NHS doctor explains how to combat a loved one's fears over getting the Covid-19 vaccine
While many of us are feeling hopeful as the Covid-19 vaccine continues to roll out across the UK, others are contending with feelings of hesitation and scepticism.
Of course, in order to return to some semblance of normality, it's essential that we get as many people vaccinated as possible.
In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, University of Oxford professor Julian Savulescu, writes that to achieve herd immunity, the UK would have to vaccinate up to 82 per cent of the population.
So, what should you do if a loved one says they don't trust the vaccine and are hesitant to receive it? NHS doctor Kaveri Sameer tells Four Nine how we can ease concerns about the lifesaving jab.
1. Listen to the NHS
"In the first instance, I would always ask people to look at the NHS website," Dr Sameer tells Four Nine.
The appropriate page details that vaccines are proven to "protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases. They also protect other people in your community by helping stop diseases spreading to people who cannot have vaccines."
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2. Be wary of unreliable sources
Dr Sameer adds: "I would always ask people to be very careful about what you see, read, and listen to on the internet. There are a lot of unreliable resources out there.
"If you know someone who is doing their own research, implore them to look at the references. They should also make sure that the person has a background in medicine and vaccine development."
3. The vaccine was not ''rushed''
"One of the reasons people feel reluctant to receive the Covid-19 vaccine is because of how 'fast' it has been developed," Dr Sameer says. "People feel it's been rushed or that the trials haven't been done as they should have. But that's simply not true.
"Because we're in a global pandemic, we've been able to access resources, staff and funding that would not have otherwise been available Normally, you'd have one team working in one hospital on one particular vaccine. But, here, we've had hundreds of teams working globally and collaboratively. Every single aspect of the trial was done how it would have been pre-pandemic. It just happened faster."
The doctor also points out that many of the phases of the trial were done in parallel, when they'd usually be conducted one after the other.
Dr Sameer adds: "There have been no shortcuts when it comes to the safety aspect for any of the vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK."
4. The risk of allergic reactions are minimal
Dr Sameer, who has been part of the delivery of the UK approved vaccines, stresses that the percentage of people who have had severe allergic reactions have been minimal.
"The most common things people may experience are a little discomfort in the arm, or flu-like symptoms for two days." This, the GP says, can happen with any vaccine.
"There is a very small percentage of people who have allergic reactions to vaccines in the past. Those are the people that we would recommend don't get the vaccine now. Also if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you should also be counselled about getting the vaccine, due to the lack of data.
"There is no evidence that the Covid vaccines cause significant allergic reactions."
5. There's no evidence of an increased chance of death
A small number of deaths in elderly patients across Europe who have had received the Covid-19 vaccine is no cause for concern, Dr Sameer states.
"There is absolutely no evidence that there's an increased chance of death after having the jab," the GP continues. "If you're of a certain age, your chance of death in the following year is already there, unfortunately.
"So, if you're going to take into account the global population, you will see people who die after getting the vaccine, or in the weeks afterwards. But, there's no proof whatsoever that it's linked."
6. The risk to people from BAME backgrounds
If you know someone from a BAME background, Dr Sameer emphasises that you should encourage them to receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Research shows that people from these communities are more likely to be impacted negatively by Covid-19.
"There are a number of reasons why the coronavirus can affect certain ethnic minorities more," the GP continues. "It seems to be a combination of the prevalence of diabetes and heart problems amongst BAME communities – especially for those who are over 50. They also tend to come from a lower socio-economic class, so they are already at risk of poor health."
Dr Sameer adds that although it needs to be fully investigated, these groups are also less likely to access good healthcare due to systemic racism.
"Why take that risk? There is evidence to suggest that half the ICU's are full of people from BAME backgrounds, despite the fact that they only represent just over 10 per cent of the population."