Disinformation, health concerns and lower levels of trust in the government all mean that the 15% of people who refuse the vaccine, is heavily skewed towards BAME people. That’s a major problem as data shows that the Asian community may be more vulnerable to the disease.
Recent research from the ONS and Oxford university shows that people from Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities show ‘alarming’ higher risk of dying with coronavirus compared with white people.
This is a major concern. If one community remains under vaccinated, the virus will continue to have a devastating influence. To counter such concerns, therefore, a group of doctors have got together to answer ten common queries about the virus.
The vaccine was developed quickly, can I be sure it’s safe?
All vaccines which are authorised in the UK must undergo three stages of clinical trials and have been tested on thousands of people around the world. The trial phases were specially developed to overlap and speed up production. While they have been created quickly, they have still be subjected to the same rigorous safety tests and processes as other medicines.
Not taking them carries a far bigger risk.
“As a GP, I’ve witnessed the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on my community,” says Dr Koyes Ahmed, NHS GP, Urgent Care Doctor and Vice Chair of the Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group. “It is important to remember that any side effects from the vaccine are minimal compared to the much higher risks of ending up in hospital, in intensive care or even dying from COVID.”
Will the vaccine alter my DNA?
No. There have been conspiracy theories circulated online that the vaccine might alter DNA. These are all false as Dr Raghib Ali, Consultant in Acute Medicine at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS trust confirms.
“It seems this myth has spread widely because of the use of mRNA vaccines. Both the Pfizer/BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines,” he explains. “This has nothing to do with DNA and doesn’t modify your genes but rather produces the spike protein that triggers a reaction in your immune system that causes your body to produce antibodies which can later fight the virus.”
Is the vaccine halal?
The three vaccines approved in the UK contain no pork products and Muslim groups such as British Islamic Medical Association, Muslim Doctors Association, Muslim Council of Britain and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board have been encouraging people to take the vaccine.
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine contains some ethanol, but the amount is tiny, and is similar to the amount you might find in a banana. Muslim leaders have said it is permissible to take the vaccine and many mosques are being used as vaccination centres.
Does the vaccine contain aborted foetal cells?
No, in fact there are no cells of living human cells or any organisms in any of the jabs. Muslim associations and Imams are all among those who have endorsed the UK’s vaccine rollout.
Are the COVID vaccines free?
All vaccines are available free of charge on the NHS. You cannot get it privately. Criminals may exploit the situation, so it’s important to remember that the NHS will never ask you to pay for the vaccine.
After having two doses of the vaccine, can I return back to normal and start mixing with family and friends?
For the moment social distancing rules still apply.
“We know that the vaccines will help reduce deaths and they will help stop people getting really unwell and being hospitalised,” says Dr Chintal Patel, a GP in Westminster, London. “However, it is essential that everyone continues to follow COVID-19 restrictions whether they have had the vaccine or not. It’s tough, but really important for now.”
Are the vaccinations vegan?
Yes, the manufacturers have confided that all three vaccines have confirmed they do not contain any animal products. They are perfectly suitable for vegetarians, vegans and anyone who wants to avoid certain foods for religious reasons.
Religious leaders have actively encouraged communities to take the vaccine. Churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras have all become vaccination centres with volunteers from religious organisations helping with the distribution.
Can I catch COVID from the vaccine?
“You can’t catch COVID-19 from any of the approved vaccines,” says Dr Jahangir (Jingy) Alom, NHS Doctor, Campaigner and guest speaker. “They work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies so that if you are exposed to the virus, your body can fight it. You could test positive after having your jab because you caught the coronavirus before receiving the vaccine. And because no vaccine offers 100% protection, it is possible to contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated – but you won’t get the virus from the jab.”
Will the vaccine work with the new variants?
Dr Harpreet Sood, GP in London and Board member of Health Education England says: “Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are safe and effective against the COVID-19 variants currently dominant in the UK. In terms of other variants, even if a vaccine demonstrates reduced effectiveness against other variants in preventing infection, there may still be protection against severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death.”
I am young and fit, so why do I need it? I wouldn’t be expected to have the flu jab, why is this any different?
Although older people are more at risk, the disease is still having a serious impact on younger people.
“Half of our patients in intensive care are aged less than 60, and I have personally seen many patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s,” says Dr Raghib Ali, Consultant in Acute Medicine at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS trust. “Even a milder infection with COVID can also cause ‘Long COVID’ when people of all ages have symptoms like tiredness, or breathlessness for weeks and even months.
Even if you are young and fit you may well live with older relatives who would be at risk to any disease you bring into the house.
To find out more about COVID 19, the vaccine and other issues, visit: www.gov.uk/coronavirus