As a GP, I was one of the first people in the UK to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. I work in inner city Bradford, which has a large South Asian community, a group which has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. I’ve had the privilege of giving the vaccine to my patients and helping protect them from the virus.
The vaccine rollout is well underway and it’s great to see so many people being invited to take it to safeguard themselves and those around them. However, there are lots of people who are hesitant to come forward to take the jab – even those who are highly vulnerable – because of damaging misinformation that has particularly targeted our communities.
People often come to me with their concerns about taking a COVID-19 vaccine. I understand that some of you are worried so I’ve answered four of the most common questions about the vaccine and its safety.
The vaccines have been made very quickly. How can they be safe?
The speed of the availability of the vaccines is testament to how the global scientific community, and thousands of clinical trial volunteers have come together to save lives. Scientists have worked extremely hard to find a way to protect people and their efforts have been supported by unprecedented amounts of funding.
Hundreds of scientists, thousands of volunteers and billions of pounds of funding have meant vaccines have been developed quickly. But this doesn’t mean safety has been compromised. These vaccines have undergone rigorous testing and are monitored and approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the independent body that regulates all medicines in the UK.
Are the vaccines harmful to pregnant women or those who want to have children?
There is no evidence to suggest the vaccine is dangerous for pregnant women or that it can lead to infertility in men or women. If you’re breastfeeding or trying for a baby, you can also take the vaccine. More research is needed before the vaccine is routinely given to pregnant women so the current advice is to make an informed decision based on the risks you face. If you’re a pregnant woman and are also a frontline worker or have underlying health conditions, you may want to take the vaccine when as soon as it’s offered to you.
Do the vaccines contain pork gelatine or foetal cells?
No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain any animal products or human cells so you don’t need to worry if you want to avoid these for religious, cultural or dietary reasons. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine contains some ethanol, but the amount is lower than that found in natural foods or bread. Because the amount is negligible, many faith groups have deemed it permissible.
More and more religious leaders and organisations are encouraging people of faith to get the vaccine. I’ve spoken at mosques, temples and community centres about the safety of the vaccine and it’s great to see these sites open their doors as vaccination centres too.
If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need to take a vaccine?
Yes. Even if you’ve had a COVID-19, it’s just as important for you take the vaccine as someone who hasn’t had it. While having the COVID-19 can give you some protection, it’s not known how long this lasts. Plus, you could still infect others with the virus. That’s why I believe it is so important to take the vaccine so that we can do our best to keep ourselves and each other safe.
If you have any further questions about the vaccines or COVID-19, please speak to your GP or seek out information you can trust by visiting www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine