A guide to the COVID-19 vaccination programme
This leaflet explains the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination programme, who is eligible and who needs to have the vaccine to protect them from COVID-19.
What is COVID-19 or coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a very infectious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Many people who are infected may not have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. These commonly start with cough, fever, headache and loss of taste or smell.
Some people will feel very tired, have aching muscles, diarrhoea and vomiting, fever and confusion. A small number of people then go on to have severe disease which may require hospitalisation or admission to intensive care.
Overall fewer than 1 in 100 people who are infected will die from COVID-19, but in those over 75 years of age this rises to 1 in 10.
There is no cure for COVID-19 although some newly tested treatments do help to reduce the risk of complications.
About the types of vaccine
In the UK and Isle of Man there are several different types of COVID-19 vaccines in use. The vaccines have been approved on the basis of large studies of safety and effectiveness.
More than 45 million people in the UK have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the vaccine has already prevented more than 20 million infections and more than 60,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Are you at increased risk from COVID-19 infection?
Coronavirus can affect anyone. If you are an older adult and have a long-term health condition, you should have already been offered the vaccine.
The risk remains higher in older ages. For example, the risk of dying from COVID-19 in someone aged 40 to 49 is 3 times higher than someone in the 30 to 39 year age group and 12 times higher than someone in the 20 to 29 year age group.
The vaccine is being offered to all people aged 16 years and older and children aged 12 to 15 who are at higher risk. For most younger people COVID-19 is usually a milder illness that rarely leads to complications. For a few people the symptoms may last for longer than the usual 2 to 3 weeks. The vaccination will help to protect you against COVID-19.
Pregnant women should also receive COVID-19 vaccine. Please read the COVID-19 leaflet for childbearing, pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Those who cannot have the vaccine
A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes some people who have severe allergies and people with certain very rare blood disorders. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised it is preferable for healthy people under 40 to have a vaccine other than AstraZeneca (AZ).
Who should wait to have the vaccine?
If you are currently unwell, self-isolating or waiting for a COVID-19 test you should delay vaccination until later.
Will the vaccine protect you?
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few weeks for your body to build up some protection from the vaccine.
Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.
The vaccines do not contain organisms that grow in the body, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine.
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you should get good protection from the first dose, having the second dose should give you longer lasting protection against the virus.
Very common side effects include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.
Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, contact your GP or Practice Nurse.
A condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding has been reported extremely rarely after the first dose of AZ vaccine. Because of the high risk of complications and death from COVID-19, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency have concluded that the balance is very much in favour of vaccination. This rare condition is slightly more common in younger individuals, so the JCVI has recommended a preference for an alternative vaccine in some age groups.
If you experience any of the following from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination you should seek medical advice urgently:
- a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
- an unusual headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or may be accompanied by:
- blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
- difficulty with your speech
- weakness, drowsiness or seizures
- new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
- shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain
Recently, cases of inflammation of the heart (called myocarditis or pericarditis) have been reported very rarely after COVID-19 vaccines. Most of these cases have been in younger men and usually a few days after the second vaccination. Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments.
You should seek medical advice urgently if you experience:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart
If you have any of the above symptoms after your first vaccination, you should speak to your doctor or specialist before having the second dose.
If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them the vaccination card if possible) so that they can assess you properly.
You can also report suspected side effects to vaccines and medicines online through the Yellow Card scheme.
Can you catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.
The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
If you have the symptoms above, stay at home and arrange to have a test.
What to do next
After you have had the first dose you will be invited for your second appointment. Your next appointment should be around 8 to 12 weeks later.
Although the first dose will give you good protection, you need the second dose to get longer lasting protection.
Keep your record card safe and make sure you keep your next appointment to get your second dose.
If you are not well when your appointment is due
If you are unwell, it is better to wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine, but you should try to have it as soon as possible. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 test or within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test.
How COVID-19 is spread
COVID-19 is spread through droplets expelled from the nose or mouth, particularly when speaking or coughing. It can also be picked up by touching your eyes, nose and mouth after contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.
You MUST still continue to follow any national or local restrictions and:
- where advised wear a face mask
- wash your hands regularly
- open windows to let fresh air in
- follow the current guidance
Please read the product information leaflet for more details on your vaccine, including possible side effects, on the Coronavirus Yellow Card website. You can also report suspected side effects on the same website or by downloading the Yellow Card app.
Further information is available on gov.im/vaccinations
Public Health Isle of Man has adapted this information leaflet with kind permission from Public Health England: A guide to the COVID-19 vaccination programme - GOV.UK
Updated on 23 August 2021