COVID-19 vaccination: guide for healthcare workers
Updated 1 March 2021
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Why it’s important to get your COVID-19 vaccination
If you’re a frontline worker in the NHS, you are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Healthcare workers and those working in social care (particularly in care homes) are at much higher risk of repeated exposure to the infection.
Catching COVID-19 can be serious and may lead to long term complications. These are more common in older staff or those with underlying clinical risk factors.
You can have COVID-19 without any symptoms and pass it on to family, friends and patients, many of whom may be at increased risk from coronavirus. Being healthy doesn’t reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 or passing it on.
With high rates of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to help stop the spread of coronavirus, to avoid pressure on the NHS and to keep the health and social care workforce healthy.
Will the vaccine protect you?
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective and it takes a few weeks for your body to build up protection from the vaccine. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should lessen the severity of any infection
The vaccine has been shown to be effective and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people.
Will the vaccine protect those you care for?
The evidence on whether COVID-19 vaccination reduces the chance of you passing on the virus is less clear. Most vaccines reduce the overall risk of infection, but some vaccinated people may get mild or asymptomatic infection and therefore be able to pass the virus on.
It is highly likely that any infection in a vaccinated person will be less severe and that viral shedding will be shortened. We therefore expect that vaccinated health and care staff will be less likely to pass infection to their friends and family and to the vulnerable people that they care for.
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 1-2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
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.
You can take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) and rest to help you feel better. Do not exceed the normal dose.
These symptoms normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111. If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them the vaccination card) so that they can assess you properly.
You can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines online through the Yellow Card scheme or by downloading the Yellow Card app.
Those who cannot have the vaccine
The vaccines do not contain living organisms, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine. A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies.
Pregnant or think you may be
Like all new medicines the vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnant women. So, we advise that most low risk women should wait until their pregnancy is completed before they are vaccinated. Please speak to your employer about other ways to reduce your risk of COVID-19.
Most women who catch COVID-19 during pregnancy do not suffer a more serious outcome than non-pregnant women and will go on to deliver a healthy baby. As more safety data on the vaccine becomes available this advice may change. If you are pregnant, but believe you are at high risk, you may wish to discuss having the vaccine now with your doctor or nurse.
If you find out that you are pregnant after you have had the vaccine, don’t worry. The vaccines do not contain organisms that multiply in the body, so they cannot cause COVID-19 infection in your unborn baby. As we have done for other vaccines, PHE is establishing a monitoring system to follow up women who are vaccinated in pregnancy. We hope this will provide early reassurance for women as time goes on.
Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, please read the detailed information available on GOV.UK.
Going back to work after having your vaccine
You should be able to work as long as you feel well. If your arm is particularly sore, you may find heavy lifting difficult. If you feel unwell or very tired you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.
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 realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment. Please continue to have the regular screening tests that your employer arranges.
If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Further information on symptoms is available on NHS.UK.
What to do next
Plan to attend your second appointment. You should have a record card with your next appointment, which should be between 3 and 12 weeks later. It is important to have both doses of the same vaccine to give you the best 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 it’s your next appointment
If you are unwell, it’s better to wait until 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 unsure if you are fit and well.
After you’ve had the vaccine will you still need to follow all the infection control advice?
The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and 2 doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. No vaccine is completely effective and it will take a few weeks for your body to build up protection.
So, you will still need to follow the guidance in your workplace, including wearing the correct personal protection equipment and taking part in any screening programmes.
To continue to protect yourself, your patients, your family, friends and colleagues you should follow the general advice at work, at home and when you are out and about:
- practice social distancing
- wear a face mask
- wash your hands carefully and frequently
- follow the current guidance
How COVID-19 is spread
COVID-19 is spread through droplets breathed out 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.
Do you need the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve had the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.
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 NHS.UK.