Covid vaccines are like buses. They wait for one all year, and then three come at once.
OK, so Christmas joke aside (is it too early? I don’t think so), now we all know the good news.
It was announced last week that the Oxford University sting turned out to be good: it prevents the infection in up to 90 percent of people and makes it as effective as the other two that have already been shown to be effective.
However, unlike the others, it can be kept in a refrigerator rather than a freezer, which makes it easier to distribute, and it has also been shown to work well in the elderly at high risk, which is vital.
I was one of the 10,000 UK volunteers in the Oxford vaccine study so obviously I was extremely pleased. As a general practitioner, but also as a mother, I – like everyone else – want life to go back to normal.
Now the end finally feels in sight. Like thousands of other NHS staff, I am prepared to deliver the sting to vulnerable adults before the end of the year.
It was announced last week that Oxford University’s Covid-19 burst was well received: it is preventing the infection in up to 90 percent of people. Pictured: archive image
I won’t know until the middle of next month if I had the right vaccine or a placebo. Whatever I got in the study, I’ll be the first in line to get a real dose.
And the majority of people feel like me. But I’ve had a number of patients and friends who suspected that the vaccine had “blown”.
How can we be sure that it is safe, they ask? Others tell me they heard it caused shocking side effects.
A third of Britons may be hesitant to take part, according to the latest Royal Society poll.
I believe that concerns are understandable. All of this feels new so questions need to be raised.
But my message is clear: you don’t need to worry. And I am confident that knowing the facts will help reduce fears.
With that in mind, here’s what you should know about the vaccine.
You just invented this vaccine. Surely we can’t know that it is safe or that it will work in the long term?
This is the worry I’ve heard the most – and to be honest, it’s also the most understandable.
The vaccine trials were completed at a record pace – in ten months as opposed to the usual ten years. But there is nothing suspicious going on.
The pandemic posed an unprecedented problem for the scientific world. So there was an unprecedented response.
I was one of the 10,000 UK volunteers in the vaccine study at Oxford so obviously I was extremely pleased, writes Dr. Ellie Cannon (above).
Before I signed up for the trial version, I read everything carefully. And if I hadn’t been 100 percent confident, I wouldn’t have agreed to stick that needle in my arm twice – two weeks later, you’ll need a first dose and a booster.
As with all vaccines, safety checks were carried out before they were even given to a human.
The first part of such an experiment is done in a laboratory and involves injecting the vaccine into human cells in a test tube and then into animals.
In the case of the Oxford vaccine, monkeys received the push – this is done to ensure there is no potential toxicity or harm.
At this point, regulators review the evidence, and if they think it is sufficient – for example, these monkeys were fine and also showed some immune response – the human trials begin.
Safety and effectiveness are then retested on hundreds of adults. The Oxford data for this phase was published in The Lancet on July 20th and can be read online.
It shows that, as hoped, the vaccine elicited a strong immune response in the volunteers.
It also showed how many side effects there were. About half reported feeling tired a day or two after their shock and having about as many headaches.
According to the latest Royal Society poll, a third of Britons may be reluctant to take a vaccine, writes Dr. Ellie. Pictured: archive image
When volunteers took paracetamol it was less of a problem.
This was followed by the third phase, when thousands of healthy volunteers – including myself – were given a push.
Half of us got the vaccine and half a placebo, although we weren’t told which one we had.
This is done so the researchers can be sure that any result is due to the drug.
If you see similar results in a placebo group and with the real drug, it may mean that the effect is due to another factor, e.g. B. on a different behavior of the people than on the activity of the drug itself.
And then they waited to see which of us got Covid. We did a test every week.
The results came last week and it was great news: They reckon that up to 90 percent of those who have the Oxford Sting will be protected from the virus.
When it has gone through all of these tests, why isn’t it given to patients yet?
The government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, along with the 40 million doses of the US Pfizer vaccine, which has been tested in a similarly rigorous manner and proven to be just as safe and effective.
The same applies to the Moderna vaccine, also developed in the USA, which will arrive in the UK in the spring.
The vaccines actually went into production earlier this year – the drug companies knew they’d have to pay the bill if it wasn’t effective – so once approval was granted, enough would be done to introduce them immediately.
This is standard practice, although it has not been done on this scale before. Once the studies are complete, other key checks will be carried out before a vaccine reaches UK patients.
Dr. Ellie’s message is clear: you don’t need to worry. And she is confident that knowing the facts will help reduce anxiety. Pictured: archive image
The body that regulates all drugs, the drug and health product regulator, analyzes numbers from all studies with a fine tooth comb.
The ingredients fail themselves, the quality of the studies for which the groups see the greatest and worst benefits, are all taken into account. And manufacturers must illustrate plans for long-term follow-up studies in order to get approval.
When and when the vaccine is used, the UK’s medical regulation system – the Yellow Card Scheme – ensures that a detailed log of all side effects is recorded.
The Covid-19 vaccine is subject to each of these safety rules.
The difference this time around is that all regulators have made this a priority. The experimental data for all three vaccines shows that they work.
Isn’t the new push different from the one we used before – it appears to be changing our DNA? That worries me.
I saw this claim on social media. I guarantee the Covid vaccine won’t affect our DNA – no vaccine will. It is not possible.
DNA found in cells is our genetic material. It contains instructions that determine how cells function and is the basic roadmap for how our bodies look and function.
Pathogens such as viruses, including the coronavirus, also contain genetic material.
Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines contain fragments of this genetic material, but it only remains in the body for about 72 hours.
The Oxford vaccine is made from a modified but harmless virus that causes a cold in animals.
We can’t catch Covid from them, but they do trigger a response in the body and stimulate the immune system, which means it is prepared and ready should it ever come into contact with the real Covid virus.
Other vaccines, like the ones we give children or the elderly, sometimes contain actual viruses or parts of them that have been altered or inactivated in some way to render them harmless.
The genetic material in the Covid vaccines does not go anywhere near our own genetic material and would have no ability to change it or us.
Bonus of this Oxford bug
Last week, doubts were raised about the Oxford Covid Jab – after it was reported that some volunteers in the study were “accidentally” given a lower dose of the vaccine.
While the full-dose version offered 62 percent protection against the virus, the lower dose surprisingly offered 90 percent protection.
On Friday, the vaccine was officially handed over to regulators, the drug and health products regulator, for final evaluation before being released to the public.
However, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca also announced that further investigations into the “incidental” finding would begin immediately.
As worrying as this sounds, it’s not an uncommon problem in vaccine development – nor does it suggest the numbers are skewed.
Scientists often experiment with low doses of a vaccine, as studies show that higher amounts can actually limit the immune response.
“End-stage studies often look at different dosages,” said drug expert Dr. Penny Ward from King’s College London.
“This error was recognized early and reported to the supervisory authorities.”
And experts say that even if it only works for around 70 percent of people on average, it’s still an amazing achievement.
It’s well above the 50 percent target set by regulators before the studies, based on studies of how successful the flu vaccine needs to be in order to avoid hospitalization.
The data was also not “rushed,” as some reported. According to official medical guidance, the company must publish the results, which are also financially sensitive, once the researchers reach a target success rate – known medically as an endpoint.
What about side effects?
The worst thing I suffered was a very mild headache that went away within a day, although I’m not sure if I had the right vaccine or the placebo.
Other reported side effects include tiredness, a mild temperature, or muscle pain, similar to those seen after flu or meningitis.
This is a sign that the body’s immune system is preparing to respond to an intruder.
Some fear that not enough time has passed for long-term problems to be analyzed, but that most side effects appear almost immediately after vaccination, rather than years or decades later. We know that from other vaccination programs.
Some may recall that the Oxford Trial was “suspended” in early September when one of the participants developed an “unexplained disease” – a nervous system problem.
Given the tens of thousands of people in the process, things like this happen by accident.
Regulators here and in America looked closely at the incident and decided it was not related to the sting, and so the process continued.
I heard you might get the flu from the flu shot. Could You Get Covid From This?
This is a common belief and I know that nothing I say will convince some people.
However, the flu vaccine used in the UK does not contain a live virus and therefore cannot and cannot give the flu to anyone.
Some people feel a little under the weather after the flu shot – when the immune system kicks in.
There will be a section of people who will catch a cold around the same time they have the thrust – and put two and two together to make five.
The flu shot also doesn’t offer complete protection against the flu – it’s far less effective than the 90 percent achieved with the new Covid-Jab treatment.
This means that some will catch the flu after the bite. Again, this doesn’t mean the bite gave them the flu. It’s just a coincidence.
And given that millions of us get the flu vaccinations every year, these coincidences will happen. It is far less likely that someone will get Covid after receiving the Covid surge, but it can happen that it is not 100 percent effective.
However, this is not proof that the sting can give us Covid – since it does not contain the actual virus, but only fragments of the genetic material, this is physically impossible.
Is the kick safe for the elderly or those with other health problems?
The Pfizer and Oxford vaccinations were found to be effective in people over 65 years of age.
No safety concerns were reported during the trials, which is extremely encouraging.
These groups will be among the first to get the sting because we know the risk they are exposed to from Covid is significant – up to one in ten chances of dying from it.
Do children also have to have the vaccine?
At present, the guidelines published by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization that make decisions about who receives vaccines do not mention children. There are a number of reasons.
Every vaccination program is about preventing serious illness and death. Measles can be fatal to children, which is why we vaccinate them as babies.
But as we saw during the pandemic, Covid poses a negligible risk to children. Second, the jury is still undecided as to whether children pass Covid on to adults.
We give children the flu vaccine because we know that while they don’t get the flu as badly, they do spread it.
Vaccinating school-age adolescents was a key factor in lowering flu deaths. There isn’t enough evidence right now to say we’d see the same thing with Covid.
Children were also not included in the Covid vaccine studies. We are seeing potentially extremely vulnerable children with pre-existing health problems.
In these cases the benefits would be clear, but this would be decided on a case-by-case basis by the hospital teams.
Dr. Ellie hopes to answer Mail on Sunday readers’ concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine. Pictured: archive image
What if I already had Covid? Will the push even work for me?
If you’ve had a disease and developed immunity but are then vaccinated, the body treats the vaccination like an infection and effectively beats it away.
So far, the Covid vaccines have been tested on people who had not developed the infection: As a volunteer in the study, I first had to do an antibody test to confirm this.
But even if you had Covid and were eligible for a vaccination, it would be a good idea to have this.
We still do not know how long the immunity, natural or otherwise, will last. A prick would be a great way to make sure your immunity is as strong as possible.
A mass vaccination program is unlikely to verify who previously had Covid so it is offered to all eligible.
I have needles. Is there any other way i can take it?
Unfortunately not. All vaccinations that are developed will be one injection and two injections are likely to be required.
There are ways to help you with a needle phobia that you can talk to your GP about.
For example, if you are very anxious, you may be able to take a local anesthetic cream or even use medication to help you stay calm.
This would have to be decided by your family doctor.
Will I be forced to have the push?
There are no plans for mass vaccination in the UK. I’m incredible for the vaccination, but I would never ask for that.
Doctors pretty much agree that all health care, whether it’s preventative or treating ailment, should always be approved.
The only time this is put aside is if a person is left untreated, it means they would die quickly.
Vaccination against Covid would never fall into this category: you will not drop dead if you are not vaccinated. You are simply at a higher risk from the virus.
So if everyone has the vaccine, will we be back to normal by spring?
Depends on. The science was done. My colleagues and I are ready to give the push, which is done at the local turnstiles rather than your GP’s office.
Now it is up to the government, the NHS, and others to make sure it gets delivered to the right places at the right time. If you are eligible, you should receive a letter or text from the NHS and your GP.
I have crossed everything.