Vaccines and how they work
Vaccination is the best and safest way of achieving widespread immunity to a serious disease such as COVID-19. The more people who are vaccinated the less chance of the disease being able to spread. It is important to have a vaccination not only to protect yourself from COVID -19 but also to help stop the spread and protect your family, friends and community.
Vaccines are designed to prevent people from getting serious diseases. It is much safer for your immune system to learn how to fight illnesses through vaccination than by catching the disease.
The vaccine works by making a key protein from the virus that is important for creating protection and mimics infection. When injected into the body our immune system produces antibodies against this protein which neutralises the virus. These antibodies memorise the protein and mobilise again if the virus tries to infect the person.
The memory antibody cells fade over time (as they would with a natural infection), which is why a booster ‘reminder’ injection is sometimes important to enhance and stimulate our immune response.
Our cells get rid of the vaccine protein soon after it has done its job in making the antibodies of the virus.
Find information on how the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine works here.
Find information on how the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine works here.
As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated. Vaccines go through several stages of laboratory tests and clinical trials before they are approved for use. All the COVID-19 vaccinations currently licensed in the UK and being used by the NHS have been through all these rigorous trial and safety procedures. The independent regulator for medicines in the UK (the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency - MHRA), has looked in detail at each vaccine separately to agree that it is safe and effective. We have full confidence in their independent expert judgement and processes.
These vaccines have now been given to millions of people in the UK and as with all medicines, there is continued monitoring once it has been authorised through the yellow card system.
The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency) have looked at the evidence and found these vaccines to be highly effective, but to get full protection people must come back for the second dose.
The vaccine has some effect after the first dose and a greater effect one or two weeks after the second dose. As this is not 100% so it is important to continue to follow the government restrictions even if you have been vaccinated.
Up to date information on the effectiveness of the vaccines can be found here.
Vaccines available in the UK
Updated information about all the vaccines licensed and available in the UK can be found here.
The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mostly mild and short-lived. They are the same kind of side effects experienced and expected from all vaccination. After you have received your vaccination you will be given a leaflet about possible side effects and how you can manage them.
More information is available here.
Long term side effects from vaccination are now very rare and none have been reported for any of the UK licensed COVID- 19 vaccinations.
Up to date advice on vaccinating pregnant and breast-feeding women can be found here.
There have been a few cases where people have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This is called an ‘anaphylactic’ reaction and happens as an immediate response after a jab.
These reactions are very rare and most people will know if they are at risk. Everyone is asked specific questions about this before vaccination. Doctors and nurses at the vaccination centres know how to treat these reactions.
More information on vaccines and allergies can be found here.
It is important that decisions about the vaccine are weighed against the risk of getting COVID-19 or risking transmitting it to vulnerable people.
These decisions should be discussed with your doctor.
Up to date guidance about this can be found here.
People who have had COVID-19 should still have the vaccine as it provides a more targeted and longer-lasting response to the disease.
All the vaccines licensed in the UK are very effective against the strains of the virus currently predominant in the UK. It is therefore very important that as many people as possible get the vaccines available quickly to reduce the spread of the virus. This will not only prevent people from getting ill and dying from COVID-19 but also stop variants of the virus emerging that could defeat the vaccine.
Trials are ongoing about the impact of the vaccine programme. Further evidence will emerge to inform the vaccination programme and the development of modifications to the vaccines to meet the future challenge of new variants.
No medicine is 100% effective but the evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines being used in the UK now emerging looks extremely promising. It shows that the chances of getting COVID-19 are low after vaccination and there is good protection against severe disease.
The vaccine takes a few weeks to work and so it is possible that someone could have caught or be incubating COVID-19 before the vaccine has produced antibodies.
It is important to continue to follow the government restrictions and advice after you have received the vaccine.
This is because as with all medicines the vaccine is not 100% effective and it is still not known whether vaccinated people can pass the infection on to others.
It is anticipated that the vaccine programme as a whole will help drive the overall level of infection down in our communities faster, this will help speed up the removal of restrictions.
UK Vaccine programme
Up to date information can be found here.
In order to get as many people as possible to receive their first dose quickly, to drive down the infection rate so everyone can benefit, the UK government has arranged for the second booster dose to be given at 12 weeks.
The first dose of all the vaccines have been found to be effective in the short term. The second dose is intended to boost immunity and to make it last longer.
No. The vaccine that you are offered will depend on what has been supplied to the practice or vaccination hub.
The second dose will be given 3-12 weeks after the first dose.
This is very likely. The scientists are still studying how long our immunity lasts to COVID-19 and how much it is impacted upon by the variants of concern that are emerging. The scientists are confident that they can produce the changes necessary to the vaccine to match variants of concern. They already do this every year for the flu jab.
Practicalities and the rollout in Sheffield
The Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group is overseeing the delivery of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme in Sheffield. Full information about how it is organised in Sheffield can be obtained from their website.
You can still get an appointment even if you didn’t originally take up your invitation. Full information about how to get an appointment is on the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group website.
Everyone who is eligible for the vaccine and registered with a GP surgery will get a letter inviting them to make an appointment. The letter gives sources of further information and support, including in different languages.
Find official sources of information, about the vaccination, in other languages here.
Community Transport is offering free travel to vaccination centres for those who do not have access to transport.
Call 0114 285 9906 to book your journey.
More information can be found here.
It is important to register with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status to register.
Further information about how to register with a GP can be found here.