Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Before they can be used outside of trials, vaccines have to be approved for use by the MHRA (Medicines Health Regulatory Authority). It is an independent body which assesses the safety of medicines and vaccines to ensure they are safe to use. 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.
How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine has been tested in large clinical trials. The results of these trials have shown that the vaccines were safe and effective. The majority of vaccinated people developed protective antibodies against the virus and vaccination significantly reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 infection. More information can be found on the MHRA and Public Health England websites.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with cancer?
The currently available COVID-19 vaccines have not been tested specifically in people with cancer but there is no reason to think they would not be safe if you have cancer. They are not live vaccines and as such can be used if you have had chemotherapy or have a weakened impaired immune system.
Our recommendations regarding timing of the vaccine do not relate to the safety of the vaccine, but relate to potential adverse effects of the vaccine (e.g. fever) leading to confusion of causality in the context of ongoing medical treatment. For this reason we advise the following:
- Patients should not receive the vaccine on the same day as anti-cancer treatment
- Patients should not receive the vaccine if they are currently being treated for an infection
- Patients should not receive the vaccine if they currently have active anti-cancer treatment toxicity
- Patients should not receive the vaccine within 7 days before elective surgery until full recovery after discharge from surgery
- Any patient known to have severe allergic reactions to any compounds (drugs / foods / others) that require the person to carry an adrenaline autoinjector (epipen) should not receive the vaccine.
- Patients on clinical trials may receive the vaccine.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective in people with cancer?
It is possible that vaccines against COVID-19 will be less effective in people with cancer as a result of their weakened immune systems due to both the cancer and the treatment. This is something that is true for all vaccines. The potential benefits in people with cancer are however significant even if the response is less than for other vaccine recipients. As time goes by we will learn more and more about the vaccines, and how they work in different people.
Please see guidance from the UK Chemotherapy Board that offers more detailed guidance.
Which COVID-19 vaccines are available?
2 vaccines are available in the UK. A vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and a vaccine developed by Astra Zeneca and a research team based in Oxford. Other vaccines will be approved by the MHRA during 2021.
Should I have the COVID-19 vaccine, and which vaccine should I have?
In line with Government guidelines, we are recommending that all of our patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no evidence to suggest that one vaccine is better than another in people with cancer.
Are there any known or anticipated side effects?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose.
Very common side effects include:
- Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
- Feeling tired
- General aches, or mild flu like symptoms
As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration.
How many doses of the vaccine will be required and when?
The Pfizer vaccine requires you to have two doses at least 21 days apart. The gap between doses may be up to 3 months, as per advice from JCVI, and communication from the UK’s Chief Medical officers (31 December 2020).
Who cannot have the vaccine?
People known to have severe allergic reactions to previous vaccine should not currently be vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal or human products and are safe for people who are allergic to eggs.
The Gov.uk greenbook (link below) provides useful information regarding the use of the vaccine in women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.
There are a number of factors to be considered given the risks and benefits involved, and this may need to be considered on a case by case basis.
People who are suffering from a fever-type illness should also postpone having the vaccine until they have recovered.
Does COVID-19 vaccination mean that other infection control precautions can be avoided?
No, it is important that you also continue to adhere to other infection control guidance such as wearing a mask, hand hygiene and social distancing; this is because the vaccine may be less effective in people with cancer.
How long does the vaccine take to become effective?
The COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. After 14 days you will have a high level of immunity to COVID19. It is believed that this immunity will last for a number of months, but a second dose will be required to deliver longer term immunity.
Is the vaccine vegan/vegetarian friendly?
Yes, the Pfizer vaccine does not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products.
If, and when, further vaccines are approved we will publish information about known allergens or ingredients that are important for certain faiths, cultures and beliefs.
Does COVID-19 vaccination work in all people?
In trials, similar results were seen in all the people who received the vaccine, regardless of their age, gender and state of health.
What is the evidence to show the vaccine is safe for BAME communities?
The phase three study of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated a vaccine efficacy of 95%, with consistent efficacy across age, gender and ethnicity. Overall, among the participants who received the COVID-19 vaccine 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan.
Who is at risk from COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus vary widely between individuals. Black, Asian and Minority Ethic people and older adults are at increased risk of more serious infection as are those with underlying health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But anyone can contract and transmit the virus.
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.
Do 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 when it is their time to do so.
I have had my flu vaccine; do I need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?
The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from flu?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu. If you have been offered a flu vaccine, please try to have this as soon as possible to help protect you, your family and patients from flu this winter.
If you are a patient, please do feel free to discuss with your clinical team at your next appointment but please do not call The Christie hotline as this blocks the line for those people requiring urgent medical advice.
How are the Government raising awareness of the vaccine among the NHS workforce?
The Cabinet Office has developed a campaign to raise awareness of the vaccine with the public and health and social care staff. This includes specific engagement with BAME communities and workforce.
Why are healthcare workers amongst the first groups to receive the vaccine?
Patient-facing health and social care staff are a priority group because of their heightened risk of exposure to the virus.
The NHS is experienced in vaccinating hundreds of thousands of staff quickly and safely – we do it every year for the flu vaccine – and all local NHS employers will be responsible for ensuring that 100% of eligible staff have the opportunity to take it up over the coming weeks and months.
Why aren’t all healthcare workers getting vaccinated right now?
The Government has confirmed that the vast majority of vaccinations administered by the NHS in this initial phase will be prioritised for those 80 years of age and over and care home residents and workers.
It is likely that some NHS staff are also likely to be among those vaccinated in the first few days, and employers will be identifying those who can benefit most. Over the following days and weeks as we get more supplies this will continue to be rolled out.
How will Christie staff get the vaccine?
We will coordinate vaccination of our staff from a centrally located vaccination hub. Up to 300 staff will be vaccinated daily. The Christie@ sites will be given the opportunity to receive a vaccine from a vaccination site closer to them, or to come to the main site. Please ensure which ever site you receive your first vaccine dose, you go back to the same site to receive your second vaccine dose.
Why is it important to get your 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.
Is it mandatory and what happens if staff don’t want the vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory. But it is highly recommended and all eligible staff will be offered the vaccination. We are confident that most staff – as they do every year for the flu vaccine – will protect themselves and their patients by getting the vaccine.
Will healthcare workers need to pay for the vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and is a free vaccination.
Can I go back to work after having my vaccine?
Yes, you should be able to work as long as you feel well. We will ask you to wait for around 10 to 15 minutes after your vaccination to check you are feeling okay.
Can the vaccine give me the COVID-19 infection?
The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and 2 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 personal protection equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.
You can find out further information by reading the Gov.uk greenbook.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Agency can confirm that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any components of animal origin.
A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the vaccine can be found at point 2 in the Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNtech Vaccine.
A full list of ingredients for the excipient composition of the vaccine can be found at point 6 in the Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNtech Vaccine.
A full list of ingredients for the qualitative and quantitative composition of the vaccine and a full list of the excipient composition of the vaccine can be found at point 6 in the Information for Recipients of the Pfizer/BioNtech Vaccine.
- ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl)bis (hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
- ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
- potassium chloride
- potassium dihydrogen phosphate
- sodium chloride
- disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate
- water for injections
I am leaving The Christie NHS Trust soon - can I still get the vaccine at The Christie?
Yes. The important thing is that you receive your first and second doses of the vaccine at the same centre.
Will we be receiving the Oxford / AstraZeneca Vaccine that has also been approved?
No, vaccination sites can only use one type of vaccine. Therefore The Christie will only be vaccinating with the Pfizer/BioNTech.
Can staff who are shielding, on long term sick or maternity leave receive their vaccine?
All staff should be offered the opportunity to complete the questionnaire. If you manage someone who is currently absent from work, please ensure they have access to the Vaccine Questionnaire.
If there are specific concerns regarding the vaccine and their health, pregnancy or breast feeding, they will need to consult their health care professional prior to consenting to the vaccine.
Please note, staff who are at extremely clinically vulnerable, may also be offered the Vaccine by their local health authority. They must receive the 2 doses of the vaccine from the same vaccination centre.
Can staff who are shielding return to work once they have received the vaccine?
Those who are extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding are still not advised to return following receipt of the vaccine.
Will people on an honorary contract be able to receive the vaccine?
Yes, all those who would normally receive the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine, will also be eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. They must complete the Vaccine Questionnaire.
Will staff working off site receive the vaccine?
The objective is to vaccinate all Christie staff - priority calls to attend will initially be made to staff working in ‘frontline’ areas, although we have enough vaccine for all staff and aim to have everyone vaccinated by the end of January. There is enough vaccine for all staff. Staff working off site will be invited to book an appointment.
Staff must have completed the ‘Empactis HealthCases’ consent questionnaire before they come to be vaccinated and this can be done by all staff now.
Christie staff will start to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Tuesday 5 January. This will be the Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine. Staff must not attend vaccination sessions until invited by the vaccine team through vaccine leads in each department.