THE roll-out of a Covid vaccine in the NHS has been a mark in history – but some don’t want to be part of it.
More than a quarter of people have said they are unsure about getting a potentially life-saving Covid jab, according to research.
But health chiefs have pleaded with the public to accept their offer from the NHS when it arrives, with three jabs now approved for use in the UK.
Reluctance to get the vaccine largely stems from the speed at which the jabs were made, and that they haven’t been studied for a long time.
And unfortunately, anti-vaxx conspiracy theories are rife on social media, such as that Bill Gates plans to use vaccines to “microchip everyone”.
But the majority of the population understand the vaccine is the ticket to normality, and scientists have robustly tested their jabs to ensure they are safe.
So how do you convince a friend or relative who is dubious?
The benefits outweigh the risks
No scientist has denied there is a small chance that people may respond badly to the vaccine, in some way.
The decision regulators have to make is whether or not this risk is too large in comparison to the benefits a vaccine would give society.
Dr Andrew Preston, Department of Biology and Biochemistry at University of Bath, told The Sun: “I’m honest and say there is a small risk with any medicine. There will be people who will react to the vaccine.
“But there are some people who are allergic to penicillin, or can’t take paracetamol, but on the whole we consider them hugely beneficial and they save countless lives.
“It does not minimise the effect of that reaction on that person, but the odds of having a vaccine reaction, to the odds of getting covid, there is just no comparison.”
Some people suffered allergic reactions to the Pfizer jab in the early days of roll out, prompting health officials to tell anyone with severe allergies to refuse the jab.
But experts said the discovery of new side effects was not “unexpected”.
And most would happen very shortly after receiving a dose, which is why people must wait 15 minutes at the doctors or hospital after their jab.
Put into perspective, Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “One has to remember that even things like marmite can cause unexpected severe allergic reactions.
“For the general population this does not mean that they would need to be anxious about receiving the vaccination.”
Vaccines have saved millions of lives – this one will, too
Almost two million people have died of Covid-19 within one year of it being discovered in China.
Trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, as well as the candidates from Oxford and Moderna, prove the vaccines can prevent serious Covid-19 disease, and death, ultimately saving lives.
Vaccines have been proven successful at doing this time and time again in history – but it’s easy to forget that amid the concern the Covid jab is “new”.
Dr Preston said: “Most people are aware there was very high child mortality in the middle of the last century.
“Ask them – why don’t we see as many cases of measles now? Why doesn’t whooping cough kill hundreds of thousands of babies every year? And why are we not losing hundreds of teenagers to meningitis each year?
“It doesn’t take long for people to realise that it’s vaccination.”
He added that by summer – when at least all the vulnerable people are expected to have been jabbed – the vaccine would have possibly saved thousands of lives.
A quick turnaround does not mean the vaccine is unsafe
Scientists managed to turn around a Covid vaccine in record time, taking just a few months to develop and trial it compared to several years for usual drugs.
It has left some wondering, were any corners cut?
Scientists have ensured this is not the case, and safety of the trial volunteers and vaccine is always paramount.
The reason the trials moved so quickly was because of the demand for a rapid end to this pandemic, meaning more people, money and resources were pumped into the process than typical.
Dr Preston explained much of the groundwork would have already been done before Covid-19 even existed.
He said: “We didnt just invent these on the back of a fag packet. These vaccinations are the culmination of the last decade of really incredible progress in the design and development of vaccines.”
That is even the case for mRNA vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna’s, which have never been authorised for use in humans until now.
Despite the fact they use new technology, scientists have been developing the method for decades, and this just happens to be the first time it has worked.
Prof Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said scientists had been able to develop the jab at speed due to how many people in the country had contracted the virus – in other words – coronavirus is not a rare condition.
Regulators did not “rush it through”
When the UK became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for Covid-19, a top doctor in America said the decision had been “rushed”.
Undoubtedly it fuelled concerns among those who are already unsure about getting the jab.
The regulators at the MHRA, and the Government, have stressed that no corners were cut in looking over the data for the trials – and there were thousands of pages of it.
Who can’t have the Covid vaccine?
People with allergies
People with a history of life-threatening allergic reactions to a vaccine, medicine or food should not get the Pfizer Covid-19 jab, the head of the UK’s medicines regulator said.
But June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said anaphylaxis was a “known …very rare side effect with any vaccine”.
Children under 16
At this time there is very limited data on vaccination in adolescents, with no information on younger children – as they were not included in clinical trials.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that only those children at very high risk of exposure or serious outcomes – such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care – should be offered vaccination.
Pregnant women should be cautious
Vaccines from both Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech can now be given to pregnant women after experts changed their advice.
Initially pregnant women were advised to wait until they’ve had their baby to get the Covid jab.
Deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said none of the vaccine trials deliberately included pregnant women, which is why there is a lack of information on the effects of the jab on this group.
But Dr Raine said more data has now become available and in turn had been reviewed.
New mums should also wait until they have finished breastfeeding before having the jab, health officials advise.
The MHRA did what’s called a rolling review – when each step of the trial is looked over as it is in motion, rather than waiting until it is finished.
It gives them the ability to look at the final conclusions quickly – within days – at the end of the trial.
Dr Preston said: “We wouldn’t have wanted it sitting on someone’s desk until Christmas by the time someone gets round to it.”
He added that different systems in the UK allowed it to be pushed through approval quicker than the EU, “which has never been fast with anything before”.
Rumours on social media have no evidence
Sometimes people who are nervous to get the vaccine say they have seen something scary about it on social media.
More often than not, these posts come from anti-vaxx campaigners and are quickly propelled into the mainstream, making them appear credible.
Dr Preston said: “It’s important to ask people, where did they hear this and what is the evidence?
“Why are they prepared to ignore evidence and facts from 40,000 people in a trial, but believe rumours?”
The risks of not getting a vaccine based on a rumour could be devastating, he said.
“There will be people who won’t get vaccinated, get sick and die, or pass it onto their loved ones, while others who have been vaccinated will be protected.
“As a scientist, I don’t want to see someone go through that on the basis of an unsustained rumour.”
Scientists have a good sense of how people respond – and it won’t cause infertility
Fears raised that the vaccine could affect fertility on the basis that it wasn’t studied.
Videos and social media posts that claim ingredients in the vaccines actually cause someone to go sterile have also racked up millions of shares.
At a recent Downing Street briefing, Professor Chris Whitty was asked if this was true, and he said there was “no evidence” that the vaccine will cause infertility.
What this means, Dr Preston explained, is there is no possible way a vaccine could interfere with the reproductive system.
He said: “We know about immune responses. We know there is just nothing in it that remotely links it to damage to the reproductive system.
“It’s like saying, ‘I heard if you have the vaccine your head will explode’ – there is just no basis to it.”
He also pointed out that a vaccination triggers an immune response that mimics what would happen if you were really infected with the virus.
And, given that the billions of people in the world who have had the virus are not infertile, it’s safe to say the body’s response does not trigger sterility.
It’s our only hope to end lockdowns – why wait?
Lockdowns caused by Covid-19 have crippled all aspects of life – the economy, mental and physical health, travel and more.
Vaccination is the only route to normality, but some would prefer trials of the antidotes were longer.
Dr Preston said: “I ask people how long do you want to wait – one year? Two years? Ten years?
“There is a case of risk benefit analysis. Do we carry on as we are with new variants coming out and causing more misery and distress, or use this one thing capable of stopping this?”
Gareth Williams, a professor at the University of Bristol and author of a book on smallpox (Angel of Death) and polio (Paralysed with Fear), told The Sun: “This virus isn’t going to go away on its own.
“If you want another year of stop-start lockdowns, economic carnage and wrecked education for our young people, then you can do your bit to keep the virus circulating by refusing to be vaccinated.”
If you’re young, you still need the vaccine
Covid-19 is mostly deadly in older people and those with health conditions.
“What this does not mean is that healthy, younger people CANNOT get it or get serious disease, they just get it less frequently,” Prof Evans told The Sun.
“We absolutely know that this virus can cause serious disease for people of all ages.”
People of all ages, even if they are fit and healthy, also can suffer from long Covid, which causes persistent symptoms such as extreme tiredness, muscle pain, loss of taste and smell and even hair loss for months on end.
Up to one in five people infected with the virus have a form of long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics. Getting a vaccine will help avoid this.
Needle phobia can be helped
For many people, the injection itself is the source of anxiety, not what’s in the vaccine.
Dr Meg Arroll a chartered psychologist working with well-being brand Healthspan, said: “Needle phobia is relatively common (more than one in five adults) and can result in extreme reactions such as fainting and full-blown panic attacks.
“Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider – they will be able to reassure you and often talking through worries helps to manage them.
“Use everything in your arsenal to tool-up and support yourself before, during and after the jab.”