How is it best to persuade some of my closest family members to take the vaccination? – Robert Gatt

Vaccines are a powerful weapon in the fight against COVID-19. Considering that the pandemic can only be controlled through stringent mitigation measures, ensuring uptake by a large proportion of the population is the best instrument we have available. Considering the situation, it is the responsible thing to be vaccinated.

Remind your relatives that this vaccine is safe and effective as evidenced through clinical trials which were evaluated by the European Medicines Agency prior to their approval to start vaccine programme roll outs.

Side effects are minimal and don’t last long, so that shouldn’t put people off getting vaccinated. Many people have a relative or know someone who must have passed through the experience of being positive, some know someone who had to be admitted to hospital or passed away and, hence, having the vaccine as an instrument to control the situation is surely a motivation to get vaccinated.

Some people may prefer to wait a while before getting vaccinated. However, it is best to get the vaccine once it is offered to you as delaying may lead to a missed opportunity and you may get infected while waiting to decide. Closing that gap between intention and action is essential.

Will I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine or test positive by PCR or antigen test?

One 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. The most important symptoms of COVID-19 is a 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 (anosmia).

Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Receiving the vaccine will not result in a false positive PCR or antigen COVID-19 test. The vaccine only contains mRNA that encodes for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is not a molecular target of either PCR or antigen COVID-19 tests. The vaccines also do not contain any SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

It was a very good idea to provide the influenza vaccine to all age groups rather than to the elderly only. Will this practice continue in the years to come? – Kevin Mizzi

Since seasonal flu viruses evolve every year, vaccines need to be readministered annually to ensure they can confer effective protection. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications. These include individuals with specific chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, children aged six-59 months, the elderly and healthcare and social care workers.

Every year, the vaccine is offered free of charge to these risk groups and, then, the vaccination campaign is opened to the rest of the population.

What happens if side effects develop between the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine? – Miriam

During trials (including a phase 3 trial with about 44,000 participants), the vaccine has been shown to elicit local and systemic side effects in some persons, which are usually mild to moderate and lasting up to a few days. The most common solicited side effects are injection site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.

These side effects reflect reactogenicity (inflammatory response to the vaccine) that commonly occurs after most vaccinations. These side effects were generally mild to moderate, resolving without complication or injury. Vaccine recipients can be advised to use anti-pyretics and/or analgesics to control these symptoms as appropriate. 

If severe reactions occur speak to your doctor.

What is the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccine?

For both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, participants have not been followed long enough to be able to conclude on the duration of the immune response.

However, this data is being collated as time passes by. It is being collected in the trials and will be reported over time.

Will the vaccine be available in private practice?

The vaccine will be given free of charge and will be available from government entities only. The vaccine will not be available on the private market.

Beware of any individuals or websites selling the vaccine. Vaccines being sold online or by unauthorised persons may be fraudulent and there is no way of knowing if they were kept under the required standards.

Have any questions to ask the superintendent? Send an e-mail to askcharmaine@timesofmalta.com.

Charmaine Gauci, Superintendent for Public Health

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