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Vaccine FAQs

Irish in Britain answers 25 of your FAQs, and we also highlight where you can find more information.

What does a vaccine do?

Vaccines teach the body’s immune system how to fight the virus if you catch it. A vaccine triggers your body’s natural production of immune cells to protect against diseases including COVID-19. These immune cells will protect you and fight the virus if you come across it in the future.

What are the ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine?

The main ingredient of the COVID-19 vaccine is actually water, with preservatives and stabilisers. The active ingredient is the fragment of genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. None of the ingredients in the vaccine can cause you to get Covid-19 itself.

The vaccines being used in the UK do not contain animal or foetal products, mercury or egg and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

The ingredients for the vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Pfizer/BioNTech

Oxford/AstraZeneca

Moderna

Janssen

Do the vaccines work?

Yes, the Covid 19 vaccines work really well – they reduce your chances of being hospitalised or dying from coronavirus. Here are the facts based on analysis from Public Health England:

Each vaccine was originally tested in more than 20,000 people and has now been given to millions of people in many different countries.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

·       The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 55 percent-70 percent in preventing Covid-19 infections after one dose

·       After two doses, it is 70-90 percent effective in preventing infection

·       After two doses it will provide 96 percent protection against hospitalisation

 

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

·       The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 55-75 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections after one dose

·       After two doses, it is 65-90 percent effective at preventing infection

·       After two doses it will provide 92 percent protection against hospitalisation

 

Moderna vaccine

·       The Moderna vaccine is 70 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infection after one dose

·       After two doses, the efficacy against the virus is 94.1 percent

How does the vaccine protect you?

The Covid vaccines reduce the risk of you becoming infected with the virus. If you do get coronavirus, vaccines mean you are very unlikely to get seriously ill, need hospital treatment or die from it.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all of us. Sadly, many people have lost their lives and others have been seriously ill in hospital. Some people who have recovered, including those with mild symptoms, are still living with effects of 'long Covid' months later.

The vaccines trigger your body’s natural production of immune cells (antibodies and T cells) to protect against the Covid-19 disease. Once you have had the vaccine, your immune cells learn how to recognise and fight the virus. This means that if you get the Covid-19 virus, you already have some immunity.

Evidence has shown the vaccine reduces the virus being passed around. If you have had the jab and do get infected with coronavirus, you are less likely to spread it to friends, family and loved ones. Covid vaccines also mean you’re less likely to develop ‘long Covid’.

Do the vaccines work against new strains of the virus?

All evidence shows that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccines are highly effective against variant strains of the virus.

How were the vaccines made so quickly?

Creating the vaccines has happened fast - it's a process that usually takes at least ten years and it was completed in less than one.

Here are six reasons why the vaccines were made so quickly:

1. This is not the first coronavirus

Scientists had already been working on possible vaccines for other coronaviruses. This gave them a head start when they started working on the Covid vaccines.

2. Clinical trials overlapped

The different phases of the Covid-19 clinical trials were designed to overlap instead of running back-to-back which sped up the process.

3. Data was checked at the same time trials were happening

The data was checked as the tests happened and without any delay, so the experts at the medicines regulator, the MHRA, could review evidence as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – instead of having to wait for all the information at the end of a trial.

4. Trials and research were a worldwide effort

Clinical trials were able to find people to test the vaccines very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer. The worldwide effort meant researchers shared their coronavirus data with other scientists quickly.

5. Research was heavily funded

Funding for Covid vaccine research - from governments and the private sector - was vital in making sure the Covid vaccines were developed so quickly and so safely.

6. High case rates

Clinical trials had faster results because high case rates are needed to test a vaccine’s effectiveness.

More information on the clinical trials for the vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Pfizer/BioNTech

Oxford/AstraZeneca

Moderna

Janssen

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Covid vaccines tap into our immune system’s natural response to an infection, which can make us feel temporarily unwell.

Most vaccine side effects are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.

General side effects include:

·       Having a painful 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

You can watch a video on the side effects created by NHS through the following link HERE.

Why should I have the vaccine if I am young and healthy?

Young and healthy people can still get coronavirus, develop severe illness, and spread the virus to loved ones. There also appears to be a risk of ‘long Covid’ in young people. Research continues to be undertaken to understand these risks further. Vaccinating is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves against Covid-19.

Even if you are healthy, it is much safer for your immune system to learn how to fight diseases through vaccination rather than by catching them. It is expected that the Covid vaccines will offer you protection for at least a year.

Personal benefits of having the vaccine

The added benefit of getting both doses of the Covid vaccine is that your life can begin to return to normal. If you’re double vaccinated or under 18, you will no longer need to self-isolate if you are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. Two doses of the vaccine also considerably reduce your risk of severe illness, making it safer to go back to the office, work alongside your colleagues and share a house with friends if you’re a student.

If you’re double vaccinated, you can use the NHS Covid pass as proof of your Covid-19 status when travelling abroad or entering some places in the UK such as some nightclubs and music venues.

By getting vaccinated, you’re not just helping yourself, you’re helping everyone get life back to normal.

Can the covid vaccine cause blood clots?

Extremely rare cases of blood clots with low levels of blood platelets have been observed following vaccination with the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. These cases are being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear. It is important to remember the benefits of vaccination to give protection against Covid-19 still outweigh any potential risks.

The risk of the rare side effect of blood clots after vaccination remains extremely small.

How does the vaccine effect pregnancy and fertility?

Can the vaccine impact on fertility?

There has been a lot of misinformation about the effects of Covid vaccines on fertility and pregnancy and understandably many people have questions. Medical experts and scientists agree that there is no evidence the vaccines affect fertility. The Covid vaccines do not contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.

Vaccination is recommended in pregnancy and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have safely had the Covid vaccines. Receiving two doses of the vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protecting you and your baby from Covid-19 infection.

Is Covid-19 serious in pregnancy?

Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19 than other healthy adults, but they are at slightly increased risk of becoming severely unwell if they do catch COVID-19 and are more likely to have pregnancy complications like preterm birth or stillbirth.

Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution. Pregnant women with underlying clinical conditions are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from Covid-19.

Covid-19 infection in pregnancy is unlikely to lead to problems with a baby’s development and there have not been any reports of this.

Do the Covid vaccines affect fertility?

There is no evidence that the Covid vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. Pregnant women were not routinely advised to have the vaccine because they were excluded from the initial Covid vaccine clinical trials. Even though participants were asked to avoid becoming pregnant, 57 pregnancies occurred across the trials of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK according to Nature Reviews Immunology.

Can you have the Covid vaccine if you are pregnant?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that pregnant women in the UK can have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. Evidence on Covid vaccines is being continuously reviewed by the World Health Organization and the regulatory bodies in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.

There are no reported concerns with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in pregnancy, but there is less experience in pregnancy with this vaccine, than with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

In the UK, more than 62,000 pregnant women have received Covid vaccines to date. In the USA, over 155,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and there are no safety concerns.

Is there a risk to the baby's development?

There are no studies yet on the long-term effects on babies born to women who had a Covid vaccine in pregnancy. As Covid vaccines are not ‘live’ vaccines they cannot cause infection, and other non-live vaccines have been given to women in pregnancy for many years without any safety concerns. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) are also quickly broken down once they have been injected – within a few days of vaccination there will be no vaccine mRNA left.

Is there an increased risk of miscarriage?

The MHRA has reported that the number of miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women who have received the vaccine are no higher than the number that commonly occur in the UK outside of the pandemic. They say there is no pattern from the reports to suggest that any of the Covid vaccines used in the UK, or any reactions to these vaccines, increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. Sadly, miscarriage is estimated to occur in about 1 in 4 pregnancies, and most occur in the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). Stillbirths are sadly estimated to occur in about 1 in 200 pregnancies in the UK.

Why should I get my child vaccinated?

Vaccinating children ages 5 years and older can help protect them from getting COVID-19, spreading the virus to others, and getting sick if they do get infected. While COVID-19 tends to be milder in children than adults, it can make children very sick, require hospitalization, and some children have even died. Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness compared to children without underlying medical conditions.

Getting your child vaccinated helps to protect your child and your family, including siblings who are not eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at risk of getting very sick if infected. Vaccination is now recommended for all children aged 5 and over.

COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring and scientists have conducted clinical trials with thousands of children, and the results show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine, and there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.

Can I get a COVID-19 booster jab?

The NHS has started delivering Covid-19 booster jabs to everyone eligible over the age of 18.

Following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) decision on providing booster jabs, the NHS has begun rolling out the Covid-19 vaccination to more people three months after their second dose. With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact, the booster dose will help to ensure those at higher risk from coronavirus have enough protection going into winter.

Who is eligible for a booster jab?

Please reference the NHS Website to find out whether you are eligible for a booster jab.

The priority groups include people who are:

·       18 and over

·       live and work in care homes

·       frontline health and social care workers

·       aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19

·       aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19

·       aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

·       People who are pregnant can also get a booster dose.

How to book your booster jab

If you're eligible, you'll be offered a booster dose at least three months after the date of your second dose. You might get a call or text from your GP or receive an invitation to book online by the National Booking Service

You can book a booster jab via the National COVID-19 vaccination booking service.

You can also get your booster vaccination by going to a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site if you had your second dose at least three months ago and you are:

·       aged 18 and over

·       aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts you at high risk from COVID-19 – you’ll need to bring your letter inviting you to get your booster dose or a letter from your doctor about your health condition

·       a frontline health or social care worker – you’ll need to bring proof of your employment such as your workplace photo ID, a letter or a payslip from your employer within the last three months

·       If you do not get a letter but you have a health condition and you think you’re eligible, contact your GP surgery.

Find a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination centre

How many booster vaccinations will I need?

At present, it is not known whether recurrent boosters will be required in the long term. For now, just the one booster six months after your second dose is recommended to ensure the strongest immunity.

Which Covid vaccine booster will I get?

Most people are being offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine.

This means that your booster vaccine might differ from the vaccines you had for your first and second doses.

Some people will be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Should I get a booster if I have already had my third dose of the vaccine?

If you have a severely weakened immune system and fall under the eligible category, you will have been offered a third primary dose to increase the immediate level of protection you get from the vaccine. This is because it is not known whether you have a strong enough immune response after two doses. This is given 8 weeks after your second dose and is part of your primary vaccine course, so it's not considered a ‘booster’.

A booster vaccine is being offered to all adults, because we know that immunity from the vaccines wanes over time and to give the best possible protection against the Omicron variant. It is recommended that people who have already received their third dose should still receive their booster. You will receive an invitation letter for a booster appointment at least 3 months (12 weeks) after your third dose appointment. If you have not received an appointment and think you’ve been missed, contact your clinician or GP to discuss.

If I didn’t get my second shot or booster close to the recommended interval, what should I do?

You should get your second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if you receive your second shot of Covid-19 vaccine at any time after the recommended date, you do not have to restart the vaccine series, and you can be considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after getting your second shot. This guidance might be updated as more information becomes available.

If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, am I already protected by natural immunity, or should I still get the vaccine?

You should get a COVID-19 vaccine even if you already had COVID-19.

Getting sick with COVID-19 offers some protection from future illness with COVID-19, sometimes called “natural immunity.” The level of protection people get from having COVID-19 may vary depending on how mild or severe their illness was, the time since their infection, and their age. No currently available test can reliably determine if a person is protected from infection.

All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the UK are effective at preventing COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine gives most people a high level of protection against COVID-19 even in people who have already been sick with COVID-19.

Emerging evidence shows that getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection to your immune system. One study showed that, for people who already had COVID-19, those who do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more than two times as likely to get COVID-19 again than those who get fully vaccinated after their recovery.

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 while I am currently sick with COVID-19?

No. People with COVID-19 who have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation; those without symptoms should also wait until they meet the criteria before getting vaccinated. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

People who have had a known COVID-19 exposure should not seek vaccination until their quarantine period has ended to avoid potentially exposing healthcare personnel and others during the vaccination visit. This recommendation also applies to people with a known COVID-19 exposure who have received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine but not their second.

How do I get my NHS COVID pass?

You can get an NHS COVID Pass digitally through the NHS App or the online NHS COVID Pass service.

Information:

Get a digital NHS COVID Pass

You can download your digital NHS COVID Pass and print it.

If you cannot apply digitally using the NHS App or online service, you can ask for an NHS COVID Pass letter to be sent to you by post. You can also apply on behalf of someone else.

What if I have had my vaccination abroad?

If you live in England and had your vaccination abroad in certain countries, you can ask to have this added to your NHS vaccination record. Once it is added you can get an NHS COVID Pass.

Tell the NHS about coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations you've had abroad.

Information on the requirements for travelling to Ireland?

Information travelling from Britain to Ireland

With effect from 6 January 2022, passengers travelling from the UK to Ireland with an accepted proof of vaccination, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the prior 6 months, do not have to show an additional pre-departure COVID-19 test result.

Passengers without proof of vaccination, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the prior 6 months, must show evidence of a negative ('not detected') RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to arriving in Ireland.

There is no home quarantine requirement for passengers arriving to Ireland from the UK

To receive up-to-date information on the travel requirements from United Kingdom to Ireland click here.

Information travelling from Ireland to UK

Ireland, the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

If you’re travelling to England from within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, you do not need to:

  • complete a passenger locator form

  • take any COVID-19 tests

  • quarantine on arrival in England

This only applies if you have not been outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in the 10 days before the day you arrive in England. If you have, you must follow the international travel rules in the place where you arrive.

  • To receive up-to-date information on the travel requirements from the United Kingdom to Ireland click here.

I have some additional questions. Who can I contact?

Email us at health@irishinbritain.org and we will be happy to help in any way that we can.

  • To return to the main Vaccine Le Chéile/Together click HERE.