individuals who have received an additional third primary dose may have received the booster (fourth) dose more recently. These individuals and other eligible people who received their last vaccine more recently should also be offered the booster during the spring campaign providing there is at least three months since previous dose.

Someone in an eligible group who has received a full course of primary vaccination (two or three doses) but has not received their first booster by March 2022, may be given the spring booster in the campaign provided there is at least three months since their previous dose.

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2. Where can I get my booster vaccine?

For the latest details of vaccination hub locations and community pharmacies that are providing booster doses and for details on how to book your appointment please see the following link: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/get-covid-19-vaccination-and-booster-northern-ireland  

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3.  Which vaccine will be administered during the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme?

Those eligible will be offered a booster dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. If the Moderna vaccine is used, a half dose will be given which should result in less side effects compared with the full dose, while still providing high levels of protection. Both vaccines are safe and very effective; they provide high levels of protection.

Anyone aged less than18 years of age will only receive the Pfizer vaccine.

If for any reason you one of a small number of people who cannot receive a mRNA vaccine as a booster and require an AstraZeneca booster vaccine, you should speak with your GP who will discuss your options further with you and provide you with a letter for you to receive an AstraZeneca booster at a community pharmacy if this is required.

Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in their primary course.

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Primary Course of COVID-19 Vaccine - About the vaccine

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4. Why are vaccines important? 

Vaccines teach your immune system how to protect you from diseases. It's much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and attempting to treat them. Vaccines also produce a much stronger response from our immune system when compared to the response seen after COVID-19 infection alone.

Vaccines can reduce or even eradicate some diseases, if enough of the population are vaccinated. Since vaccines were introduced, diseases like smallpox and polio that used to kill or disable millions of people are no longer present in the UK.

The long term response to the pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all who need it. It’s a way to keep you, your friends and family safe

To be eligible to be vaccinated as part of the Northern Ireland vaccination programme you have to be registered with a GP in Northern Ireland.

If you are not registered with a GP in Northern Ireland but live here or are temporally a resident in Northern Ireland, you should contact the Department of Health on COVID-19VaccinationProgramme@health-ni.gov.uk  and they will advise you how you can be vaccinated.

Further information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Northern Ireland can be found here.

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5. What vaccines are available?

Three vaccines have been approved for use in the UK:

·         the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

·         the AstraZeneca vaccine

·         the Moderna vaccine

Following the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) it is preferable if people aged under 40 years receive an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Individuals under 18 years who are eligible will receive Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine unless contraindicated.

All vaccines available in Northern Ireland have completed a full programme of research, including considerations of vaccine efficacy and safety. The vaccines have been reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Authority (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) both of which have granted approval and licencing of the three vaccines as they meet the required effectiveness and safety requirements. The safety and effectiveness of all vaccines in use are continually monitored.  

Other vaccines are also being developed; they will only become available once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.See here for more information on the NI COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

For specific guidance for vaccination in children aged 5-11 please see the following link: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-parents-children-aged-5-11

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6.  Will the vaccine be compulsory?

Northern Ireland operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations. Vaccinations are not compulsory.

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7. Where can I get my first or second vaccine dose?

First and second vaccine doses are still available for individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated.

If you have not yet arranged to have your first or second COVID-19 vaccinations you can book these at: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

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8. Are there any precautions I need to take before or after I receive the vaccine?

You should follow existing advice to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as this will enable you to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, before and after vaccination. Wear a face covering and adhere to social distancing when attending the Vaccine Clinic. Your vaccinator will provide advice on how long you need to wait after the vaccine before going home and any other important information. Don’t forget to bring your photo ID when attending for your vaccination.

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9. Is it a live vaccine?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are live vaccines. They are therefore suitable to use in people who are immunosuppressed, although their immune system may not respond as well and other measures to reduce risk will need to continue to be observed.

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10. What’s in the vaccines?

Recipient information including ingredients for all of the approved vaccines can be found at:

· Pfizer/BioNTech: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19/information-for-uk-recipients-on-pfizerbiontech-covid-19-vaccine

· AstraZeneca: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca/information-for-uk-recipients-on-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

· Moderna: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-moderna/information-for-uk-recipients-on-covid-19-vaccine-moderna

 

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11. Who can get the vaccine?

For information on the vaccination programme, including information on different age groups please see the following link:

·         https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/get-covid-19-vaccination-and-booster-northern-ireland

For specific advice for vaccination for children aged 5-11 please see the following link:

·         https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-parents-children-aged-5-11

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12. What if I’m under 18 years old and have received my vaccine within 12 weeks of a prior infection?

Anyone under 18 who has received their vaccine within 12 weeks of a previous COVID-19 infection, is highly unlikely to experience any serious side effects. Serious side effects are very rare and would occur within a few days after vaccination. You should follow the guidance in the vaccination leaflet. If you are concerned you should contact a healthcare professional. Side effects can be reported at:

· Yellow Card Scheme - MHRA

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13. Should I cancel my appointment (if I am under 18) if it has already been booked for less than 12 weeks after my recent COVID-19 infection?

If you are under 18years old and at risk higher risk of serious COVID-19 disease, then you should continue with your planned appointment. If you are not in one of these risk groups, then the advice is to reschedule for 12 weeks after your COVID-19 infection.

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14. Can the COVID-19 vaccines cause inflammation of the heart?

There have been rare cases of myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart) reported after COVID-19 vaccines. Most of these cases have been in younger men. This rare event usually occurs a few days after the second vaccination although some cases have occurred after the first dose.

For more information from countries around the world on myocarditis and pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccination please see the following link:

·         https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-myocarditis-and-pericarditis-information-for-healthcare-professionals/information-for-healthcare-professionals-on-myocarditis-and-pericarditis-following-covid-19-vaccination

The existing evidence shows that most patients with myocarditis after vaccination respond well to standard treatment for the acute episode, and the prognosis of the myocarditis is good. Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments. If you or your parents or carers do need to seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them the vaccination card, if possible) so that they can assess you properly.

Myocarditis may have long-term consequences and studies are underway to further understand the potential longer-term consequences with follow-up at 3 months and 6 months.

There was concern that individuals under 18 who received their second dose  within 12 weeks of having a COVID-19 infection were at a higher risk of myocarditis. Anyone under 18 who has already had a vaccine within 12 weeks of having a COVID-19 infection is highly unlikely to have experienced any serious side effects, these side effects are very rare and if they do occur this would be within a few days of vaccination, not weeks later.

If they have received a vaccination in the past few days please follow the advice in the “What to expect after vaccination” leaflet; which should have been given to them at their point of vaccination.  These leaflets are also published on the following links:

·         https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-what-to-expect-after-vaccination/what-to-expect-after-your-covid-19-vaccination

·         https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-resources-for-children-and-young-people/information-for-children-and-young-people-on-what-to-expect-after-covid-19-vaccination

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15. What signs and symptoms of myocarditis should I look for?

Myocarditis and pericarditis present with new onset of chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart.

Anyone who develops these symptoms within 10 days of a COVID-19 vaccination should seek medical assistance urgently. Most of these cases are mild and recover in a short time period with standard treatment.

Make sure to tell the medical professional who reviews you that you have recently had a COVID vaccine, bring proof of vaccination to any medical assessments.



16. Should someone who has had myocarditis or pericarditis previously have a COVID-19 vaccination?

A past medical history of myocarditis or pericarditis that is not related to COVID-19 vaccination does not prevent an individual receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The underlying reason for these conditions following administration of a COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated and there is currently no evidence that people with a history of myocarditis or pericarditis are at increased risk of a recurrence following COVID-19 vaccination.

The risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination should be discussed between you and your doctor(s) so that you can make an informed decision.

 

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17. I am worried about developing myocarditis, should I stop exercising following COVID-19 vaccination?


There is no evidence that strenuous exercise increases the risk of developing myocarditis following vaccination. You can resume your usual activities if you feel well. This includes exercise that you would normally do.

 

If you feel unwell or very tired, then you should rest until you feel better. If you develop chest pain, palpitations or dizziness you should seek medical attention.

 

If you have been diagnosed with myocarditis or pericarditis, you should follow the advice of your doctor/clinical team about when to start exercising again.

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18. Are there any people who can’t have the vaccine?

There are very few individuals who cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccine should not be given to those who have had a previous systemic allergic reaction (i.e. more serious than just a local reaction, including immediate-onset anaphylaxis) to:

·         A previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine

·         Any component of the COVID-19 vaccine being offered

Or to individuals with:

·         Current COVID-19 infection or history of COVID-19 infection within the last 4 weeks (12 weeks for those aged 5-17). Persons can then receive their vaccination 28 days (12 weeks for those aged 5-17) after testing positive.

·         Severe illness and/or a high fever on the day of vaccination.

Individuals who are under 40 years of age or who have a history of a previous episode of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (HITT or HIT type 2) should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Individuals who experience a clotting episode associated with thrombocytopaenia following the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine should defer vaccination and seek advice from a health professional regarding their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and in some household goods and cosmetics. Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but people with this allergy should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs. The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain PEG and is a suitable alternative. Medicines containing PEG include some tablets, laxatives, depot steroid injections, and some bowel preparations used for colonoscopy.

Any queries or concerns over previous or current allergies should be discussed with your Clinician/GP who will be able to advise in line with the most current clinical guidance:

· Guidance overview: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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19. I have a condition that puts me at increased risk of bleeding or I am on blood thinners/anticoagulants. Can I get the vaccine?

Your vaccinator will be aware to check about bleeding risk. Individuals with bleeding disorders should check with their GP or specialist to check if it is safe for them to receive the vaccine. If you receive medication/ treatment to reduce bleeding, for example treatment for haemophilia, vaccination can be scheduled shortly after such medication/treatment is given.

Individuals on stable anticoagulation therapy, including individuals on warfarin who are up-to-date with their scheduled INR testing and whose latest INR is within the safe range can receive the vaccines unless they have other contraindications, as discussed above.

You may get more bruising from the vaccination if you have a blood clotting problem or are on blood thinners, and may be advised to apply firm pressure without rubbing to the vaccine site for a little bit longer.

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20. I have a clotting disorder. Can I get the vaccine?

Yes.

Individuals with past clotting episodes and those diagnosed with thrombophilia, whether or not they are on long term anti-coagulation, remain at risk of COVID-19 disease. There is no evidence that those with a prior history of blood clots or known risk factors for blood clots are more at risk of developing the immune-mediated condition of clots in combination with thrombocytopaenia (low platelets) after the AstraZeneca vaccine.

For most of these individuals, the risk of recurrent blood clots due to COVID-19 infection remains far greater than the risk of this syndrome. Therefore individuals with such a history should be vaccinated with any of the available vaccines (provided they are not otherwise contra-indicated).The same consideration applies to those who experience common clotting episodes after the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine but without concomitant thrombocytopaenia (low platelets).

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21. I’ve had COVID-19 already/tested positive for antibodies, do I need to be vaccinated?

At present it is unclear whether previous infection with COVID-19 results in long term immunity. Therefore, if you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine you should attend even if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past or have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Vaccines also produce a much stronger response from our immune system when compared to the response seen after COVID-19 infection alone.

Vaccination should be postponed for at least four weeks after onset of symptoms or four weeks from the first PCR or lateral flow positive test, in those persons who did not have symptoms. For children aged 5-17 this should be extended to 12 weeks following a COVID-19 infection.

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22. Will other measures (social distancing/face coverings) still apply to me if I’ve had the vaccine?

The vaccines reduce your chances of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, but there is still a chance you might get or spread it.

Research is ongoing to examine the extent to which vaccinated people can still pass coronavirus to others. Therefore, it is essential that after vaccination you continue to follow the public health advice.



23. How can I get proof of vaccination/a vaccine passport?

See here for more information. It should be noted that neither GP practices or other Health and Social Care organisations are able to issue letters for travel purposes.

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24. What about treatments, are there effective ways to treat COVID?

There are some treatments that have been proven to make a difference, for example the antiviral drug, Remdesivir, can reduce the length of illness. Two steroid drugs, dexamethasone and hydrocortisone, have been shown to save lives but only in people who are seriously ill in hospital.

A new drug Molnupiravir has recently become available in the UK for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 disease in people with at least one risk factor for developing severe disease such as obesity, old age, diabetes or heart disease.

Further drug treatments are available for individuals who are immunosuppressed and contract COVID-19, your GP/hospital doctor will be able to provide more information on these treatments.

For further details see:

·         Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19) - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

For clinical guidance released by the Department of Health NI please see:

·         Letters and urgent communications 2022 | Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)

Ultimately, prevention is better than getting the illness and needing treatment. A vaccine can prevent you from getting COVID-19, lessen the impact of the disease and slow it spreading. This will help stop others getting it and passing it on.

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25. How effective is the first vaccine injection without getting the second dose/booster dose? 

It is important to have both doses (the three primary doses if you are recommended) of the vaccine and the booster jab(s) (when eligible) to give you the best protection. While the first dose acts as an important immune response primer, the second dose (and any further doses as appropriate for your age and/or risk group) is needed to boost your body’s immune response to the COVID-19 virus, and so continuing to provide the best protection.

It is also important to note that immunity is not instant once you have received your vaccination. It will take a few weeks for your body to produce the antibodies needed to produce an effective immune response to fight future COVID-19 infection.

It is important to remember that even after having your COVID-19 vaccine, you should take care in adhering to the current public health advice including social distancing and practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene.

 

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26. Have the vaccines been tested in people over 80 years old or just in younger populations?

The vaccine trials have included individuals of all ages up to over 80 years of age. The trials also included those with co-morbidities as well as healthy persons. 

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has also been approved for use in persons aged 12 years and above and for those aged 5-11 years but at a smaller dose. This vaccine is therefore the preferred vaccine in these age groups.

For more information on vaccination for those aged 5-11 please see the following link:

·         https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-parents-children-aged-5-11

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27. If I receive a RNA-based vaccine, can it tamper with my DNA?

No.

None of the vaccines can tamper or change your DNA.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines currently being used in the UK.

These vaccines work by introducing a molecule (the mRNA) into the body which instructs the body’s cells to build a protein similar to those proteins found in the virus that causes COVID-19. This protein is then recognised by the immune system enabling it to produce antibodies to protect the body against COVID-19 infection.

To put it a different way, the mRNA from these vaccines is read by our cells (similar to us reading an instruction manual) enabling those cells to make specific proteins which in turn mount an immune response in the body, helping to protect us against the COVID-19 infection. The mRNA is destroyed within days by your body. It cannot be incorporated into your DNA, it works only as an instruction manual.

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28. Can I still spread the virus to others if I am vaccinated?

The purpose of the vaccines are to protect us from becoming seriously ill and or hospitalised as a result of COVID-19 infection. The COVID-19 vaccines have and continue to save lives across the world but they do not fully protect against transmission. 

For more information see:

·         Monitoring reports of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Once you are vaccinated you should therefore continue to adhere to appropriate public health measures including, social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings to keep others safe.

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29. If a person has received the vaccination and is subsequently notified that they have been in direct contact with a positive case - are they still required to isolate?

Guidance for close contacts is available here.

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30. Is there gluten in the vaccine as I am coeliac?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in certain cereal grains. The COVID-19 vaccines currently available do not contain gluten.

Whether or not diagnosed with coeliac disease, people who have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine, or a component of the COVID-19 vaccine should not be given the vaccination. Anyone due to receive their vaccine should continue with their appointment and discuss any questions, serious allergies or any other medical conditions with the healthcare professional before having the vaccine.

For more information & support if you are Coeliac please see:

·         Coronavirus Information Hub - Coeliac UK

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31. Can the COVID-19 vaccine lead to people having a positive COVID-19 nose or throat swab test?

No.                

The COVID-19 vaccines teach our bodies to protect us against coronavirus disease. They produce a protective immune, antibody, response which can be measured by blood tests (serology) only.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect PCR or lateral flow results. These tests detect viral RNA proteins in the nose and throat produced as a result of COVID-19 infection. In other words, they check for active disease rather than immunity produced as a result of the vaccines.

See Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines (who.int) for more information.

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32. How long is the course? How many injections and over what period of time?

The Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are administered in two doses, 8 weeks apart. If clinically indicated, the interval can be shortened in line with the minimum recommended duration for each vaccine. Longer term protection is provided by the second and/or any third primary and booster doses. 

Everyone over the age of 18 is also eligible for a booster dose of COVID vaccine, three months after their second dose.

For certain at risk groups, a third primary dose is now recommended. These individuals will be identified by their Trust clinician or GP and will be invited to receive their third primary dose. Those aged 16 years and over with severe immunosuppression who have not yet received their third dose may be given their third dose now to avoid further delay. A further booster dose, after this third primary dose, can be given three months later, in line with the clinical advice on optimal timing.

·     JCVI statement on the adult COVID-19 booster vaccination programme and the Omicron variant: 7 January 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

There will now also be ‘Spring’ and ‘Autumn’ booster doses for certain groups this is discussed in question 1 above.

For all the COVID vaccines currently in use in the UK there is evidence of better protection due to an increased immune response where longer intervals between doses in the primary schedule are used. If an interval longer than the recommended interval is left between doses, the second dose should still be given (using the same vaccine as was given for the first dose if possible). The course does not need to be restarted.

For information on dosing schedule, eligibility and where to get vaccinated in NI, please see:

·         Get a COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland | nidirect

For clinical guidance please see the following page:

·         ‘Green Book’ link: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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33.  How long do I have to wait between the first and second doses of the vaccine?

Evidence shows high levels of short-term protection from first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, including against severe disease. In addition to this, the research demonstrates higher levels of protection as a result of increased immune response, where longer intervals are left between the first and second vaccine doses. Second doses are important to provide longer lasting protection and are expected to be as or more effective when given at an interval of 8 weeks from the first dose.

Individuals who are aged 5-17 and do not have an underlying medical condition, do not work as a healthcare worker and do not live with an immunosuppressed person, should receive their second dose 12 weeks after their first dose. This time interval may be shortened to 8 weeks in periods with a high number of cases or where there was a concern about the effectiveness of vaccines, caused for example, by a new variant.

Any clinically indicated third primary and also booster doses are important in reinforcing longer lasting protection in those ‘higher risk’ groups. For full details on dosing schedule, eligibility and where you can get vaccinated, see:

·         Get a COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland | nidirect

For clinical guidance see:

·         ‘Green Book’ link: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

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34. What happens if I don’t go for my second appointment?

The first dose of all approved COVID-19 vaccines will provide short term protection it is important to get your second, third (if clinically indicated)  and booster doses provide fuller, longer term protection against COVID-19.

Some useful resources:

·         Get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster in Northern Ireland | nidirect

·         COVID-19 vaccination: a guide to booster vaccination for individuals aged 18 years and over and those aged 16 years and over who are at risk - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

·         Boosters provide high level of protection against death with Omicron - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

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35. Will the vaccine fully protect me against COVID-19?

The current vaccines have demonstrated significant levels of protection against severe disease and hospitalisation but no vaccine provides 100% protection. However, as more people in the population are vaccinated the risks of COVID-19 circulating should decrease, protecting those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 or who are unable to have the vaccine.

With the new Omicron strain currently the dominant variant in the UK, it has been widely observed that the protection from the two primary vaccine doses is reduced around 6 months after the second dose. For this reason, all adults (and other at risk groups) are strongly advised to book their booster dose(s) which have been shown to reinforce significant levels of protection. For more full details on eligibility and where to get vaccinated see:

·         Get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster in Northern Ireland | nidirect

For more related resources, see:

·     JCVI statement on the adult COVID-19 booster vaccination programme and the Omicron variant: 7 January 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

·     COVID-19 vaccination: a guide to booster vaccination for individuals aged 18 years and over and those aged 16 years and over who are at risk - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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36. If I have the vaccine may I be immune for life? Can I still catch COVID-19 after I’ve been immunised?

Yes.

You can still catch COVID-19 after vaccination. The maximum level of protection from the COVID-19 vaccines can take several weeks to build up after full vaccination, meaning that you could still develop the infection during this time.

COVID-19 vaccines have repeatedly been shown to be highly effective at protecting against serious and symptomatic disease, including hospitalisation, but no vaccine is 100% effective.

Emerging variants with increased infectivity can lead to more ‘break through infections’ (i.e. vaccinated persons who test positive for COVID-19) however even with the now dominant Omicron variant, all COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the UK, have maintained high levels of protection against severe disease and hospitalisation, in persons who have received their booster doses. This includes persons over the age of 50 years old (JCVI statement on the adult COVID-19 booster vaccination programme and the Omicron variant: 7 January 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)).

The total duration of protection from COVID-19 vaccines remains under investigation.

For full details on the COVID-19 booster programme please see:

·         Get a COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland | nidirect

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37. Has the vaccine been rushed? Is it safe?

A COVID-19 vaccine is only approved once it has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness as set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

There may be a misconception that vaccine research takes a long time but it isn’t just the research that takes the time – it’s all the steps beforehand, like getting funding and approval.

COVID-19 vaccines have been developed at speed because the UK Government has funded trials to get them up and running quickly.

The MHRA and Health Research Authority have sped up the process of approval – administrative paperwork that used to take months which is now being done in days. This has brought down the time for delivery of the clinical trials. Processes have also been streamlined and now run in parallel.

The length of the trials themselves has not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.

New technology has also helped, enabling vaccines to be manufactured quickly, and vaccines are also being produced in advance meaning that they are available as soon as they are approved.

For more helpful resources please see:

·         Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines (who.int)

 

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38. I have a health condition/allergy. Can I still get the vaccine?

There are very few individuals who cannot receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Where there is doubt, rather than withholding vaccination, appropriate advice should be sought from the relevant specialist, or from the local immunisation or health protection team, to allow individuals to make an informed decision.

The vaccines currently available in the UK are not live vaccines, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system such as immunosuppression and also for anyone who is pregnant or breast feeding or anyone who is thinking about getting pregnant.  

The vaccine should not be given to those who have had a previous systemic allergic reaction (i.e. more serious than just a local reaction, including immediate-onset anaphylaxis) to:

·         A previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine

·         Any component of the COVID-19 vaccine being offered

Or to individuals with:

·         Current COVID-19 infection or history of COVID-19 infection within the last 4 weeks.

·         Severe illness and/or a high fever on the day of vaccination.

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and also in household goods and cosmetics. Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but people with this allergy should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs. The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain PEG and is a suitable alternative. Medicines containing PEG include some tablets, laxatives, depot steroid injections, and some bowel preparations used for colonoscopy.

Individuals who have a history of a previous episode of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (HITT or HIT type 2) should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Individuals who experience a clotting episode associated with thrombocytopaenia following the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine should defer vaccination and seek advice from a health professional regarding their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  These individuals should be considered for a second dose of an alternative COVID-19 vaccine.

Individuals with any further queries or concerns should discuss these with their Clinician/GP who will be able to advise in line with the most current guidance which can be found at:

·         COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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39. Do I have to wait after getting the flu vaccine before I can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Both the COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccination programmes are important for individual and public health, especially over winter 2021 to 2022. Where this is operationally convenient, COVID-19 boosters and influenza vaccines may be co-administered.

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40. Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breast feeding?

Yes.

All pregnant and or breast feeding women are encouraged to get vaccinated.

In line with the advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the JCVI, all pregnant and breast feeding women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine, including  booster dose(s) as appropriate.

In December 2021, following the recognition of pregnancy as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection and poor pregnancy outcomes during the Delta wave, pregnancy was also added as a clinical risk group. For full clinical guidance please see:

·         COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Please also see these helpful vaccine resources for further details:

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk)

·         Vaccine facts - RCM

·         Vaccine Pregnancy Registry | CDC

 

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 and Moderna vaccines are currently the preferred vaccines of choice for pregnant women because of their more extensive use in pregnancy ( see ‘Green Book’ guidance below). However those women who have already received a dose of AstraZeneca can complete with  either the AstraZeneca vaccine or one of the mRNA vaccines i.e. Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna (unless otherwise contraindicated). For full clinical guidance see:

·         Green Book; COVID-19 Chapter

Around 300,000 pregnant women in the UK and the USA have been vaccinated so far (mostly with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 and Moderna vaccines) with no safety issues raised. Vaccine trials in pregnant women are ongoing. Please see below for more details:

·         Vaccine Pregnancy Registry | CDC

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk)

Further information regarding the vaccines can be found at the following links:

·         Vaccine facts - RCM (Royal College of Midwives)

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk) Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists FAQs

·         British Fertility Society COVID-19 vaccine FAQs Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority COVID-19  FAQs

·         Vaccine Pregnancy Registry | CDC

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41. I’ve heard the COVID-19 vaccination can affect your chances of getting pregnant or cause infertility?

COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility.

There are no plausible physiological mechanisms by which any of the COVID-19 vaccines could affect fertility in women or men.

The British Fertility SocietyRoyal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists have all confirmed  that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the COVID-19 vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men.

Further information can be found at: 

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk) Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists FAQs

·         BFS and ARCS Covid-19 Vaccines & Fertility - updated FAQs - British Fertility Society | BFS

People of reproductive age are advised to get the vaccine as soon as they receive their invitation for vaccination. This includes those who are trying to have a baby as well as those who are thinking about having a baby, whether that is in the near future or in a few years’ time, as well as those people undergoing fertility treatment

There have been unfounded rumours circulating widely that COVID-19 vaccines could cause infertility because of a similarities in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and proteins in cells in the placenta. There are no similarities between these proteins that could feasibly cause the immune system to affect the placenta. There is also no evidence that the immune response to the spike protein – either from infection with COVID-19 itself, or from the vaccine – has had any effect on the placenta or pregnancy outcomes.

Social media posts claiming that the ‘head of Pfizer research’ said the company’s COVID-19 vaccine would cause infertility in women have been shared widely. The person referred to is a former employee of Pfizer who left the company in 2011 and who has shared misinformation about COVID-19 in the past.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwifery have released a statement on this (19/01/2021). Both also cover it in their FAQs:

·         www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/RCOG-and-RCM-respond-to-misinformation-around-Covid-19-vaccine-and-fertility/

·         https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/coronavirus-covid-19-pregnancy-and-womens-health/covid-19-vaccines-and-pregnancy/covid-19-vaccines-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding/

While the PHA is not affiliated with the following fact checking websites, they have information addressing the false claims which may be useful for helping you to make an informed decision and providing reassurance:

·         www.snopes.com/fact-check/covid-vaccine-female-sterilization/?mc_cid=639a39a608&mc_eid=38e9f8ee6f

·         https://fullfact.org/health/vaccine-covid-fertility/

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42. I am currently going through or planning to go through IVF. Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes.

The British Fertility Society and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have produced helpful advice for those going through or planning to go through IVF.

More detailed information can be found here:

·         BFS and ARCS Covid-19 Vaccines & Fertility - updated FAQs - British Fertility Society | BFS

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk)

·         Frequently asked questions for patients on Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (hfea.gov.uk)

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43. I have had my first vaccine and am now pregnant.  Should I get my second dose vaccination?

Yes.

If a woman finds out she is pregnant after she has started a course of vaccine, she should complete the vaccination course as normal.  

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are currently the preferred vaccines of choice for pregnant women because of their more extensive use in pregnancy (see no. 40). However those women who have already received a dose of AstraZeneca can complete with either the AstraZeneca vaccine or one of the mRNA vaccines i.e. PfizerBioNTech or Moderna (unless otherwise contraindicated). For full clinical guidance see:

·         COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Further information can be found at the following links:

·         COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk)

·         Vaccine facts - RCM

·         BFS and ARCS Covid-19 Vaccines and Fertility - updated FAQs - British Fertility Society | BFS

 

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44. Can COVID-19 vaccination cause changes to my period or abnormal vaginal bleeding?

The current evidence does not suggest an increased risk of either menstrual disorders or unexpected vaginal bleeding following vaccination with the vaccines reviewed (Pfizer/BioNTech, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca or COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna).

The MHRA has reviewed reports of menstrual disorders and unexpected vaginal bleeding suspected as adverse reactions to vaccination with the three COVID-19 vaccines currently being used in the UK: Pfizer/BioNTech, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna. These reports have also been reviewed by independent experts of the Commission on Human Medicines’ COVID-19 Vaccines Benefit Risk Expert Working Group and members of its Medicines for Women’s Health Expert Advisory Group.

A range of menstrual disorders have been reported after all three of these COVID-19 vaccines including heavy bleeding, delayed periods and unexpected vaginal bleeding. Any changes to menstruation post vaccination are usually temporary in nature. The number of reports of menstrual disorders and vaginal bleeding is low in relation to both the number of females who have received COVID-19 vaccines to date and the background rate of menstrual disorders generally. Our advice remains that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for most people.

The MHRA will continue to closely monitor reports of menstrual disorders and vaginal bleeding with COVID-19 vaccines.

As with any suspected side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines, including those in relation to menstrual disorders, please continue to report via the Yellow Card scheme here.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have issued this statement:

·         RCOG/FSRH respond to reports of 30,000 women’s periods affected after COVID-19 vaccine

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45. What happens if I experience side effects/adverse or unexpected events, how do I report it? 

Vaccines are very safe. The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone multiple stages of testing to ensure their safety, including trials in tens of thousands of volunteers with differing ages and comorbidities. As with all medicines, side effects can occur after getting a vaccine. However, these are usually very minor and of short duration, such as a sore arm or a mild fever. More serious side effects are possible, but extremely rare.  

An uncommon side effect is swollen glands in the armpit or neck on the same side as the arm where you had the vaccine. This can last for around 10 days, but if it lasts longer see your doctor. If you are due for a mammogram then you should mention that you have had the vaccine when you attend.

Worldwide, there have also been recent, rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis, reported after the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19, Moderna and the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. These cases have been seen mostly in younger men several days after their second vaccination dose. Most of these individuals recovered following rest and simple treatments.

Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis include new onset of chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. Should you develop any one or more of these symptoms after your COVID-19 vaccination, you should urgently seek medical assistance.

You can report side effects that you are concerned about to the COVID-19 vaccination, or any other medicine or vaccine, through the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme at:

·  https://coronavirus-yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/

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46. Do the vaccines have any ingredients which are unsuitable for religious groups?

The ‘Give Hope’ campaign:

The ‘Give Hope’ campaign has been organised by Your Neighbour, a movement of more than 1,100 churches from over 40 denominations in the UK created to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is supporting efforts by the NHS and public health officials to encourage greater take-up of the vaccine by BAME people and to dispel the myths around it: 

·         Vaccine give hope — YourNeighbour.org | Equipping Churches in the Covid-19 Crisis

The Give Hope campaign has the backing from over 40 denominations in the UK including the Church of England, Anglican, Salvation Army, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Redeemed Christian Church of God and black majority churches.

Do the vaccines contain human or animal products?

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have confirmed that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines do not contain any components of animal origin and that none of the vaccines given contain fetal cells in their ingredients.

The following guide contains information on how vaccines are made and what human and animal products are used: 

·         www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-human-and-animal-products-in-vaccines

The Northern Ireland Department of Health released a statement on 23/08/2021 confirming that the COVID vaccines currently in use in NI do not contain fetal cells. The full statement can be found here:

·         https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/covid-19-fact-file-vaccines-are-pro-life

The moral issues around the use of vaccines grown on fetal cell lines have been discussed within the Catholic Church. The Church notes that the cells lines are distant from the initial termination, and states that acceptance of such vaccines where there is no appropriate alternative does not signify cooperation with abortion:

·         Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines (21 December 2020) (vatican.va) 

The British Islamic Medical Association:

The British Islamic Medical Association have statements on all three of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the UK, encouraging those eligible to get vaccinated at:

·         COVID-19 Vaccine Hub – Statements | British Islamic Medical Association (britishima.org)

They also have a ‘Debunking Myths around COVID-19’ page, which can be found at:

·         COVID-19 Vaccine Hub – Myths | British Islamic Medical Association (britishima.org)

The Orthodox Union:

The Orthodox Union have also made a statement regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and have said that they strongly encourage all those eligible to access the vaccine to do so: 

·         Orthodox Union Guidance Regarding Coronavirus - Orthodox Union (ou.org)

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47. Do they have ingredients which are unsuitable for vegans?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have confirmed that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines do not contain any components of animal origin.

This guide contains information on how vaccines are made and what human and animal products are used: 

·         www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-human-and-animal-products-in-vaccines

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48.  Do they have any ingredients which are unsuitable for those with allergies?

Any person with a history of anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine should not receive it. A second dose of the vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of it. Advice should be sought from an Allergy Specialist in this situation.

If you had a reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, inform your vaccinator or GP as you may require a prolonged observation period or they may need to seek advice from an Allergy Specialist.

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and also in household goods and cosmetics. Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but people with this allergy should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs. The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain PEG and is a suitable alternative.

Medicines containing PEG include some tablets, laxatives, depot steroid injections, and some bowel preparations used for colonoscopy.

You can still have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have an allergy to penicillin, latex, insect stings, dust mites, and food including nuts and eggs, as long as you are not allergic to any component of the vaccine.

For full clinical guidance see:

· Guidance overview: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Recipient information including ingredients for all of the approved vaccines can be found at:

· Pfizer/BioNTech: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19/information-for-uk-recipients-on-pfizerbiontech-covid-19-vaccine

· AstraZeneca: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca/information-for-uk-recipients-on-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

· Moderna: www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-moderna/information-for-uk-recipients-on-covid-19-vaccine-moderna

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49. I am a transplant recipient/I am on the transplant waiting list, how can I find out information about the vaccine specific to my clinical situation?

There is specific advice on the COVID-19 vaccines for transplant patients, patients on the transplant list and living donors at the following link: 

· www.odt.nhs.uk/covid-19-advice-for-clinicians/#vaccine

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51. I am a member of the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community, should I have the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes.

The JCVI has stated that there is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease, morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have identified a gene that doubles the risk of developing lung failure and death in people who are infected with SARS-Cov-2 virus (COVID-19). This gene is carried by more than 60% of people with a South Asian ancestry and it is also carried by around 15% of people with a European ancestry. The leader of the research team (Prof James Davies) has said: "Although we cannot change our genetics, our results show that the people with the higher risk gene are likely to particularly benefit from vaccination."

In addition, we know that certain health conditions are also associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often found at increased numbers in certain BAME groups.

The ‘Give Hope’ campaign has been organised by Your Neighbour, a movement of more than 1,100 churches from over 40 denominations in the UK created to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is supporting efforts by the NHS and public health officials to encourage greater take-up of the vaccine by BAME people and to dispel the myths around it: 

· Vaccine give hope — YourNeighbour.org | Equipping Churches in the Covid-19 Crisis

The Give Hope campaign has the backing from over 40 denominations in the UK including the Church of England, Anglican, Salvation Army, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Redeemed Christian Church of God and black majority churches.

It is also clear that societal factors, such as occupation, household size, deprivation, and access to healthcare can increase susceptibility to COVID-19 and result in worse outcomes following infection. 

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52. I have heard that there are COVID-19 vaccination scams. How do I know if an email/phone call or text is genuine?

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic make sure you are on your guard against scams. Scammers often make contact by email, phone calls, text messages, social media posts and even calling at your door and may ask for money.

There have been reports of scams relating to the COVID-19 vaccine. In Northern Ireland COVID-19 vaccines will only be available through the Health and Social Care (HSC) service. Remember:

·         HSC will NEVER ask you for your bank account or card details.

·         HSC will NEVER ask you for your PIN or banking password.

·         HSC staff will NEVER arrive unannounced at your home to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

·         HSC will NEVER ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. 

If you receive a call/text/email claiming to be a COVID-19 vaccine booking line asking for your bank details or for money this is a scam. Never give out your bank details over the phone or email to an unknown, unverified source.

More information on spotting fraud and scams is available at:

· www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-consumer-advice-about-scams

Information on COVID-19 Vaccine Fraud provided by Action Fraud can be found at the following link: 

· Coronavirus vaccine scams warning | Action Fraud


53. I think I have received a phone call/email/text inviting me to book my COVID-19 vaccine that is a scam, what should I do?

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, end the call by hanging up immediately.

If you are concerned/suspicious about an email you have received, forward the email to: report@phishing.gov.uk so these scams can be identified and stopped.

If you are concerned/suspicious about a text message you have received, alert Action Fraud by forwarding the text message to the number 7726. Forwarding the message is free of charge.

When you forward the suspicious message to 7726 you will receive a reply asking for the number which sent you the suspicious text. Provide the phone number from which you received the suspicious text and Action Fraud will follow up with the mobile phone provider.

If you believe you are a victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

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