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COVID-19 vaccination Q&A

The UK is now rolling out a vaccination programme for COVID-19. This programme has identified priority groups and aims to offer vaccination to all adults. Here are some of the questions we have been asked about the vaccines and the vaccination programme.

Should I have the flu vaccination before I have the COVID-19 one?

If you are clinically vulnerable, you are likely to be included in the groups offered an annual flu vaccination.

Current advice is that people will have their flu vaccination before and separately from their COVID-19 vaccination. This makes it easier to monitor and manage any side effects.

If you are currently waiting for your COVID-19 vaccination, it is worth checking with your primary care team that your flu vaccination is up to date.

Who is eligible for vaccination?

Priority in the first phase of roll out has been given to:

  • people over the age of 80 currently being treated in hospital, or with scheduled hospital appointments
  • those living or working in care homes
  • NHS and care staff who may be working in a high-risk COVID-19 environment.

Once the initial programme is rolled out, the following groups will be prioritised:

  • people who have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable if they are exposed to covid-19. This will include people deemed “extremely clinically vulnerable” who have been asked to shield or take extra precautions during the pandemic.

Do I need the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. The evidence gathered during clinical trials suggests you are better protected if you receive two doses of the vaccines currently available at an interval of between four and 12 weeks.

What are the side effects of the vaccination?

It is quite common for people to have some pain and inflammation at the spot where they have their injection, and these are not serious. Others experience some numbness in the arm. Some people have reported COVID- or flu-like symptoms for a few days following their vaccination.

Allergic reactions to the vaccines are not common and most people are able to receive them. Things that may stop you receiving a vaccine could be:

  • known allergic reactions to some drugs
  • previous reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine
  • an allergy to any of the components of the vaccines

A food allergy would not necessarily in itself stop you from receiving a vaccination.

If you think any of these apply to you, check with your clinical team or GP about the suitability of the vaccine you are being offered.

Am I at no risk from COVID-19 following vaccination?

The vaccine reduces your likelihood of severe effects of the virus if you are infected. While it offers you greater protection, it does not mean you are 100% immune. The highest level of protection will happen two to three weeks after you have had your second dose of the vaccine.

Researchers will continue to gather evidence about how well and how long the vaccine works in the population. This will build on the evidence of benefit found in the clinical trials that took place before the vaccines were authorised as safe to use in the UK.

Even when you have received your vaccination (one or two doses), you may still be affected by COVID-19 and may also be able to pass the virus on to people who may or may not have been vaccinated. You should continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and practise social distancing.

I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, when will I be offered the vaccination?

If you have lung cancer, you will most likely be considered to be clinically vulnerable and so will be in one of the prioritised groups. NHS England have indicated that they hope to administer the first dose of the vaccination to those who are considered clinically vulnerable by early February. It is intended that all priority groups will be vaccinated in the UK by early May.

Is it safe for me to be vaccinated if I am receiving, have received or am about to receive lung cancer treatment?

As these are not “live” vaccines, there is no evidence that they are harmful to anyone on cancer treatment, or who has had cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy.

Current guidance suggests that the risk from the vaccine is minimal. For people with cancer, any risk is far outweighed by the increased risk of becoming seriously ill if infected by COVID-19.

If you are receiving or are about to start treatment for your lung cancer, and you have been offered a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, speak to your clinical team. They will advise you whether it is best to have your vaccine before, during or after treatment. The current vaccines are not considered suitable for people with blood cancers.

Will all members of the household of someone with lung cancer receive their vaccination at the same time?

There is no guarantee that you will all get vaccinated together. Appointments for vaccination are being prioritised according to guidelines issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination & Immunisation (JCVI)

You, your carer or other members of your household may not be in the same priority group and so might not be vaccinated at the same time.

The person receiving the vaccination will have a greatly reduced risk of being infected by COVID-19, but the whole household should still practise social distancing and follow other hygiene guidance to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

How long will the vaccine keep me safe?

Because this is a new virus and the vaccines have only recently become available, the long-term benefits are still uncertain and are being monitored. It may be that an annual vaccine “top-up” is needed to keep people well protected from the worst effects of the virus.

Where do I find further information?

General information on the vaccines is available on government websites. If you have a specific query linked to your cancer, your treatment or other health concerns, you can contact your clinical team. Updates and information are also available from our Ask the Nurse service by telephone on freephone 0800 358 7200 or by email: lungcancerhelp@roycastle.org

NHS England

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

NHS Wales

https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/immunisation-and-vaccines/covid-19-vaccination-information/

NHS Northern Ireland

https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/northern-ireland-covid-19-vaccination-programme

NHS Scotland

https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine