Written by Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services.
What do the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford /AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines mean for you?
Like so many of us, I was really pleased to hear about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being approved for Covid-19 in early December, and now the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It is truly remarkable that we have vaccines produced at such speed. This does feel like a turning point in tackling the pandemic. People with dementia and their families have been hit so hard by the virus and its related impact, but we can now see a way out of this chapter of our lives.
We must remember though that getting the vaccine to everyone who needs it will take a while, however people are working hard right across the UK to do just this. People with dementia, their families and many others who work within health and social care need to receive the most reliable and current information possible – we will ensure that we do just that for you.
So what do we know so far?
Two vaccines (the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccines) have been approved by our UK regulator. They are called the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency). This regulator is independent and approves medical and/or healthcare products based on evidence. They operate very rigorous processes and their primary focus is on safety and efficacy. For any vaccine to have been approved, it will have had to have gone through a very in-depth review by the MHRA.
What do we know about the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccines?
We know that for a vaccine to be approved it must be safe and effective. Like any vaccine or other medicine, there may be side effects for certain people. So far, we understand the reported side effects to be mild. We have been told that these side effects include: localised swelling around the injection area, headaches and a slight fever. These are very usual reactions as many of us who have had vaccinations in the past will know. There is also a robust mechanism in place for ongoing reporting of side effects; again, the same as any other new medicine.
How many doses will be required?
Whichever vaccine you have, you will require two doses of it to provide the best protection. Both vaccines are very effective and offer protection after the first dose. The second dose completes the course and is important for long term protection.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine second dose is given three to 12 weeks after the first dose
The Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccine second dose is given four to 12 weeks after the first dose
It is really important for people to make sure that they complete the course. We do not yet know how long the vaccine will be effective for, once a course is completed. We will only know this over time and through proper monitoring of the spread of Covid-19 by local public health systems in our communities.
How will the vaccine be administered?
Just like the flu vaccination, the vaccine will be delivered in the arm or thigh via a needle.
What are the plans for deployment?
At the moment we understand that there will be three routes to deploy the vaccine
Through hubs at NHS hospitals
Through large community hubs established across the UK (using large venues)
Through local GP practices
In care homes where possible
Your vaccination injection is via an appointment system only, and you will be contacted to make your appointment date and time.
Who are a priority for receiving the vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list. This will include many people living with dementia, who are over 65 and/or will be living with other long-term health conditions. We have been working hard to make sure groups such as care home residents, staff and families are amongst the first to be offered the vaccine alongside others, who are clinically vulnerable or providing essential health and social care services.
So where are we now?
The national Covid-19 vaccination programme began in December 2020 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and now includes the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Both vaccines are for adults over the age of 18 years and have been shown to be effective in preventing Covid-19. Further studies are being carried out to assess their effectiveness in stopping the transmission of Covid-19.
While we wait, it is really important that we all follow the rules around social distancing, hand hygiene and face coverings so we continue to try to do all we can to help stop the transmission of Covid-19.
All of us at Dementia UK are committed to sharing accurate information as we receive it. For now, take really good care of yourselves and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for families looking after someone with dementia
We know that this is a worrying time for families looking after someone with dementia. The months ahead are going to be challenging. But there are a few things you can do to look after yourself, and the person with dementia, during this time