The COVID-19 Vaccine

The search for a safe and effective Covid vaccine has seen unprecedented international co-operation as scientists and health professionals seek a solution to the global pandemic.

Several vaccines are now in use and the evidence appears to suggest that they are proving very effective and that they are safe.

We’ve gathered as much information as we can so you can keep abreast of how vaccines are working to help get the pandemic under control.

Organisations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and GAVI, have been working across the world to bring funding and research together to accelerate the search for a Covid-19 vaccine, without which it is estimated up to 80% of the global population – over 4 billion people – could become infected, with tens of millions of people dying as a consequence.

Vaccines protect a community by getting a very high proportion of a community vaccinated. This is sometimes called “herd immunity”. (You can click on that to see an easy explainer video)

This means that if so many people in a community have the antibodies which protect them against an infectious disease, then even if somebody who is infected comes in to the community, the disease has a much lower chance of infecting somebody and it dies out. 

And the consequences of the severe slowdown in economic activity, as Governments act to keep their people safe, has seen millions of people lose their jobs. Vaccination programmes mean we can re-open our economies.

There has been unprecedented co-operation between scientists and medical researchers across the world in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus infection. Governments have also committed billions towards this research.

By early January 2021, The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines had all been approved by the UK’s regulators and vaccine rollout started in the UK, with the Pfizer vaccine, before anywhere else in the world. 

As of 25 May, over 62 million doses had been administered with almost 39 million people getting their first dose and just over 24 million receiving the second.

The resulting reduction in cases, hospitalisations and deaths has been significant.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved three vaccines for use in the UK.

You can find the official announcements on this NHS page about vaccinations. 

The UK Government plan is vaccinating people based on a phased roll out starting with the most vulnerable first.

This began with people aged 80 and over, and front-line care and medical staff to protect them from getting infected if they are treating Covid patients.

The programme is rolling through nine main groups each chosen by their vulnerability to the infection and chances of getting very ill should they contract it.

There is a good explainer about the programme on the BBC News website. Click here to read it.

Unlike most common vaccines and because they appear to be much less likely to contract the infection, children are not likely to be offered the vaccine in the early stages of the inoculation programme.

The three UK approved vaccines given by injection into the upper arm. There would be an initial dose, followed by a booster between 3 and 12 weeks later.

Younger people are being offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines because there is a slightly higher risk of blood clots in younger people after receiving the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine. The risk is still low and you can read about it here.

The trials have shown that the vaccines are safe and without serious side-effects. All vaccines have minor side-effects that about 10% of people suffer from, but generally, severe side-effects are very rare, with fewer than one person in one million suffering them.

Almost all side-effects become apparent very soon after the vaccine is given. These are usually mild, like a minor temperature or soreness and in young babies, elevated irritability. All those who have volunteered for clinical trials will continue to be monitored both for short-term side-effects and to see if any long-term side effects emerge.

There have been instances of rare blood clots in a very small number of people who have received the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine. There is no proven link between having the vaccine and these clots occurring and clots do happen in people generally. But the risk is very low and much less than the risk of contracting Covid-19, which can lead to severe illness and death. 

Several new vaccines have been developed and introduced over the last twenty years for diseases like Meningitis and HPV (which is a cause of Cervical Cancer). These have been successfully added to the range of vaccines children receive without any noticeable increase in people suffering severe side-effects.

Following the introduction of these new vaccines, the numbers of people infected and dying from these diseases has fallen significantly.

Latest News on Covid Vaccines

Blood clots - what do you need to know?

(BBC News)

Which vaccines have been approved and what others are still in development?

(Regulatory Focus)

When can you get your jabs?

(BBC News)

Tracking Side-Effects - the "Yellow Card" system


Latest News on Covid Vaccines

Mega testing labs ready early in 2021

(BBC News)

What does the Pfizer vaccine news mean?

(BBC News)

A second vaccine candidate displays over 90% effectiveness

(The Guardian)

How Pfizer will distribute its Vaccine

(New York Times)