FAQs on COVID-19 vaccines
February 11 2021
With the COVID-19 vaccines made available soon for the citizens of Malaysia. Pink N' Proper wants to show that we care with our #pinknpropercares campaign where we provide PSA content for all our fellow Malaysians who might have worries on the COVID-19 vaccines.
We have invited a dear friend from the UK who is a registered pharmacist as well as a frontliner working for the NHS adminitering the vaccines to help us answer these frequently asked questions.
1) How does the vaccine work? How effective is the vaccine? Has it been proven thus far?
Pfizer-BioNTech uses the mRNA techonology. mRNA is just a part of the virus’ genetic sequence, it stays locally in your muscle (in your arm) for your body to read the genetic sequence and start creating antibodies. It stimulates the curiosity of your immune system to come recognise it. Shortly after, the mRNA would have been destroyed. It does not travel to the rest of your body and it cannot alter your DNA and your immune system remains, boost. Synthetic mRNA vaccine are made from enzymes. It sends “messenger” RNA into body with instructions on how to produce antigens.
2) How long will the vaccine start to take effect on our body?
A few weeks.
3) The COVID-19 Vaccines are developed in under a year which is fast, whereas usual drugs take several years. How is that possible and how can we be sure that it is both safe and effective?
Since the Ebola outbreak, lots of money has been poured out into developing vaccines. Ordinarily it takes a long time to design a clinical trial, awaiting for approvals, and recruiting volunteer. However with the COVID-19, all the usual obstacles were removed. Thousands of people wanting to volunteer to be part of the trials, and as there is a dire need for vaccines, logistics with approval were not delayed. Research scientists stopped everything else they were doing to throw themselves into the vaccine research team 100% of the time. MHRA had all the information from the vaccine trials from the beginning and continuously throughout. This sped up the process for approval instead of wasting time gathering information and evaluating all available evidence,
4) Malaysia has signed contract for the Vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and SinoPharm. What are the differences between the vaccines?
The main differences include:
Type (Pfizer uses mRNA technology, Oxford uses Viral Vector)
Storage conditions (Pfizer -70C, Oxford regular fridge temperature)
Efficacy (Pfizer 95%, Oxford 62-90% protection)
There is not much information regarding Sinopharm. Malaysia has signed the contract for the phase 3 clinical trials, which requires consent from patient. We should expect more data coming out soon later in the year.
5) Will I be able to take 1 dose of Pfizer and 1 dose of AZ? How effective will that be?
Unfortunately no, since there has not been any clinical trials to compare the safety and efficacy of mixing brands.
6) How many doses would I need to finish my vaccination course? Why do I need 2 doses? Will there be any need for annual vaccination just like the flu jabs?
You need two. For the Pfizer vaccine. the 1st dose is only 50-70% efficacy. You need a 2nd dose as a booster to up immunity to 95%. We are unsure if there will be a need for an annual vaccination so far. It depends on how the virus variant mutates in the future, the vaccine may need tweaking.
7) Will I still be contagious or a carrier after vaccination and do I still need to follow the SOP after?
The vaccine prevents you from being severely ill and hospitalised, but long term data are still being collected to determine the transmision risk post-vaccination. So yes, there is a possiblity that you can still transmit the disease even afer vaccination. To be safe until we are more sure, please continue to practice hand washing, wear a face mask and pratice social distancing.
8) If I am infected with COVID-19, do I get the vaccine as soon as possible or do I quarantine for two weeks? How long after can I get vaccinated after infected?
No, you need to self isolate for 2 weeks if you are tested postivie or have any covid symtoms. This is to protect everyone around you including the healthcare profossionals who will be administering the vaccine to you. It is not recommended to receive the vaccine when you are actively ill. This is because your body's immune system is actively fighting a disease and introducing a vaccine may make you more unwell. Since the usual side effects post-vaccination are flu-like symtoms, it may not go well while you actively ill. You will have some natural immunity after recovering from covid but we are unsure how long it lasts in your body and the fact that reinfection is possible. You should be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after 2 weeks of isolation and being fully recovered from all symptoms.
9) After vaccination, will I still need to avoid COVID-19 patients or ex patients?
It is always better/safer to avoid covid-positive patients. You may not fall severely ill by coming in contact with them but you could still be a carrier and transmit the disease to other people who are not yet vaccinated. It should be safe to mingle with people who have properly recovered from covid. Always think beyond yourself!
10) What can I do to boost my immunity whilst waiting to be vaccinated?
Generally by having a healthy and balanced diet, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, cut down or stop smoking and drinking. Keeping a healthy lifestyle gives you a better chance at fighting diseases. Always practice hands, face and space. This is because not one method can 100% keep you safe. Always speak to your pharmacist for any health related advice to make sure that you are taking the most appropriate/suitable supplement for your health.
11) At what age are we eligible to get the vaccine?
Age 18. This is not the country's law but due to the licensing of the vaccines. No clinical trials or studies have been done for under 18-year-olds. Hopefully this will change soon.
12) What about those below 18 years old?
Continue to practice hands, face, and space. Wash your hands, wear face mask and social distance. Even though children are low risk at contracting COVID-19, they could still transmit the disease to older, vulnerable family members. Some companies like Pfizer, Moderna and AZ have started running trials (up to phase 3) for childern from age 12 and above. So, we just need to be patient.
13) What are the side effects? Will it contraindicate with any meds I’m currently taking? How long does one dosage last (as in how many years)?
Side effects may be flu-like symptoms such as mild fever, fatigue, chills, headache. The most common side effect is sore arm. Only contraindiation is being allergic to ingredients in the vaccine or previously have had unexplained anaphylactic reactions. This may just mean you will need to be in the hospital to have your vaccine done so you are under supervision and they are well equipped to deal with severe reactions you could possible have. we do not now how long a dosage last, we need to wait for long term trial data (phase 4).
14) Can I get vaccinated if I am pregnant/Breastfeeding? Does the vaccine affect the fetus on pregnant and breastfeeding women?
There's no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you're pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it. This is because a good number of participants in the vaccine trial became pregnant and so far none of them has reported any issues with their pregnancy or baby after delivery. There are some contradictory advice out there: (CDC) has said that the vaccines should be available to pregnant people but ultimately leaves the decision up to expectant parents and their doctors. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends against it unless the pregnant person is at high risk. So check with your local guidelines/doctors for advice if you are pregnant and would like a vaccine. You can have the COVID-19 vaccine if you're breastfeeding.
15) How do I know if I have an allergy reaction to the vaccine and how to distinguish them? What should I do if I am allergic to the vaccine? Will I still be immune to the coronavirus after?
A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is when you have to go to the hosptial or be treated with an adrenaline injections. You should not have the second dose if you have a severe reaction after the first dose. If you have non-severe reactions such as rash, swelling, itchy skin to the first dose, you should receive the 2nd dose of vaccine with prolonged observation (30 minutes) in a setting with full resuscitation facilities (e.g. a hospital). Or a different brand of vaccine need to be considered. You need to have receive both doses to be fully immunised.
Do check out our #pinknpropercares donation campaign where you can shop and donate healthcare items (sanitizer, probiotics, face masks etc.) to frontliners.
For more in-depth answers, our friend Melody is also answering these questions in an IGTV at @pinknproper. Head on over to our IG account to follow along more FAQs on the COVID-19 vaccines!