Your Questions On The COVID-19 Vaccine

Are you living with Scleroderma and/ or Raynaud’s and are concerned about or have questions in relation to the Covid-19 vaccine. Please check out our FAQ to get the advice you may need. 

Page published on 14 December 2020

The recent rollout of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is a huge step forward in the fight against coronavirus. The current government advice is that vaccination using approved vaccines is the best way to protect the most vulnerable and save lives.

This FAQ was put together using a vaccine toolkit put together by DHSC and other publicly available government guidance and is designed to try and answer any questions that you may have relating to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. 

Who should be Vaccinated?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have advised that the vaccine first be given to care home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and health and social workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and risk. 

The full prioritisation list can be found here and is as follows (in order of priority):  

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers 
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers 
  • All those 75 years of age and over 
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals 
  • All those 65 years of age and over. All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and 

mortality 

  • All those 60 years of age and over 
  • All those 55 years of age and over 
  • All those 50 years of age and over 

You should wait to be invited for vaccination by the NHS. Do not attend a site where vaccinations are being offered without an appointment.  

Who shouldn’t receive the vaccine?

The vaccine is currently only approved for use in those aged 16 years and over. 

Women who are intending to become pregnant, are pregnant or breast feeding are currently being advised not to receive the vaccine. This is because there is currently no data relating to pregnancy and the government are taking a highly cautionary approach. This will be reviewed by the JCVI as more evidence becomes available. 

People who suffer from severe allergies (anaphylaxis) in general or who may be allergic to one or more of the vaccines ingredients (see section 6) have been advised not receive the vaccination. These people generally have a history of anaphylaxis and carry epi-pens on a daily basis for this reason. 

Anaphylactic reactions occur quickly after vaccination, the chances of this happening are extremely low if you do not have prior history of these. The vaccine is currently being given in a medical setting where should a reaction like this occur you will receive appropriate care. If you do suffer any type of allergic reaction following the first dose you will be told not receive a second dose. 

How will I receive the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. As you might have seen on the news, two doses are required, three weeks apart. You will only be fully protected 7-10 days after the second dose. You must complete your course and receive both doses of the vaccine in order to have the best possible protection from contracting Covid19 unless you receive medical advice stating the contrary. 

What side effects could occur? 

Vaccines like other medicines can cause side-effects. The side-effects reported from this vaccine are in line with those experienced from other vaccines and include: tenderness in the injected arm, tiredness, headache, general aches and pains/ flu-like symptoms for a day or two. 

You may have seen reports of possible allergic reactions. These occurred in individuals who were already known to have severe allergic reactions and carried epi-pens for this purpose. Allergic reactions happen soon after immunisation meaning that the individuals affected were received medical care in the setting where they received the vaccine.  

If you do have any known allergies, please advise the person giving the vaccine prior to injection. 

How much protection does the vaccine provide? 

No vaccine is ever 100% effective. But the tests on more than 43,000 adult volunteers involved in the Pfizer vaccine trials have shown that it is around 95% effective after the second dose. Data from the clinical trials suggest it works equally well in people of all ages, race and ethnicity. 

Are the vaccines safe? 

The Pfizer vaccine has been tested through phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials just like the vaccines developed for other infectious diseases in the past. This is and will be the same for the other COVID 19 vaccines that you might have seen/ heard about in the news like the Moderna and Astra Zeneca vaccines. 

Large trials are needed to generate data on safety, effectiveness and quality that are reviewed by national regulatory agencies, like the UK’s MHRA, in order to approve a vaccine for use in people.  

In the UK, and more recently the USA, only the Pfizer vaccine has been granted approval and is in rollout to the population. The UK is committed to monitoring the safety of all drugs and vaccines introduced to combat coronavirus, and the MHRA have introduced a Yellow Card reporting scheme to allow members of the public to report any suspected side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine or any other COVID related treatments. 

Are the vaccines tested on people with autoimmune conditions like scleroderma?

Given the rarity of scleroderma it is unlikely that any of the vaccine trial volunteers are people living with this condition. 

Some of the vaccine developers have not excluded people with autoimmune conditions from participating in their trials unless they have a weakened immune system because of the ‘immunosuppressive’ medicines they are receiving as treatments. This is likely to be because these individuals would have lower antibody responses used as a readout to measure the effectiveness of a vaccine. At present there is no data suggesting that the vaccine performance would be different in people with autoimmunity.  

Should I receive the vaccine Pfizer Covid-19 as a patient with scleroderma? 

Covid-19 can be an extremely serious illness in certain groups of the population including the elderly, or those who are clinically extremely vulnerable with serious underlying health conditions. If you are within one of these groups, and you are concerned about receiving the vaccine you should discuss this with your medical practitioner. 

The Pfizer vaccine is a mRNA vaccine, instead of being made from a live weakened virus it is made from of laboratory-made pieces of the virus’ genetic code. This class of vaccine does not contain live virus so it is deemed to be safe for those with immune disorders.

Vaccination is currently the surest way to reduce your chances of becoming seriously unwell if you contract the coronavirus. The government has provided the following information which gives more advice on who should be first offered the vaccine.  

Should I receive the Pfizer Vaccine if I suffer with Raynaud’s? 

As mentioned above, Covid-19 can be serious in groups in the elderly and/ or the clinically extremely vulnerable. If you are older and/ or have other health issues as well as Raynaud’s you may be invited to receive vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine. As mentioned above, vaccination is currently, the surest way to protect against serious illness from Covid-19. 

If you are younger, and are in relatively good health i.e. you not have any health issues in relation to your Raynaud’s which would make you clinically vulnerable you will follow the same guidance as per the general population and may not be invited to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 for some time. Furthermore, by the time you are invited for immunisation there may be additional vaccines approved for use in the UK by the MHRA. We recommend you follow our posts on our website as we will be updating our guidance as more information becomes available.   

I am taking immunosuppressant medications for my scleroderma. Will this interfere with the vaccine? 

Current government advice is for the vaccine to be offered to adults who are taking immunosuppressant medications including steroids such as prednisolone. 

If you are taking immunosuppressants, you are likely to have a weakened immune response and you may not develop a full immune protection against the virus. 

You should inform the person giving the vaccine of the medications you are currently taking when attending your appointment and / or talk to your prescribing doctor. They may advise you to continue some degree of social distancing. 

I have remaining questions

If you continue to have unanswered questions please contact info@sruk.co.uk where we will endeavour to respond to your question.