FAQs: the Covid-19 vaccine

FAQs on the various vaccines for Covid-19 (Updated 8th April 2021)

This page is about the Covid-19 vaccine. For more information living with the virus now, see FAQS: Living with Covid-19. For more on the virus itself including symptoms, tests etc, see FAQs Covid-19 (the virus)

A vaccine will considerably reduce your risk of developing Covid-19 and perhaps of passing the virus on. Before any vaccine is made available all the data needs to be evaluated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Vaccine roll-out began on a very small scale in the UK in December 2020 and has continued into 2021. The government says that having an effective vaccine is the best way to protect the most vulnerable, saving tens of thousands of lives.

What vaccines do we have ?

A number have been developed worldwide and the UK is now rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford/Astra Zeneca and the Moderna vaccine. All three have passed the MHRA's strict quality, safety, and effectiveness tests. The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine, which the UK helped fund, is far cheaper (AZ say they are not selling at a profit) and easier to store. The UK government has secured access to over 400 million doses of vaccine - far more than the UK actually needs. 

The vaccine is given in two doses, the second dose up to 12 weeks after the first. Currently the thinking to is prioritise first jabs for many rather than two jabs for the few. 

The government say: 'It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get Covid-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.'

Maximum protection (for you) occurs a few days after the second doses. But you'll still have to follow social distancing and other guidelines as it's possible to pass the virus on even if you have been vaccinated against Covid-19 yourself.

The vaccination programme will build up steadily and gradually be extended to more and more people.

How is it going?

Well over 30 million people have already had at least one dose of the vaccine. The government's plan is that by 15 April, all those in priority groups will have been offered the vaccine. This includes:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers 
  • Frontline health and social care workers 
  • All clinically extremely vulnerable individuals 
  • All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality 
  • All those 50 years of age and over.

Phase two will see the vaccine offered to younger age groups.

The NHS says please do not contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, they will contact you. The plan is that most people will get a letter from their GP or the national booking system including all the information they need, including their NHS number. When you are contacted, please attend your booked appointments.

Where will I get it?

There are three ways the vaccine will be delivered: 

  • Hospital Hubs - NHS providers vaccinating staff onsite. 
  • Local Vaccination Services – likely to include GP practices, local authority sourced buildings or other local facilities, and potentially roving teams if vaccines are transportable in this way.  
  • Vaccination Centres - Large scale centres such as sports and conference venues set up for high volumes of people. 
Should I have it?

Definitely. The majority of men say they will. Given that at any given age, we're twice as likely to die of Covid-19 as women, it's a bit of a no-brainer.

Indeed, the official government body on vaccines - the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation - is explicitly encouraging men to take up the offer as promptly as possible. (Men have been highlighted alongside people from a BAME community, people with a BMI over 30 and people from poorer neighbourhgoods as being at particular risk.)

It is true that the development this vaccine has beaten all records. But compared to previous vaccines, more people (pretty much everyone in the world of vaccine research) and far more money have been available. Vaccine trials go through three phases. Usually they're done one after the other. This time they ran alongside each other. All told, the Pfizer vaccine clinical trial size was around 45,000 people, much the same as for research into any vaccine.

Vaccines have virtually eliminated serious and deadly diseases like diphtheria, small pox, polio, rubella, tetanus, chicken pox, measles, mumps and many strains of flu. Serious reactions are very, very rare.

Yes, there's a nasty old needle (1 in 4 of us suffer from Aichmophobia - fear of needles) but it's got to be worth it to get the herd immunity needed to beat the virus.  It’s only a little prick and over before you realise. Now where have you heard that before?

But what am I hearing about the Astra Zeneca vaccine and blood clots?

There have been reports of blood clots and low platelet counts following vaccination with the first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. It is very rare. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) call it an 'extremely rare adverse event'.

In total, 30 people out of 18 million vaccinated in the UK by 24 March had these clots. Seven died. Clots appear more likely in younger people. (They also appear more likely in women although more women have been vaccinated.)

It is not clear how or why this happens or even if there is a link with the vaccine. However, given that is is possible and that the risk increases with age while the risk of death from Covid-19 decreases, the JCVI is advising that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 years without underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease, to be offered an alternative vaccine, if one is available.

The risk of dying is less than one in a million. One in a million is about the risk of being murdered in the next month or of dying in a road accident on a 250 mile car journey.

After I've had the vaccine, can I do what I want?

No. The guidelines on social distancing and so on still apply to everyone, vaccinated or not. There are very good reasons for this.

  • Vaccines do not work in everyone. This was the case in the Covid vaccine research. In other words, some people will be vaccinated and still develop Covid-19.
  • It may be possible that vaccinated people pass the virus on even though they don't develop serious disease themselves. We don't know yet.
  • We don't know how long the current vaccines provide protection for.
  • So far the vaccines look pretty robust but a new variant may develop which is resistant to the vaccines we have.

We need to understand all these issues better before we make big decisions. For all the talk of vaccine 'passports', the word 'passport' is misleading. All you can prove is that you had the vaccine. For the reasons above, it is impossible to prove that you or those around you are protected.

I have an allergy.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign, the UK charity for people at risk from severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis have pulled together some information and links.

I have had Covid-19.

The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t.

How do I find out more about Covid-19?

Our information page is #staysafe

You can check the following for more specific advice for your country:

For health information, check your country's NHS site.

Date published 14/12/20
Date of last review 08/04/21
Date of next review 22/04/21

References

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. Especially during a major pandemic like Covid-19. So we’re asking.

Men appear more likely to get Covid-19 and far, far more likely to die from it. The Men's Health Forum are working hard pushing for more action on this from government, from health professionals and from all of us. Why are men more affected and what can we do about it? We need the data. We need the research. We need the action. Currently we're the only UK charity doing this - please help us.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.