The RPS is confident COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Medicines and Regulatory Healthcare Agency (MHRA) are safe and effective.
The RPS statement of confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine approval process can be found here
We are assured vaccines approved by MHRA meet the high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness having been through all the necessary clinical trials and rigorous safety checks that all other licensed medicines would go through to be approved.
We encourage pharmacists eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the vaccination programme to take up the offer.
We have developed the following FAQs together with signposting to primary information to help pharmacists develop their knowledge and expertise so they can confidently assure members of the public about the safety and effectiveness of approved vaccines.
- Where can I learn about the medicine approval process?
All COVID-19 vaccines will need to be approved by the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Regulatory Healthcare Agency (MHRA). Dr June Raine, the Chief Executive of the MHRA explains the approval process in this video.
The RPS believes all COVID-19 vaccines approved by the MHRA are safe and effective on the basis of the data evaluated at the time of approval.
- Where can I learn about how the vaccines work?
The various vaccines candidates have different mechanisms of action. The approved vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech is an mRNA vaccine which triggers the body’s natural production of antibodies and stimulates immune cells to protect against COVID-19 disease. A video by Professor Robin Shattock, Imperial College explains how mRNA vaccines work.
- How will the vaccination programme be prioritised? Who will receive it first?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advise on the priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination. The latest advice on priority groups and the order in which they will be called for the vaccine can be viewed on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) website.
In Scotland, equivalent Scottish Government guidance is available at https://www.sehd.scot.nhs.uk/cmo/CMO(2020)33.pdf and there is also a Public Health Scotland covid vaccination website at https://www.publichealthscotland.scot/our-areas-of-work/covid-19/covid-19-vaccinations/
In Wales, equivalent Welsh government guidance is available at https://gov.wales/vaccine-coronavirus and there is also a Public Health Wales covid vaccination website at https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/immunisation-and-vaccines/covid-19-vaccination-information/
The NHS have advised they will let people know when it is their turn to have the vaccine.
Public Health England (PHE) have published a leaflet titled COVID-19 vaccination: why you are being asked to wait to help you explain to people the eligibility criteria and why they are being asked to wait
In Scotland, Public Health Scotland information for the public is available at the following NHS inform website at including links to leaflets for adults, healthcare workers, social care workers and pregnancy advice: https://www.nhsinform.scot/covid19vaccine?utm_source=phs&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=covidvaccine
- Where can I learn about side-effects?
You can learn about the side-effects from multiple resources. Use the Green Book for clinical information including side-effect profiles.
For members of the public, Public Health England (PHE) have published a leaflet titled “What to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination” providing details of the side effects. The NHS website also provides details of side effects and how to manage them.
Public Health Scotland has published information about side effects at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine/side-effects-of-the-coronavirus-vaccine
- Can people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant use the COVID-19 vaccine?
At the time of writing, COVID-19 vaccines have not been assessed in pregnancy, so it has been advised that until more information is available, those who are pregnant should not have this vaccine.
Public Health England (PHE) have produced guidance and a leaflet titled “COVID-19 vaccination: women of childbearing age, currently pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding”.
Public Health Scotland has published guidance at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine/pregnancy-breastfeeding-and-the-coronavirus-vaccine
- Should pharmacy teams agree to be vaccinated as part of the vaccination programme when eligible?
Yes. We encourage pharmacists and their teams who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to agree to vaccination. MHRA review all the available evidence before approval and have assessed approved vaccines to be safe and effective. ( see position statement)
- How should I support members of the public who ask questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
You should make sure you are up-to-date so you can use your knowledge and expertise to confidently assure members of the public about the safety and effectiveness of MHRA approved vaccines. For example use clinical information from the DHSC Green Book https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-the-green-book-chapter-14a and other evidence-based sources referred to in these FAQs to keep up-to-date.
It is important to ensure that patient’s best interests are supported by evidence-based clinical evidence and healthcare professionals help to dispel vaccine myths which may be circulating. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits/facts.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fvaccines%2Fabout-vaccines%2Fvaccine-myths.html
- How long will the vaccine protect people from infection?
At the time of writing, it is unknown how long approved COVID-19 vaccines will protect people from COVID-19 infection. Professor Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer in England expects protection to last several months at least. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/health-55170957
- Can children use the COVID-19 vaccine?
There is very limited data on vaccination in adolescents, with no data on vaccination in younger children, at this time. The JCVI committee advises that only those children at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care, should be offered vaccination.
Clinicians should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with a person with parental responsibility, who should be told about the paucity of safety data for the vaccine in children aged under 16 years. More detail on vaccination in children is set out in the Green Book – Immunisation Against Infectious Disease.
- Should people who consider themselves healthy, still take the vaccine?
Yes. Being generally healthy won’t reduce risk of catching COVID-19 and people who are called as part of the vaccination programme should be encouraged to take the vaccine.
- How can the vaccine protect people who take it?
The COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the chance of someone becoming infected with COVID-19. It takes a few weeks for the body to build up protection from the vaccine. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but vaccination should reduce the severity of any infection https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers .
- Can people catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. A person cannot catch COVID-19 from having the vaccine, however it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise until after vaccination. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers
- After people have had the vaccine will they still need to follow all the infection control advice?
Yes. People will need to follow normal infection control advice including wearing the correct personal protection equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.
- Can people infect anyone else with COVID-19, after having the vaccine?
The vaccine cannot give the recipient COVID-19 infection, and the full course will reduce the chance of becoming seriously ill. It is not known if it will stop people from catching the infection and passing it on to others.
- If people have had flu vaccine, do they need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?
Yes. The fu vaccine does not protect people from COVID-19. People who are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers/covid-19-vaccination-guide-for-healthcare-workers
- Should people who have allergic reactions take the COVID-19 vaccine?
In response to reports of anaphylaxis and allergic reaction following immunisation, the MHRA has updated their guidance and advise “Any person with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. A second dose should not be given to anyone who has experienced anaphylaxis following administration of the first dose of this vaccine.” Full details of the advice can be viewed here .
- How should people report adverse reactions to the vaccine?
People can talk to their doctor, pharmacist or nurse who will file an adverse incident report. The public can also be advised to report side effects directly via the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site or search for MHRA Yellow Card in the Google Play or Apple App Store and include the vaccine brand and batch/Lot number if available.
- Where can I go for more information?
Our COVID19 hub is a repository of information and signposting to reputable primary information all about COVID vaccine and pharmacy. Read the RPS guidance on COVID-19 vaccines here.