Coronavirus Vaccine – Why it’s safe? Why it was developed so quickly? And other important questions

Here’s a really useful selection of detailed information on the most common concerns about the coronavirus vaccine currently being raised in local communities and which people might need reassurance about.

Safety – How do we know the vaccines are safe?

  • They have been approved by an independent body (The Medicine & Health Regulatory Authority), which follows international standards of safety.
  • They have gone through all the same clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines have to complete before they can be used.
  • No vaccine will be approved – or even be tested in a clinical trial – if it hasn’t first passed other safety checks. At every stage of a vaccine’s development, safety is always being checked and side effects monitored.
  • They have been tested on more than 20,000 people, including people from different ethnic backgrounds
  • So far, more than 5.7 million people have had a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.
There are some helpful videos you can watch if you want to know more about this: Nurse Siphelile addresses concerns about the safety of the vaccine, its side effects and how she’s had to counter disinformation within her own family who’ve been worried about things they’ve seen online.

How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

There are four main reasons why the covid-19 vaccines were developed more quickly than usual:
  1. A world-wide approach – Covid-19 has affected the whole world so everyone has focused their efforts on tackling the pandemic in order to save lives and help us get back to our normal ways of living. There has been worldwide funding and scientists across the world have worked together to develop the vaccines, which has meant they were able to complete years of work in months.
  2. Speeding up the admin process – in normal circumstances, the process of undertaking trials and getting approval can take several years, due to all the administrative and bureaucratic processes. For COVID-19 research (including vaccine development), all the different bodies involved worked together which meant the vaccine could move through the processes required much quicker. Usually, the different phases of the clinical trials take place one after another but for the covid-19 vaccine, some of them ran at the same time to speed up the clinical process. Also, the experts responsible for approving the vaccine got information all the way through the trials so could ask questions along the way and request any extra information they needed, rather than waiting to review all the information at the end which would take much longer.
  3. Volunteers – clinical trials can’t take place if there aren’t volunteers. Usually it takes a long time to find enough volunteers but for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials thousands of people across the world volunteered to take part very quickly.

How do the vaccines work?

  • The vaccines work by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection.
  • The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.
  • They do not alter your DNA / genetic material.

 Do they make you ill?

  • You can’t get Covid-19 from having the vaccine.
  • As with flu, it is possible to have caught Covid-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment but the vaccine can not give you the virus.
  • Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects in some people. This does not mean that every person who has a vaccine will experience side effects, or that the side effects will be particularly bad or damaging.
  • Most of these are mild and short term, and not everyone gets them. Very common side effects include:  having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine, feeling tired,  headache, general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
  • These tend to happen in the first couple of days after the vaccination and last a few days. How do we know there won’t be side effects later on?
  • So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine, including people who took part in the trials many months ago, and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare.
  • No long-term complications have been reported. COVID-19 vaccine and fertility
  • There has been a lot of misinformation about the vaccine affecting fertility but medical experts agree that this is not possible.
  • The vaccine components will leave the body within a few days and there is no evidence of these having any effect on fertility.
  • The theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibodies to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after COVID-19 disease.
  • Dr Gayatri Amithalingam explains this in the following video: ha8es7pUVU1rCU1E5yU&index=1
  • The vaccine was originally not recommended for women who were planning a pregnancy as this is standard practice for all new medicines until further data is available. However, having reviewed the latest evidence, the JCVI has updated its advice and says there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.
  • Doctors and midwives at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives issued a statement to reassure women that these claims are not supported by any evidence and that there is no scientific process by which the vaccines could affect women’s fertility. Information and advice for pregnant women about the COVID-19 vaccine Pregnancy
  • The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have also published advice and information for pregnant women on their website so they can make an informed decision as to whether to have the vaccine if they are eligible for it. Information sheet for pregnant women Safety at the vaccine centres
  • People may understandably feel nervous about going to a vaccine centre when they have been staying at home and avoiding contact with other people.
  • The place that people choose to have their vaccine will have strict measures in place to keep them safe from COVID-19.
  • The vaccine services are all in centres where there is enough space to allow for social distancing in waiting areas and strict cleaning and disinfecting processes will be in place. • All the staff will be wearing masks and protective clothing to help keep people safe and people will be asked to wear a face covering at the centre (unless they are medically exempt)