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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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COVID-19 Staff FAQs: Vaccine information

Information alert box Last updated: 11 January 2021

This is a fast moving situation and we will try to keep this page as up-to-date as possible.
Please continue to check national guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your question is not answered below, and you are a member of staff, please speak to your line manager or email covidquestions@ouh.nhs.uk

If your question is about an OUH HR matter that isn't addressed here, please discuss this initially with your line manager who can then raise it with the HR consultant for your Division.

Some links are to documents on the OUH internal staff intranet: if you are a staff member and cannot access the intranet, please email covidquestions@ouh.nhs.uk and we will send you the document you need.

Please remember guidance is likely to change rapidly, so check back to see if you have the most up-to-date version of a document.

Different vaccines

What vaccine for COVID-19 is currently available?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - NHS website

Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses.

This includes:

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also being assessed by the MHRA.

Can I choose which vaccine I have?

No. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not advised a preference between the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in any specific population, stating that "both give very high protection against severe disease... and both vaccines have good safety profiles".

Our vaccine programme is offering vaccines in line with the supply of vaccines available to us.

You will have to have two doses of the same vaccine and in certain circumstances we may advise you have a certain vaccine.

Vaccine safety

Is the NHS confident the vaccine will be safe?

Yes. The MHRA, the official UK regulator authorising licensed use of medicines and vaccines by healthcare professionals, has said these vaccines are safe and highly effective.

The NHS would not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until it is safe to do so.

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

What is the evidence to show the vaccine is safe for BAME communities?

The Public Assessment Reports contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants.

For the Pfizer vaccine, participants included 9.6 percent black/African, 26.1 percent Hispanic/Latino and 3.4 percent Asian.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 10.1 percent of trial recipients were Black and 3.5 percent Asian.

There is no evidence either of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups.

How was the vaccine developed so quickly?

Medicines, including vaccines, are highly regulated - and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccine.

There are a number of enablers that have made this groundbreaking medical advancement possible and made it possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines.

  1. The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of running sequentially which sped up the clinical process.
  2. There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed - as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial.
  3. Clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

Vaccine effectiveness

Are the vaccines effective against new strains of the SARS COV-2 virus?

There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that either vaccine is not effective against new variants of the virus. Whilst further work is ongoing in this field, the advice is to continue with the vaccination as planned.

Why is it important to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you can, should protect you and may help to protect your family and those you care for.

The COVID-19 vaccine should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives and will therefore reduce pressure on the NHS and social care services.

Practical vaccine questions

How do I book an appointment?

You will be contacted when it is your turn to book an appointment. If you have been contacted, please do take up the appointment.

Is it mandatory and what happens if I don't want the jab?

There are no plans for COVID-19 vaccines to be compulsory, but we are working hard to ensure that those who want the vaccine can have it as quickly as possible.

How is the vaccine given?

The vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm.

How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

While you will need two doses of the vaccine to get the best long-term protection from the virus, you will still have a significant level of protection at 22 days after you received the first dose.

Do I need to continue to social distance and wear a face covering after receiving the vaccine?

It is important to note that even when you have received both doses of the vaccine, you must continue to follow Government guidance on social distancing and wearing a face covering when you are in public places.

You must also to continue to follow the Trust's PPE guidance when you are at work.

If I've had a positive antibody test, should I still get vaccinated?

Yes, the vaccine can be given if you have had a positive antibody test.

I'm currently ill with COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?

People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until they have recovered.

Should people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated?

Yes, they should get vaccinated. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

You can have the vaccine 28 days after you had a positive test for COVID-19 or 28 days after your symptoms started, so you may need to wait.

What if I'm taking part in a vaccine trial?

If you have been taking part in a vaccine trial please continue to do so until you are offered the approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Once you are offered a vaccination appointment, please contact your trial coordinator to ask whether you have received an active vaccine already or not.

If I decline to get have a vaccine now, can I change my mind later?

Yes.

Will having the vaccine mean I can travel without having to quarantine or get a COVID-19 test?

No. International guidelines around quarantine will stand until otherwise advised. It's extremely important you continue to follow the law.

What is in the vaccine

Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly?

There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA's website.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here.

Prioritisation for the vaccine

Which healthcare workers are being prioritised?

Frontline health and social care workers at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to vulnerable are considered of higher priority for vaccination than those at lower risk.

We have been undertaking risk assessments throughout the pandemic to identify individuals at greater risk and we will be using these as the basis for prioritising access to vaccines.

Is the vaccine also available to staff and students working on hospital sites who are not directly employed by OUH?

Yes. The vaccine is available for staff from our PFI contractors who provide housekeeping, portering and catering services, medical and nursing students working on our sites and other contracted workers who are working at our hospitals.

They are being prioritised in the same way that our directly employed staff are, with those working in COVID areas being the first priority.

Are BAME staff being prioritised?

We have been undertaking risk assessments throughout the pandemic to identify individuals at higher risk.

These risk assessments include factors such as ethnic background and will be used as the basis for prioritising access to vaccines for colleagues over the coming weeks.

Who cannot have the vaccine?

People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.

Is it safe to have the vaccine if I am pregnant?

It is advised that vaccination in pregnancy should be considered where the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is high and cannot be avoided (such as in front line NHS staff), or where the woman has underlying conditions that put them at very high risk of serious complications of COVID-19.

Can I have the vaccine if I'm already taking medication, for example for high blood pressure or asthma?

Only anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication may affect your ability to have the vaccine because of the injection. If you are taking warfarin please check your INR is within range.

If you are taking other medication it should not affect your ability to receive the vaccine.

After vaccination

Can I go back to work after having my vaccine?

Yes, you should be able to work as long as you feel well. If your arm is particularly sore, you may find heavy lifting difficult. If you feel unwell or very tired you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and two doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. However, you will need to continue to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the correct PPE and taking part in the lateral flow testing programme.

Once a highly vulnerable member of staff has been vaccinated should they return to face to face clinical work if they've currently stopped this?

At the moment the advice is that the vaccine doesn't change the infection prevention and control and PPE guidelines, and other advice based on risk assessment, but this may change in future.

Are there any known or anticipated side effects?

These are important details which the MHRA always considers when assessing candidate vaccines for use.

For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials.

All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting them to the MHRA.

More information on possible side effects can be found on the NHS website.

What do I do if I have any side effects to the vaccine?

Mild side effects such as pain at the injection site and symptoms such as headache and tiredness for a day commonly occur.

If you have more serious symptoms that you are worried about please seek medical advice from your GP or 111 as you would normally, as they may be unrelated to the vaccine.

For more acute side effects you can attend your nearest walk-in centre or Emergency Department.

I received my vaccination yesterday and have woken up with a fever, what should I do?

If you develop any of the main COVID-19 symptoms such as a high temperature (≥37.80C), a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste, ensure you self-isolate and arrange for a test. Please see the Staff Testing page.

Second dose appointments

Is the vaccine effective if I have only one dose?

A single dose of the vaccine does provide a good level of protection from COVID-19, but the second dose is important to ensure lasting protection.

What happens if I'm unable to attend my second dose appointment?

It is advised that the second dose is given 3-12 weeks after the first, but can be safely given later. If there is an unavoidable delay then please attend for your second dose when you can.

If I leave OUH or change address between my first and second dose can I still get the second dose?

Yes. Both appointments are booked at once, so you should ensure you keep your appointment for your booster where it was originally booked.

I've received the first dose of my COVID-19 vaccine and have my second booked soon. However I had a fever last night and the PCR swab for COVID-19 is reported positive. Should I still have my second dose? If yes, can I receive it on the day it is booked?

People who have had COVID-19 previously can have the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, you should wait 28 days before the next dose of vaccine can be given to you.

Please do not attend your appointment as booked and we will contact you to reschedule your second dose.

How many doses of the vaccine will be required and when?

To get the best long-term protection from the virus, you will need two doses of the vaccine up to 12 weeks apart.

Why is the gap between doses now 12 weeks and not three?

The new medical advice is that the second dose of the vaccine remains effective when given up to 12 weeks after the first dose and should be given towards the end of this 12 week period.

This will help ensure that as many people as possible benefit from the first dose of the vaccine as soon as possible.

Staff testing after being vaccinated

Should we carry on with asymptomatic (LFD) testing after receiving the COVID vaccination?

Yes. Frontline staff should continue with the programme of asymptomatic testing if they are already talking part.

I had my vaccine yesterday. I did my lateral flow testing today and it has turned positive. Is this as a result of the vaccine?

No. The vaccine will not cross-react with the lateral flow device (LFD). Therefore if your LFD is positive it is very likely that you have the COVID-19 infection.

You should arrange for a PCR swab to confirm the result of LFD. The vaccine takes one or two weeks to generate immunity therefore it is possible to contract the infection within two weeks of the vaccine.

Will there be an antibody or immunity check after the second dose of the vaccine?

There is not currently a plan in place to do antibody or immunity testing after the vaccine. The evidence suggests that the vaccine is successful in most people.

How long does the vaccine protection last, and is there a need for a booster vaccine on a regular basis?

There is currently no long-term information to indicate how long immunity lasts following the vaccine. There are no current plans to provide booster vaccines but this may change over time.

COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine

I have had my flu vaccine, do I need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?

Yes. The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from flu?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu.