Britain’s National Health Service began delivering shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday, opening a public health campaign with little precedent in modern medicine.
Here is a guide to some of the basics.
Should I be concerned about the safety of the vaccine in Britain?
Britain’s drug regulator is seen as a bellwether agency, and its decisions often have influence abroad. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the agency has said that it did not cut any corners and undertook the same laborious process of vetting the quality, efficacy and manufacturing protocols of the vaccine.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’s top infectious disease expert, said last week that the British had not reviewed the vaccine “as carefully” as the United States was. But he walked back those comments the next day, saying: “I have a great deal of confidence in what the U.K. does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.”
Who in Britain will get the vaccine first?
Doctors and nurses, certain people 80 or over and nursing home workers.
When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated?
Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll be able to vaccinate only a small percentage of their citizens in the first couple of months.
Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the virus to find vulnerable people to infect. Life may start approaching something like normal by the fall of 2021.
If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask?
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the virus without developing symptoms.
Will it hurt? What are the side effects?
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious side effects. Some have felt aches and flulike symptoms that last less than a day.
Does the vaccine affect fertility?
There’s no evidence that it does, and there’s good reason to think that it does not.
Some claims have been floating around the web that coronavirus vaccines can harm a woman’s fertility. The supposed evidence rests on the fact that most coronavirus vaccines work by creating antibodies that attack the virus’s “spike” protein, and this protein has a minor resemblance to a protein crucial for the formation of the placenta.
But that does not mean that the antibodies generated by coronavirus vaccines would attack a pregnant woman’s placenta. The region of the placental protein that’s similar to spike is just too short to give the antibodies a grip.