Frequently asked questions
When I’ve have the vaccine can I stop taking precautions?
No. The vaccines provide a high degree of protection, between 70-94% after the second dose. This means that although you can still catch COVID-19, if you do, the illness should be less severe and the likelihood of you needing hospital treatment should be less. Because of this, and because you may still be able to pass on the infection to others even if you have had the vaccine, it is very important that you continue with all the usual precautions to prevent infection - social distance, face mask and hand
What protection does the first dose of vaccine provide?
On December 31, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation decided that vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose would prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating a smaller number of people with two doses. It states the efficacy for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against symptomatic COVID-19 following the first dose is 89% from day 14 after the vaccination is administered.
It also found that the level of protection after a single dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is 73% after 22 days following the first dose.
When is the second dose of vaccine due?
The trials for the Pfizer vaccine recommended an initial interval of 3 weeks between doses. For most vaccines the interval between doses is longer, as this has been shown to achieve the maximum and more prolonged immune response. The short interval for the COVID-19 vaccine may be the result of the speed required to develop and test an effective vaccine. We know the first dose provides high levels of protection after 3 weeks, and that this protection is boosted and prolonged by having a second dose, but the timing of the second dose is still being debated. After reviewing the available evidence, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation have concluded that given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose the benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible with a single dose is greater than vaccinating few people with two doses within a three weeks. Prolonging the interval means there is more vaccine available, enabling more people to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible and therefore help prevent more deaths and hospitalisations. The guidance is that the second dose of all the available vaccines should be given between 11 and 12 weeks.
The current guidance is that the second dose should be the same type of vaccine as the first dose. Whenever possible patients should attend the same vaccination venue for both doses to ensure that the same vaccine is available and the second dose is administered at the correct time. There are some circumstances where it clearly may not be possible for the patient to attend the same site (e.g. they have moved home or, in between the first and second dose, they have moved to a new GP practice which is not part of the PCN grouping that administered the first dose.) In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the new provider to administer the second dose.
Trials are underway to assess if flexibility, i.e. providing the AZ vaccine to those who had the Pfizer vaccine initially and vice versa, offers the same, or even enhanced, protection but it will be some time until results are available and until further information is available the advice is clear - the second dose should be the same vaccine as the first.
If I have had COVID-19 am I now protected from catching it again?
A study led by Public Health England shows that most people who have had COVID-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months. However, although the risk of getting the infection again is lower, compared with those who have never had COVID-19, but some people do catch Covid-19 again, and there is evidence they can still infect others.For this reason it is important that everyone should follow the stay-at-home rules regardless of whether they have had the infection.
Pharmacies and COVID-19 vaccines
Some High Street pharmacies in England are now able to offer vaccinations to people from priority groups. The closest pharmacies offering this service are in Macclesfield, Alsager and Crewe, but more pharmacies will start providing this service, in addition to the larger vaccination centres an PCN run clinics. Only pharmacies that are able to administer a large number of vaccines every week whilst allowing space for social distancing will offer this service, so it is unlikely that more local pharmacies will be able to provide this service at this stage. If you have received an invitation letter from NHS England you can book an online appointment at one of the large vaccination centres or designated pharmacies by clicking here.
There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available cause any problems with fertility. Confusion may have arisen because the vaccine is new and untested in pregnancy, and for this reason the current advice is the same as for all new medicines and vaccines - avoid in pregnancy until more information becomes available. However, the COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines, and as most vaccines of this type are safe in pregnancy any risks are certainly very low, and should be balanced against the risks of COVID-19 infection if people are highly vulnerable. There is no advice to avoid pregnancy after pregnancy.
The government offers the following advice:COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant and breast feeding
- if you are pregnant you should not be vaccinated unless you are at high risk – you can be vaccinated after your pregnancy is over
- if you have had the first dose and then become pregnant you should delay the second dose until after the pregnancy is over (unless you are at high risk)
If you are pregnant but think you are at high risk, you should discuss having or completing vaccination with your doctor or nurse.
Although the vaccine has not been tested in pregnancy, you may decide that the known risks from COVID-19 are so clear that you wish to go ahead with vaccination. There is no advice to avoid pregnancy after COVID-19 vaccination.
Can vitamin D help fight coronavirus?
The Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition and the health watchdog, NICE, have done a review of the evidence. Vitamin D, the 'sunshine vitamin' is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, and normally most people spend enough time outdoors to keep their vitamin D levels topped up. During the pandemic more have been staying indoors resulting in a reduction in vitamin D levels. Before the pandemic, people in the UK were already advised to consider taking supplements from October to March, but this should be extended to all year round if sun exposure is reduce, either by staying indoors, or covering up the skin with clothes, or possibly in people with darker skin as the amount of vitamin D the body makes may also be reduced.
Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles but there is also the suggestion it may boost the immune system and helps fight off infections. Although the evidence from research is inconsistent the government has decided to make vitamin D supplements free to vulnerable people at greatest risk from COVID-19 infection. Four months supply can be obtained free (visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/get-vitamin-d-supplements/
) but applications have to be made by 21/2/21. Fortunately vitamin D is cheap to buy over the counter and is readily available from pharmacies, supermarkets and health food shops. The recommended dose of vitamin D is 10 microgram (400 international unit) daily
Face covering guidance
Government advice on the use of face coverings can be found here http://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers#face-coverings This guidance states that people who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, including those with health, age or equality reasons, don’t have to wear a face covering. There is no requirement to produce evidence for exemption. Therefore Holmes Chapel Health Centre WILL NOT provide exemption letters. We would strongly encourage all people to wear a face covering/mask in enclosed public places. Keep safe and well.