Mythbusting: The facts about the COVID-19 vaccination

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An expert answers your questions about the COVID-19 vaccination

There have been lots of rumours online and stories in the news about the COVID-19 vaccination, and this can feel a bit confusing and stressful. As the vaccinations become available for under 25s, we wanted to give you as much information as possible, so you can feel informed.

We asked you the main things you wanted to know about the vaccine and we put your questions to Prof Helen Fletcher, who is a Professor of Immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Prof Fletcher is really passionate about vaccines and believes that it’s through vaccination that we can really control and eliminate disease. She has spent the last 20 years working in vaccine development.

How do I get my COVID-19 vaccination?

Those distributing the vaccine will look at the patients who are registered with GPs and then, through the GP service, they can get your contact details – your home address and your mobile phone number. You’ll get a text message inviting you to go to an NHS website, where you can enter your details and then apply for a time slot that suits, at a location near you. Or, if you’re in an eligible age group you can visit the NHS website and book your own appointment.

 

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Could the vaccine give me COVID-19?

A vaccine cannot give you coronavirus. There are so many safety checks in vaccine manufacture that there’s absolutely no way this could happen. What we do with a vaccine is take a small part of the infectious organism and we put that into the vaccine candidate. This very small fragment (it could be a fragment of protein, for example) could never form an infectious particle and make you sick with the disease COVID-19.

 

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Can the COVID-19 vaccine alter our DNA?

Definitely not. The COVID-19 vaccinations use a new vaccine technology which puts a piece of mRNA into our cells, which helps our body to build up immunity to coronavirus. The way that our bodies work, we are unable to convert the mRNA into a piece of DNA. That means there’s no way the mRNA vaccine could combine with our own genetic material.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me a blood clot?

The risk of this happening is very low. There’s been a huge amount in the news on the association of blood clots with COVID-19 vaccines and in particular, with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. There have been some very rare types of blood clot associated with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, but the number of cases is incredibly small – around two in a million. People in their 20s and 30s have been identified as being more likely to be at risk and are therefore being offered one of the other vaccines instead. On balance, it is still worth getting the vaccine as the risk of getting COVID-19 is much higher than the risk of getting blood clots from the vaccination.

How did the COVID-19 vaccine get developed so quickly?

The COVID-19 vaccines were not developed by taking any short cuts, but by investing huge amounts of time, energy and money. It was produced incredibly fast and they did the work within a year that would usually take five years to achieve. It’s important to know that no safety testing was skipped; industry, academics, regulatory agencies and government got together to make the process as streamlined and efficient as possible.

 

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Does the COVID-19 vaccine have poisonous components?

Absolutely not. This is carefully monitored by regulatory agencies, in those early phase studies and during manufacturing to make sure that that the vaccine product is safe and there is nothing in there which will be toxic or a safety risk to you. All the ingredients used in vaccinations have been carefully tested over a number of decades, so we know that they’re safe – there’s nothing toxic or poisonous in the vaccine.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine have a chip in it?

Of course, this isn’t true. One of the rumours that’s been on the internet since the early phases of the clinical trials is that the vaccine has a chip in it. You’ll see when you go to the vaccination clinic that the needles are absolutely tiny and the vaccine is a clear fluid. There’s no chip in there and it would be so complicated and expensive to put some kind of chip technology into a vaccine. This is really something that will never happen.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine sterilise me?

Absolutely not. There’s no way that a vaccine could interact with any of your hormones or with your ovaries or your testes. There’s no known mechanism by which these particular vaccines could interact with your reproductive organs in any way.

When should you expect your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Your second dose will be given to you approximately 12 weeks after your first dose. If you go to the NHS website to register for your first vaccine, you are given the option to book your appointment for a second vaccine at the same time. The twelve-week gap in the UK has been shown to be really beneficial for your immune response. If you look at what happens after COVID-19 immunisation, you get a slow increase in the antibody responses over the first couple of weeks and they stay up at a protective level for at least 12 weeks. This means we can immunise as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

What do the COVID-19 vaccines actually protect against?

Protection has been measured in clinical trials by comparing the number of people who test positive in a PCR test in the vaccine group versus the placebo group. In this data we are seeing 70-95% effectiveness. There are other ways that you can measure protection, and perhaps most important is protection against the number of people who have severe disease – not only those who have positive results, but people who end up going to hospital or dying from COVID-19. What we see is that the vaccines are actually up to 100% protective against severe disease, which is a much higher rate of protection against hospital admission and against death from COVID-19.

Can you still transmit COVID-19 even if you’ve had the vaccine?

Recent data indicates that vaccines do have at least a 50% protective effect against transmitting the virus within a household. That’s fantastic news as it shows us that the vaccine is not only protecting us against having an infection and against severe disease, it’s protecting us from passing the virus on to others as well.

For more information and advice about coronavirus, head here.

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Updated on 18-Jun-2021

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