The under 30s are to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, it was announced yesterday, after the UK’s medicines regulator found that the vaccine was linked to blood clots in young people.
The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh any risks for most people, the UK medicines watchdog said, as European regulators ruled that unusual blood clots were “very rare side effects” of the jab. Scientists have also insisted that further research is needed to understand more about the risk of these rare blood clots.
We asked Telegraph readers for their questions on the vaccines that have been rolled out in the UK. Our expert, The Telegraph’s Global Health Security Editor Paul Nuki, will be answering those questions at 12pm today.
Can I return to the UK if I’ve had the Sinovac vaccine?
A question now from a reader who’s wondering whether they will be able to return to the UK after having been vaccinated.
Carolyn Bailey asks: We are stuck abroad and have had two doses of the Sinovac vaccine. Will this be sufficient for a return to the UK?
Paul: Yes, I think so, it seems to be a perfectly good vaccine judging from the trial data that has been published to date. But remember, the UK is not yet operating a vaccine passport scheme for any vaccine. You will need to get a negative test before you fly and then comply with the testing and quarantine rules when you arrive.
How can I request the Moderna vaccine?
This reader wonders whether you can request to have a specific vaccine.
Carmen Brown asks: How can I request the Moderna vaccine only? It seems we don’t know until we arrive at the appointment what we will be offered.
Paul: You could try talking to someone at your GP surgery about local distribution but you don’t have the right to choose which vaccine you get in the UK. There is simply not enough supply of vaccine to offer people a choice. Also, remember that all the vaccines offer excellent protection. I would be grateful for any vaccine I was given.
I am worried about getting my second jab
A question from a reader who is worried about getting their second jab.
Pat Wheeler asks: After my first vaccination, the next day I was taken into hospital for 7 days for inflamed liver and inflamed colon and bleeding. I am very worried about getting my second jab. I am 72 years of age. Please advise.
Paul: Pat, you must make sure to talk to your GP in detail and have someone with you at the same time so you can talk things through objectively afterwards. You should also check with your GP that they have filed a possible adverse reaction certificate via the Yellow Card scheme (and get a copy of it). It is probably just a coincidence but you definitely should talk it through with your doctor properly.
How effective is the Sputnik vaccine?
The Sputnik vaccine currently isn’t in use in the UK, but just how effective is it?
Alasdair Rennie asks: How effective is the Sputnik vaccine? Russian cases appear to be on the rise and vaccination rates low despite this vaccine being available longer than any others. What data is available about its efficacy? Why would the EU choose to use this as an alternative to AstraZeneca which has good efficacy and readily available data to support it?
Paul: All the published data on Sputnik looks positive. I’m not 100 percent sure but I think the discussions between Russia and the EU are less about using the vaccine in Europe and more about enabling manufacturing of it there. I think there is also a collaborative project going on between Oxford/AZ and Sputnik. Perhaps I’m naive, but I think it’s an example of science transcending politics.
What is behind the negative reporting of the AstraZeneca vaccine?
This reader wants to know about the press coverage of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Crista Lyon asks: To what extent has the ‘big pharma’ lobby (for Pfizer especially) influenced the negative reporting of the low price competitor AstraZeneca?
Paul: Some people think there are nefarious briefings going on but so far I’ve not seen (or managed to find) any real evidence of this. AZ has had a bumpy ride, for sure, but making, testing and distributing vaccines is difficult and setbacks are to be expected. Several of the original Covid vaccines have not even made it out of the starting blocks.
Should the AstraZeneca vaccine be used in older age groups if it’s not as effective?
An interesting question about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, especially in older age groups.
SV Slade asks: Why are the Government persisting in giving the AstraZeneca vaccine, which only provides approximately 70 per cent protection after two doses, to those over 50, who are allegedly at greater risk of severe Covid than those who are young and will now be getting ‘better’ types, i.e. Pfizer, of vaccination jabs?
Paul: I think the honest answer to this is we do not live in a perfect world. Based on the evidence currently available, I think the government would have ordered more of the Pfizer jab but those data were not available when the orders were made.
Also, keep in mind that the protection the AZ vaccine provides against severe disease is pretty high – somewhere between 60 and 90 per cent. The annual flu vaccine, by comparison, is generally not as good as that and in some years is much lower. If you want an analogy, it’s like getting into a car with a perfectly good seatbelt. You could have one of those special racing seat belts with a four-way fixing but they are a bit of phaf and – for most people – the gain is only marginal.
Does the 12 week delay between doses of the Pfizer vaccine impact efficacy?
A great question here about the 12 week delay between doses.
Valerie de Gruchyasks asks: Is there any available data to indicate efficacy (in terms of both peak percentage and duration) of the Pfizer vaccine in the months following the second dose where there has been an interval of 12 weeks between first and second doses?
It is known that protection decreases over weeks 6-12 between doses, but does the delay also affect the long term outcomes following both doses?
Paul: Good question and one I’ve been asking myself a lot recently! There is good evidence that the Pfizer jab (2 doses) gives excellent immune protection for at least nine months and probably longer. But I have not seen any studies which compare how long it lasts with different dosing regimes.
The general view is that the gap between doses will not make much difference with Pfizer but that is still to be properly established. With the AZ jab, in contrast, it appears that a longer gap between dose improves the vaccine’s effectiveness. That’s one of the reasons why the UK government has gone for a 12 week gap.
What age groups will be advised against taking AstraZeneca?
This Telegraph reader wants to know about the specific age groups that could suffer from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Mike Hinden asks: When they say that they’ll stop young people being given the AstraZeneca vaccine, what is the age group definition of “young people”?
Paul: They are not stopping younger people having the AZ vaccine, they are just giving them the choice where an alternative is available. The choice at the moment is for those under 30 in the UK.
If I suffer side effects, can I claim from a drug company or the government?
An interesting question about the legal and financial implications of vaccine side effects.
Shirley Day asks: If things go wrong after having the vaccine can I claim from the drug company or the government?
Paul: I’m not a lawyer but my understanding is that the government has underwritten the liability for all vaccines being used in the UK. But think positively – the vaccines are extremely safe given the current data available.
Indeed you can donate to help them produce more so others can benefit from the very real protection they provide. The big problem at the moment is that there is not enough vaccine for everyone.
I’ve had one dose of AstraZeneca, but I’m under 30, what vaccine will I get for my second dose?
A great question from Anne Standbridge, we’ve been asked this a lot today.
Anne asks: If the AstraZeneca vaccine is banned in an age group what happens for my second dose if l had AstraZeneca for my first?
Paul says: The AZ vaccine is not being banned in any age group. It is just that those under 30 are being offered a choice if an alternative is available. If you have had one dose of the AZ jab the very clear advice is that you should have your second. Any risk is tiny and the upside enormous, especially if we get another surge in infections later in the year – which is likely.
How protected will I be with two Pfizer jabs?
This Telegraph reader wants to know how protected he is given his health status.
Peter Morris says: I’m 70 in October, have asthma/COPD and have had two Pfizer jabs. What can I expect?
It’s good news, Peter. Here’s what to expect:
Paul: Peter, you can expect to be very well protected! The Pfizer jab is one of the new mRNA products that have two really startling positives: First, they appear provide better protection than even natural infection does which is rare for a vaccine. Second, they work really well in older groups which is not always true of all vaccines.
How did the UK obtain Moderna vaccines? Does it manufacture it in the UK?
A fascinating question on Moderna vaccine supplies.
Andrew Nicolalde asks: How did the UK obtain supplies of the Moderna vaccine? I was under the impression that the US has a total export ban on all coronavirus vaccines. Does the UK manufacture the Moderna vaccine domestically?
Paul says: I’m by no means 100 percent sure on this but I think the US regulations you refer to apply only to vaccine manufactured for the US. If the contract was with another country like Britain, the rules allow it to be exported from the US. Put another way, the rules stop the US government exporting vaccine that it ordered.
Is there evidence to suggest that we should have different vaccines for different doses?
Could two jabs of separate vaccines be more effective than the same vaccine?
Andrew Landers ask: What evidence is available showing one jab of AstraZeneca vaccine and one jab of Pfizer vaccine provides better efficacy? Is it possible to get this treatment here in England?
Paul: Andrew, I’m not aware of there being any evidence yet that mixing jabs has any additional benefit and there may be risks. It’s possible but we will only find out once proper trials have been done. If you search online you may be able to enter one.
Has the Moderna jab been tested on younger people?
A great question from Helen Davies about the current data on how suited the Moderna jab is to younger people.
Helen asks: Why would Moderna jabs be reserved for younger people?
Has it been tested on youngsters more extensively than the Pfizer and AZ jabs were? Are the long term effects on young women’s fertility well understood with the Moderna jab?
Here’s what Paul has to say:
It’s important to note that there is, as yet, no firm evidence the AZ vaccine has a higher risk for the young. It is the other side of the equation – the Covid risk – that explains why they are giving the under 30s a choice of jabs. In this group, the risk of getting serious disease from covid is very low.
For example, the risk of dying of Covid as a healthy woman under 30 during a surge in the virus is about one in 250,000 (less than the 1 in 100,000 risk from the jab). The Moderna and Pfizer jabs are not associated with the rare blood clots that AZ is now linked with, hence the choice for the young. On fertility, there is no evidence that any of the vaccines are problematic. It’s not at all clear where this widespread internet worry has come.
Why should I risk getting a vaccine if I don’t get symptoms when I catch Covid?
A similar question here from Mary Arkinstall, who wants to know whether the potential risk of taking a vaccine is worth it if you’re not expected to have any Covid symptoms.
Mary says: Having had Covid (no symptoms, but loss of smell and taste), I fail to see why people not at risk, such as myself, are required to take the additional risk of vaccination.
Why not stop after all the vulnerable are vaccinated?
A no nonsense answer from Paul:
Mary, it may be your logic that is at fault.
The natural immunity you got when you first had Covid may not last long, leaving you exposed in future. Even in the short term, the immunity you have may not protect you against some of the new variants. There are now plenty of examples of people who have caught the virus twice, some seriously. Also, the risk of having the vaccine is tiny – about one in 100,000 according to the bigger dataset from the EU.. Many things you do day in day out have a higher risk than that – driving, for example.
First question! Why should those who aren’t expected to get symptoms be encouraged to get a vaccine?
Our first question comes from Melissa Whiffin.
Melissa asks: Do all the vaccines just reduce the severity of symptoms rather than stop you catching the virus?
And if so, why is it required by those that have already survived the virus or are expected to have no symptoms or at worst a severe flu indicating the immune system is effective without outside help?
Here’s what Paul Nuki, our Global Health Security Editor, has to say:
The original trials for the vaccines just looked at symptomatic disease so we are still learning – from real world data – about the extent to which they block asymptomatic infection. Early indications are they reduce it to an extent but to what extent is still unknown. It could also vary depending on the variant of the virus you are exposed to.
The AstraZeneca jab, for instance, was found in one study to be only 10 per cent effective at stopping infection with the South African variant. On natural immunity, it’s important to note that this will fade with time, so someone who caught the virus nine months ago may not have good natural immunity today. Vaccines, it is hoped, will give longer lasting immunity but some may turn out to be better than others in this respect, and even then the immunity they give may not last forever.
Q&A is starting in 15 minutes
Afternoon all. Our vaccine Q&A is starting in just 15 minutes. Paul Nuki, The Telegraph’s Global Health Security Editor, is on standby to answer your questions on the latest AstraZeneca news, the new Moderna vaccine and much more.
Thanks so much to those of you that have already sent in a query, we’ve been overwhelmed with questions but will do our best to get through as many as possible over the next 60 minutes.
- ^ offered an alternative (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- ^ further research is needed (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- ^ including the newly available Moderna vaccine (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- ^ have been rolled out in the UK (www.telegraph.co.uk)
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- ^ testing and quarantine rules (www.telegraph.co.uk)
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- ^ all the vaccines offer excellent protection (www.telegraph.co.uk)
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- ^ published data (www.telegraph.co.uk)
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