South Asian frontline doctors answer most popular questions about COVID-19 vaccine

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines is being celebrated because vaccination saves lives and offers us a way out of the coronavirus crisis. Millions of people have already had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are some who are worried about the safety of a jab that has been developed so quickly.

Here, Six doctors, who are working on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, respond to some of the most popular questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the vaccine work with the new variants?
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are safe and effective against the COVID-19 variants currently dominant in the UK. In terms of other variants, even if a vaccine demonstrates reduced effectiveness against other variants in preventing infection, there may still be protection against severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The continued rollout of the vaccine is therefore essential to save lives and to protect our NHS.
Dr Harpreet Sood, GP in London and Board member of Health Education England

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After having two doses of the vaccine, can I return back to normal and start mixing with family and friends?
Even after you’ve had the first and second dose, at the moment, the advice is that you should still follow the current government restrictions. We know that the vaccines will help reduce deaths and they will help stop people getting really unwell and being hospitalised. However, it is essential that everyone continues to follow COVID-19 restrictions whether they have had the vaccine or not. It’s tough, but really important for now.
This means it is important to:
• continue to follow social distancing guidance
• wear a face covering and remember hands, face, space
• cut down on your interactions with other people as this is how Covid spreads.
Dr Chintal Patel, GP in Westminster, London.

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Does the vaccine affect fertility?
There have been some harmful myths circulating that claim the COVID-19 vaccines can make you infertile. There is no evidence to show that taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility in women or men. The theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by any evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after Covid-19 disease.
Dr Anuja Shah, GP in Luton, GP Trainer, Special interest in women’s health and diabetes

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Will the vaccine modify my DNA?
No. The claim that the COVID-19 vaccines may modify your DNA is false. The vaccines do not interfere with your DNA. It seems this myth has spread widely because of the use of mRNA vaccines. Both the Pfizer/BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. This has nothing to do with DNA and doesn’t modify your genes but rather produces the spike protein that triggers a reaction in your immune system that causes your body to produce antibodies which can later fight the virus.
Dr Raghib Ali, Consultant in Acute Medicine at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS trust

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Is the vaccine vegetarian and vegan?
The MHRA and manufacturers have confirmed that the COVID-19 Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any components of animal origin. They’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans and those who want to avoid certain foods for religious or cultural reasons. Many religious leaders and organisations are encouraging their communities to take the vaccine. Temples, cathedrals, gurdwaras and mosques have become vaccination centres, and volunteers from many faith organisations are helping in the vaccine effort.
Dr Annapoorna Sharma, MBBS FRCPCH Consultant Paediatrician with interest and experience in immunisation programme leading and teaching.

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Will the vaccine give you covid?
You can’t catch COVID-19 from any of the approved vaccines. They work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies so that if you are exposed to the virus, your body can fight it. You could test positive after having your jab because you caught the coronavirus before receiving the vaccine. And because no vaccine offers 100% protection, it is possible to contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated – but you won’t get the virus from the jab. It’s still really important to maintain social distancing and wear a mask, even after being vaccinated.
Dr Jahangir (Jingy) Alom, NHS Doctor, Campaigner, Guest Speaker

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