Are the Covid vaccine rumours true?

illustration of covid-19 vaccine bottles and a needleCovid 19 is something we have heard non-stop over the past year. It’s the biggest story when turning on the television or scrolling through social media and I’m sure nobody wants to sit and read another depressing article about it.

However, with professionals saying everyone over 18 will be receiving a Covid 19 vaccine by the end of July, many questions about fertility, blood clots and other health issues have arisen that I think need to be answered. I attended a Q&A hosted by Plymouth City Council and the NHS to find out more, and this is what I found out…

There have been so many discoveries over the past few months. Long Covid becoming a greater issue and the new Covid variants that are more transmittable and easier to spread; making the vaccine program all the more needed.

The statistics in Plymouth are encouraging. Occasionally even dropping below the South West average which is a huge success considering that we are a city with a high population density and where an array of essential work has been going on throughout the lockdowns.

Cases are lowering. Partially due to the lockdowns and strict rules, and partially due to the older population, clinically vulnerable and key workers getting some protection from the vaccine.

Why should I have the vaccine?

The vaccine alone won’t look after us. Social distancing is still important too.

Having said that, vaccinations are probably the most important thing to lower the cases of Covid 19. It’s not just about protecting ourselves; it’s for our parents, our grandparents, our friends with heart disease or diabetes who are at extremely high risk. Protecting yourself with the Covid vaccine means you reduce the risk of picking up Covid and giving it to someone else who may be more vulnerable.

The Covid vaccines are safe and highly effective. Having said that, whenever discussing any new medication, it’s important to continue monitoring what is happening.

How effective are the vaccines?

The first vaccine gives you really good protection. It takes three/ four weeks to build up a degree of decent immunity. Then the second dose tops up our immunity levels, giving us longer lasting protection against Covid. The vaccines reduce the likelihood of hospitalisation including intensive care admissions and death.

Side effects

Side effects have been all over social media over the last couple of months.

It’s important to remember that, like any medication, there will always be some form of potential side effects. Take paracetamol for one. It’s been around so long we simply grab it from our shelf; never even considering the side effects that they may have.

Over 30 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine and reports of severe side effects are really really rare.

You might remember right at the beginning of the vaccination programme we were using Pfizer. Pfizer was the only one that was approved at the time and a few people were reporting potential allergic reactions. These were and still are really rare.

The most common side effects are a sore and achy arm. Some people can feel a little bit tired, with a headache or feeling achy. But generally, this feeling doesn’t normally last more than a week; generally 24 to 48 hours.

There have been concerns raised about blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine. These have been rare with less than four people in a million who received the vaccine actually being at risk of blood clots. Out of 20 million AstraZeneca vaccines administered only 79 cases of blood clots have been identified. It is still unclear whether AstraZeneca causes the blood clots or if they would have happened anyway, so more research needs to be done.

The balance of risk is still in favour of the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, it has been suggested though that anyone under 30 who hasn’t yet had their first dose should be offered an alternative.

Note: Since the event it has been announced that people under 40 will be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine if it’s available i.e. the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. This is because of concerns about a possible connection between that vaccine and extremely rare cases of blood clots.

There have also been questions over pregnancy, fertility and breastfeeding.

The latest advice has been that, if a pregnant woman is considered high risk, Covid 19 vaccines should be carefully considered. This is a big decision and should be talked through with your doctor. After giving birth, it is safe to have the vaccine but is advised to have an individual discussion due to personal situations being different.

There is no evidence or plausible way that fertility will be affected and breastfeeding does not need to be ceased either for vaccine administration.

The advice from professionals is that if trying for a baby, have your Covid Vaccine first before falling pregnant to ensure you have that level of protection.

Can I receive the vaccine and how do I get it?

Anyone living currently in the UK will be offered the vaccine; including if they are here on a work or educational visa. You don’t even need to be registered with a GP.

You will be contacted about booking your vaccine and you can choose where to go. If you change your mind about where you want to go just inform them before the date as they prepare the amount of vaccines each day and don’t want to waste them. Vaccination centres in Plymouth including Derriford Hospital and Plymouth Argyle (Home Park).

At Marjon, lateral flow testing kits are now available at the Welcome Desk. If you have any questions then there is another online Q&A for students about Covid and the vaccines on the 9th of June at 5.30pm on Zoom. All students are welcome to attend and it will be hosted by Plymouth City Council and the NHS. You need to register here to attend the vaccine Q&A.

All the above information came from an online Q&A hosted by Plymouth City Council and the NHS in mid April 2021, written up here by first year student Rowan Mobsby-Frost.

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