Manchester health boss on questions about vaccination fears and possible side effects including blood clots
Having a vaccine is a really important step in how we fight COVID-19 but we understand that some people may have concerns. Manchester's Director of Public Health, David Regan, has answered questions that were fed back to us through community groups.
Manchester's Director of Public Health answers questions about the vaccine
- Manchester health bosses on vaccination fears, side effects, blood clots, unregistered patients, infection rates (Google Translate link)
- Watch or read the question and answer session on the Manchester Evening News website (Google Translate link)
I’ve heard rumours about the vaccine affecting cancer treatment
Every person who has the vaccine is assessed on their medical history – so that they get the right vaccine for them, or any other advice. Anyone with concerns should talk to their GP.
I’m worried about things I’ve heard on blood clots
Like any medicine or vaccine we expect some side-effects; these are then closely monitored. For most people the risks from Covid are much higher than having a blood clot. To date the number of blood clots is around 4-5 people out of one million vaccinated.
If you are worried, or have a history of blood clotting, you will be given the most appropriate vaccination, but please do speak to your GP who will make sure that you are not at increased risk of clots.
I keep hearing about COVID-19 variants and am very concerned
It is normal for any virus to change over time. Coronavirus is the same – and our vaccines are very effective in preventing serious illness against the strains. It’s also very normal – as with the flu vaccine – to tweak the vaccines or give boosters against new strains.
Also, it’s really important that everyone that has symptoms goes for a Covid test – that way we can monitor and pick up any new cases or strains very quickly and take the right action. We have a lot of experience now of dealing with new strains, which all helps with our approach. In general, new strains will be something that we all adapt to and live with – just like flu. The best advice is to follow the rules and have a test if you have symptoms.
Will alternative medicines including vitamin and mineral supplements will protect against COVID-19?
A number of clinical trials have been carried out into potential medicines that could protect against the Covid-19 virus. There is no evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements offer any protection.
People who have had COVID-19 and recovered say they don't need the vaccine as they have anti-bodies.
There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID19 antibody so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive COVID-19 vaccine.
How will I be contacted to receive the vaccine?
If you are eligible, you will be contacted by your GP and will be invited to attend one of the sites across the city to receive the vaccine - most likely the one closest to where you live.
If you are eligible and haven't been vaccinated by your GP already, you may also receive another invitation from the NHS offering you the option of attending the Mass Vaccination Centre at the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester or a local pharmacy. If you have already booked an appointment with your GP practice, you can ignore this letter.
We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we would ask people not to contact their GP or the NHS to get an appointment until they are contacted.
Is there a text message service?
As we move on to new age groups, the National Booking Service is also using a text message service for Covid-19 vaccination invitations and reminders.
This approach is helping the NHS issue invites to eligible groups more quickly and is more convenient for lots of people, particularly those in younger age groups.
People receiving these text messages will be invited to book online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119, for an appointment at one of more than Vaccination Centre or pharmacy-led site.
The text message will be sent using the Government’s secure Notify service and show as being sent from NHSvaccine. You can trust your text message is genuine if it comes from ‘NHSvaccine’, includes a link to the NHS.uk website and gives you the option of phoning 119.
Always remember that:
- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
Second doses of the vaccine – do you have to have the same vaccine as your first one?
Yes, the same vaccine should be used for both doses and there is enough supply going to the right places to ensure that people can get their second dose within 8 weeks of their first one.
The first dose of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine give good levels of protection, but to get the most protection from Covid-19 that you can get from the vaccine, you need a second dose. That’s why we want everyone to come for their second dose when they are contacted, or if they have an appointment booked.
I’m pregnant, can I have the vaccine?
Yes and anyone who has any concerns should talk to their GP. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is advising that pregnant women in the UK should be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available, and that they should be invited in line with their age, in the same way as the rest of the programme.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Oxford/AstraZeneca or other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed before they can be offered routinely.
Find out more about having the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant on the NHS website.
I initially turned down the vaccine and have changed my mind?
It’s really important that people know that if they have been invited but haven’t taken up the offer yet, it remains in place.
In particular if you are those priority groups – meaning 50 or over, have a health conditions that puts you at greater risk, or are a health or social care worker – and you haven’t booked your first dose yet, the time to do so is right now.
You can find out how at nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by phoning 119. If you are eligible but can’t find any suitable appointments through the national service, you can speak to your GP, or to your employer if you are a health or social care worker.
The vaccines have been developed very quickly – how can we know they safe?
I’m sure a lot of people will want to ask this and that’s very understandable. Yes, the vaccine has been developed at speed - but that’s because we are in a pandemic - it is a priority with our best scientific minds working on it and dedicated to it.
The vaccines have undergone months of rigorous testing and they are only approved for use once the strict safety approvals have been met. This includes approval from the MHRA, the official UK regulator, like all other medicines and devices.
I’m going to have it and I hope my family will too.
Why are there different COVID-19 vaccines and does it matter which one I have?
It’s really good news that there are different vaccines because it means there is more access to supplies and a speeding up of the number of people that can be protected from the virus.
All the vaccines have to undergo rigorous testing and they all have to pass the same safety standards from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Sometimes people may forget that there are many versions of other vaccines we already take – like the flu vaccine for example.
The main aim is to make sure we get protection from the virus so that we limit and reduce serious illness.
Does it change your DNA?
No, it definitely doesn’t. The content of the Covid vaccines does not go anywhere near our own genetic material and has no ability to change it or us.
There’s lots of rumours about it containing human or animal products?
No, they don’t contain either human or animal products (so no porcine content either).
I’ve heard you can catch flu from the flu jab – can you get Covid from this vaccination?
Taking flu first: the flu vaccination used in our country does not contain live virus, so it does not – and cannot – give anyone flu.
If people do feel a bit under the weather after a flu jab it is because their own immune system is kicking in after the vaccination. Sometimes, if people catch a cold at the same time, they think it is due to the vaccination, but it isn’t, it’s just a coincidence.
The Covid vaccine does not contain the actual virus, so it’s physically impossible to catch the disease from it.
Will the vaccination work for me if I’ve had COVID-19 already?
Even if you have had Covid, and you are eligible for the vaccine, it’s a good idea to have it because we still do not know how long immunity lasts. Having the jab helps to make sure your immunity is as strong as it can be.
Will I be forced to have the vaccination?
No, you won’t, it is by choice. If you decide against it, you are at greater risk of the virus and of passing it on.
I’ve heard that the vaccine trials did not include people from ethnic minority backgrounds – is that true?
No. The trials did include people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The vaccine producers did make a call for more volunteers recently so that the study matched vulnerable groups – just like they did with the over 65s too.
What happens if you are unwell several days after having the vaccination? What do you do?
The vaccine is safe and has been proven to be effective. No safety concerns were raised in studies of over 20,000 people. So far, thousands of people in Manchester have been given the vaccine and reports of serious side effects.
As with any vaccine, you may experience side effects, such as tenderness in the arm where you had the injection, tiredness, a headache, or general aches and pains. Not everyone gets these side effects, and most of them are mild and short-term.
You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
Am I fully protected from COVID-19 after the first vaccine dose?
No. Two doses of the vaccine are required for it to be most effective. Once you've received your first dose of the vaccine, you will be invited to a second appointment to receive another dose so you get the most protection possible.
How can I help the NHS?
Millions of people are already benefiting from protection from the virus and this has contributed to the dramatic falls in infections, hospitalisations and deaths from the virus we are now seeing.
NHS staff are doing an incredible job to deliver what it is the largest vaccination programme in our history, at the same time as continuing to be there for everyone who needs care.
Urgent care is always available for those who need it, so we would urge people not to put off coming forward. We continue to encourage people to use 111 first for urgent care so that they can be directed to the best local service for them, or 999 for life-threatening illness or injuries.
Everyone in Manchester can continue with all their great support by following all the safety guidance remembering hands, face, space at all times.
And if you have coronavirus symptoms – a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, make sure you get tested and isolate for as long as is need to help protect those you care for and others in your community.