COVID-19 Booster- FAQs

COVID-19 Booster- FAQs

Covid-19 has affected millions of people globally since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020.  There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect each person; and if you do become infected, you can spread the disease to others around you. Data collected so far shows that people who have been infected with COVID-19 have a varied length of immunity some lasting for a few months and some longer. 

Vaccination is a tried and tested method of preventing disease in a healthy population. The COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response within your body. 

Why are you offering another covid vaccine booster this autumn?

Sadly, covid has not gone away but we are still learning to live with the virus. We are in a good position now because we have low levels of covid circulating in the community, the current virus does not cause as serious an illness as the earlier strains and we have vaccines to prevent us from becoming hospitalised and reduce the risk of dying from covid infection.

 Our strategy since February this year has been to move from trying to protect all of the population to protecting those who are the most vulnerable from the serious consequences of the disease. These include those who have long term health conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and people who come into contact with these groups.

 We know that vaccine immunity does not last that long against covid and this is why we have chosen to offer regular covid boosters. The difference this autumn is that we now have a vaccine that offers protection against the current Omicron strain of the virus which is different from the previous vaccine that was offered.

 At the moment there is not a vaccine licensed for children under the age of 12 years old to cover the Omicron subtype of the virus but we understand that these are under development.

 Who are you offering the covid booster to?

We are offering a single covid vaccine booster this autumn to the following people:

·         Over 50 years old

·         Have a long term health condition

·         Live with someone who is immunocompromised: an indication of this is someone who received a letter from the GHA advising them that they are at more risk of the complications from covid and if they develop symptoms should call 111 to be assessed for eligibility for receiving antiviral medication

·         Is pregnant

·         Live in a closed residential setting such as ERS or the prison

·         Health and social care workers

 

 We are offering a seasonal influenza vaccine to the following people:

·         Initially primary school children and if we have additional supply we will start offering to older school children

Then the same groups as the covid vaccine these being:

·         Aged over 50 years old

·         Have a long term health condition

·         Live with someone who is immunocompromised: an indication of this is someone who received a letter from the GHA advising them that they are at more risk of the complications from covid and if they develop symptoms should call 111 to be assessed for eligibility for receiving antiviral medication

·         Is pregnant

·         Live in a closed residential setting such as ERS or the prison

·         Health and social care workers

 

 Why are these not the same groups being offered both vaccines?

The main difference is children who offered a seasonal flu vaccine nasally via a spray not an injection. We offer the flu vaccine to children because this helps protect them from developing influenza and passing it on through households to older members of the community who may develop more severe consequences of the illness. This is particularly important for us in Gibraltar because of the role that extended families undertake with childcare.

 At this stage we are not offering a covid booster to children because we do not have evidence that they are significant carriers of the covid virus and passing this onto others. We will continue to monitor the spread of the disease and keep this under review during the autumn and winter. The key indicator that will change our approach will be if we experience an increase in hospitalisations and deaths from covid where we have evidence that this is being driven by significant transmission in the school settings.

 Why are children offered a nasal flu vaccine?

This is because we know from research studies that children develop a better immune response when having the vaccine delivered up their nose through a spray rather than an injection.

 Will the flu vaccine stop me from getting flu?

Every year global scientists working with the World Health Organisation predict what the circulating strain of influenza virus will be during the winter. The vaccine contains either 3 or 4 strains of the virus.

 Some years there is a better match of the vaccine to the circulating strain than others. This means that the flu vaccine may not protect you from catching flu but what we have seen from previous years where there has not been a good match is that even then the vaccine prevents against hospitalisations and deaths. In addition, the immunity rests dormant in your body and may protect you in future years to come when there are different circulating strains. The match may not be good for this flu season but may be a better match in the future.

 Why are you not offering the covid vaccine booster to everyone?

Like many countries we have changed our strategy from offering a blanket approach to the whole population to trying to protect those who are the most vulnerable.

 Is it important to have my seasonal flu or covid vaccine this year because I’ve recently had covid?

We know that immunity from covid infection does not last that long whether this is from natural infection having caught covid or from previous vaccines. This is why it is important to still have your covid vaccine if you are offered one or feel that you are in one of the eligible groups. Each year we review what happens in Australia because their flu season is 6 months ahead of ours. They had an early and challenging flu season and we want to protect our population as best we can by offering vaccines for both seasonal flu and covid.

 Is this the same as the Pfizer covid vaccine that I had previously?

Most of our previous vaccination program used a Pfizer mRNA vaccine. We are receiving some supply of the Pfizer vaccine that now covers the omicron strain.  Mostly we are receiving supply of a Moderna vaccine which has been produced in the same way as the Pfizer vaccine in that it is a mRNA vaccine that covers the omicron strain of the virus.

The reason for the change is vaccine manufacture type is due to ordering and supply availability. The change in vaccine type is not because one vaccine is more effective than the other or we have concerns related to a specific vaccine manufacture safety.

 Is the Moderna covid vaccine as effective as the Pfizer one?

Both of the mRNA vaccines are effective against the omicron strain.

 Vaccine effectiveness is assessed against a number of things:

        ·         does it prevent you getting infected

        ·         does it prevent you developing symptoms if you are infected

        ·         does it prevent transmission

        ·         does it prevent hospitalisations

        ·         does it prevent deaths.

A vaccine may be more effective against some of these categories than others. What is important is that a vaccine if effective in preventing hospitalisations and deaths.

 Is it safe to have the covid vaccine booster and seasonal flu vaccine at the same time in different arms?

Yes studies have shown us that it is safe to have the 2 vaccines at the same time in different areas.

 You may be asked to wait a short while in-between vaccines and this is because if you do experience a rare anaphylactic reaction it is helpful for us to identify which vaccine you reacted to. All our staff administering vaccines are trained to both rapidly identify and treat anaphylaxis.

 What are the potential side effects?

Soreness or redness at the site of injection are common side effects. You may develop a headache, low-grade fever, nausea, muscle aches and fatigue. These are signs that your body is developing a good immune response to the vaccines. You should drink plenty of fluids and take some simple analgesia such as paracetamol to reduce these side effects.

 The vaccines cannot give you flu or covid infection.

 Vaccines do take ~ 2 weeks to develop a good antibody response and you may not be protected during this time or if you are incubating the illness at the time of vaccination.

 How will you be monitoring for side effects?

We will be reporting all side effects through the Yellow Care system.

https://coronavirus-yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/

 Where can I find out further information?

There are many sources of information available regarding vaccines on the internet.

 Please look for information on a trusted website that include the following:

 ·         The NHS have information on their website for both covid and seasonal flu vaccinations:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1097483/Flu-information-for-HCPs-2022-to-2023.pdf

 ·         The Green Book is the UK online vaccine information source for health professionals that provides clinical details regarding who can have the vaccine and contraindications and sign posts to the research evidence base:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-the-green-book-chapter-14a

 

·         The Communicable Disease Centre in the USA has the following information on the different vaccine types. To note though that some licensing in the USA may be different to the UK: this relates to the fact of pace of approval and not because they are not approving vaccines that are approved in the UK and vice versa:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/overview-COVID-19-vaccines.html

 

·         UK Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation statement on the covid booster program: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jcvi-publishes-advice-on-covid-19-vaccines-for-autumn-booster-programme

 

·         Vaccine effectiveness is monitored in the UK through this website:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/monitoring-reports-of-the-effectiveness-of-covid-19-vaccination