The Covid-19 vaccination programme is currently being rolled out in the UK, and there are two types of vaccine now being distributed to nurses and carers.
Both the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine require two doses to provide the best protection against the virus. Both have been shown to be safe and 95% effective in clinical trials.
Care home staff are first in line to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, along with residents.
Here, we explain what is to be expected after receiving your first Covid-19 vaccination, including side effects, how you will be protected and what to do next.
What are the side effects?
Similar to other medicines, vaccines can cause mild and short-term side effects. Not everyone will experience them but if you do, you’ll still need to have the second dose after receiving the first. This will also mean you are better protected 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
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. An uncommon side effect is swelling of the glands.
You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better.
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.
If you are feeling at all unwell, do take time off work to rest and recover.
What to do after receiving your first vaccine dose
You should be able to resume normal activities and return to work after receiving the vaccine. Your arm may feel a bit sore and therefore you should avoid any heavy lifting. If you’re feeling at all unwell, take some time to rest and avoid operating machinery or driving.
Plan your second appointment, which should be between 3-12 weeks after attending your first. Keep your record card safe and be sure to attend your second vaccination. You’ll be much better protected and therefore less risk to those you are caring for.
If you are unwell when your second appointment is due, it is best to reschedule for when you are feeling better. You shouldn't attend either of your appointments if you are self-isolating, waiting for a Covid-19 test result or feel at all unwell.
How does the Covid-19 vaccine protect you?
Although you cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, it is still possible to have the virus and not realise you have symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.
The most important symptoms of Covid are 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-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, you should stay at home and arrange to have a test sent to you.
Further information on symptoms is available on NHS.UK.
It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection.
Nurses and carers should continue to use full PPE and continue to follow infection prevention guidelines at their care setting. There is still a chance of catching Covid-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.
Can you still pass on Covid-19 if you have had the vaccine?
The vaccine cannot give you Covid-19 infection, and a full course will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. It has not been confirmed yet whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus, but it is expected to reduce this risk. So, it is still important to follow the guidance to protect those around you.
To protect yourself, your family, friends, colleagues and care home residents, you still need to:
- Practice social distancing
- Wear a face mask
- Wash your hands carefully and frequently
- Follow the current guidance
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