Pregnancy, testing and natural immunity - your Covid jab concerns answered

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Norfolk's Covid jab take-up has been high but not everyone is confident with them - we asked why.

Almost 70pc of adults in Norfolk have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, in the older age groups vaccine take-up is upwards over 90pc, including  99pc of 70-79 year-olds and 95pc of 60-69-year-olds.

We asked people why they were reluctant to get the jabs and received hundreds of responses.

The Local Democracy Reporting Services spoke to leading expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, Professor Paul Hunter, to address some of the key concerns. 

The vaccines came out very quickly, has there been enough testing? 

“The answer is there has been enough testing, and in fact, there's been as much testing for this as there is for any other vaccine that comes to market,” Prof Hunter said. 

News that a coronavirus vaccine is imminent is reason to be optimistic rather than pessimistic, says

The process for funding and testing was streamlined for Covid vaccines - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are several reasons Covid vaccines have come to market quickly, but it mostly comes down to a streamlined process.

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“Under a normal situation, if I’m developing a vaccine I go out, I look for money to fund the first phase of the development, when I complete that I then have to get money to trial it.” 

Because of the pandemic, money has been made available to cover all stages of development, when funding can sometimes take years to find.

Secondly, Prof Hunter said studies had overlapped more but all the same processes had been gone through.

He added: "The other thing as well, is that because there's a hell of a lot of Covid, you don't have to wait for years for people to get ill. 

"Sometimes you can vaccinate people and wait years before enough people in the control group have developed the disease to show that it worked.

"You only had to wait months to get the case numbers, compared to years for other vaccines." 

Why shouldn't I just get natural immunity?

Prof Hunter acknowledged “an element of truth” to the benefits of natural immunity, but said vaccines avoid the health risks of Covid.

“If I've been vaccinated and you've got natural infection, depending on which vaccine, if I'd had Pfizer, I'd probably have better quality immunity than you would have, but if I'd had AstraZeneca we would probably be about the same.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA - Credit: UEA

Natural infection generates immunity, but it also comes with the risk of severe disease and long Covid, Mr Hunter said.

I want to get pregnant, will the vaccine impact the baby or my fertility?

Mr Hunter said suggestions that the vaccine could impact fertility seems to have come from a “false news merchant” and a mother will be better off having had the vaccine. 

"There's no evidence whatsoever it will interfere with your fertility, in fact, it's not going to.

"The other thing is if you get Covid and you're pregnant then you can have more severe disease than you would have done otherwise.

Sophie Smith, 18, from North Walsham was among those to attend the walk-in vaccine centre at Market

All UK adults have been given the chance to get their first Covid vaccine. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

"[Getting Covid] is a risk to pregnant women, do you not want to have the vaccine because of some false news, or, do you want to suffer severe disease when you're pregnant?"

Prof Hunter said there is always a concern when giving new drugs to pregnant women but the vaccines have shown themselves to be safe so far.

Public Health England experts have said it is preferable for pregnant women to be offered Pfizer or Moderna vaccines because there is more safety data available.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said 95pc of pregnant women in hospital last week with Covid were unvaccinated.

"We recommend vaccination in pregnancy as it’s the most effective way of protecting women and their babies from severe illness and premature birth," he said.

I felt ill after my first jab, will I feel ill again?

Prof Hunter admitted to feeling “pretty grotty” himself after receiving his first AstraZeneca dose but felt no symptoms after his second. 

The virologist said this was the trend but medicine is never 100pc always the case.

pfizer biontech vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administering. - Credit: Denise Bradley

He added that the only exception seemed ‘mixed and matched’ jabs, taking one jab of, for example, Pfizer, and then an AstraZeneca jab, who experienced short-term side effects after both. 

The Yellow Card Scheme lists a lot of side effects, should I be worried? 

The Yellow Card is a report of suspected side-effects of medicines and vaccines by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.  

Reports are made by both health professionals and the public. 

Prof Hunter said that any symptoms developed over the period after a vaccine are administered should be reported but this does not mean that the vaccine caused it. 

“When you are vaccinating huge numbers of people, millions of people a lot of them were going to get ill tomorrow anyway. 

“A lot of the unusual side effects that have reported on the Yellow card scheme won't actually have been caused by the vaccine, some will. Distinguishing one from another can be difficult.” 

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. PHOTO: Ian Carter

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. PHOTO: Ian Carter - Credit: Archant

People have had two jabs and still got Covid, what’s the point? 

“It’s nearly always a lot less severe than the case would have been without the vaccine," Prof Hunter said.

“It’s not unheard of, but it is quite unusual, if you’ve had both doses of a vaccine you are much less likely to die and quite a lot less likely to end up in intensive care."

Prof Hunter added the vaccines are not 100pc and some people will still get severe disease.