In the past few weeks, it has been confirmed that Covid-19 vaccines will be rolled out across the prison estate in line with the community – prioritising people by age and vulnerability.

We know that for some people, the idea of getting a Covid-19 vaccine can be a cause of anxiety. Your loved one in prison may be hearing lots of rumours about the vaccine and be worried about taking it. They might be worried about the side effects, about what is actually in the vaccine, or concerned that it goes against their religious beliefs. Or maybe they feel they don’t need to have a vaccine as they aren’t in a high risk group.

Whatever their concern, we know that the choice to have a Covid-19 vaccine can feel like a big decision. We are sure that you will want to support your loved one to make the decision that’s right for them, based on facts and trusted information.

Here you can find some answers to the most common questions and/or concerns, as well as useful information that you may find helpful to discuss with your loved one.

All of the information below is taken from expert healthcare organisations in the UK and worldwide, including the World Health Organisation, Public Health England and the NHS. Pact is not a Government agency – we are an independent national charity, working to support people affected by prison and their families.

What is the vaccine and how does it work?

Vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases, before they come into contact with them. It uses your body’s natural defences to build resistance to infections and makes your immune system stronger.

The Covid-19 vaccine does not give you Covid-19, or put you at risk of Covid-19 complications.

How is the Covid-19 vaccine given?

The Covid-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It's given as 2 doses. You will have the 2nd dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the 1st dose.

How safe are the Covid-19 vaccines?

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.

So far, millions of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

You may have heard reports in some countries of a small number of people having blood clots after the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The MHRA says the current evidence does not suggest the clots were caused by the vaccine and you should still get vaccinated when invited.

What are the side effects?

Most side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle
     went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

Side effects like these can be treated with painkillers like paracetamol.

Allergic reactions

Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction.

You should not have the Covid-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

I’m fit and healthy, why should I get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Without vaccines, we are at risk of serious illness and disability from diseases. It is estimated that vaccines save between 2 and 3 million lives every year.

Regardless of your age or fitness level, it is still possible to become seriously ill from catching Covid-19.

We do not know what level of protection is provided by a natural Covid-19 infection, or how long protection lasts. But we do know that the vaccines are very effective and protect 9/10 individuals. The vaccines may provide more effective protection than natural disease and if you do catch Covid-19 after vaccination, symptoms will be much milder than they would be without a vaccine.

Being vaccinated also helps protect others - not everyone can be vaccinated, including children, those who are seriously ill or have certain allergies – they depend on others being vaccinated to ensure they are also safe from diseases.

Do the Covid-19 vaccines contain animal products?

No. The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg.

I’m pregnant, is it safe for me to have the vaccine?

There's no evidence the Covid-19 vaccine is unsafe if you're pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you're pregnant and: 

  • at high risk of getting coronavirus because of where you work
  • have a health condition that means you're at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus
  • You can have the Covid-19 vaccine if you're breastfeeding.

Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you.

You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby Covid-19.

Will the vaccine affect my fertility?

There is no evidence that any of the Covid-19 vaccines have any impact on fertility for men or women.

I am concerned that being vaccinated goes against my religious beliefs

We know this is a big cause for concern for people of many faiths, and there has been a lot of misinformation and rumours circulating that have led some people to believe that the Covid-19 vaccine is against their religious beliefs.

Leaders from all of the major world faiths have come forward to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Below you can find links to guidance from faith leaders on the decision to have the Covid-19 vaccine.

More information for women

You can find lots of useful information for women here.

For further information

For more information about the Covid-19 vaccine you can visit:

Notes

This guidance was published on 6th April 2021. We will do our best to keep this information up to date with any new developments.

As of today, more than 30 million people in UK have had their first dose of one of the vaccines. We hope that you too will soon join the growing number of people who are helping to stop the spread.

Please note, this information is not medical or health advice provided by Pact. The information on this page provides a summary of information from expert health organisations, which can be viewed in more detail via the links listed above.