Thursday 4th March 2021

The coronavirus vaccine is now being rolled out in the UK, based on priority levels. If you’re a young person with cancer, it’s natural to have questions about the vaccine.

That’s why we asked Anniela Etheridge, a Senior Clinical Pharmacist for Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (pictured), to answer some of the biggest questions you might have.

Remember – if you have questions about your care, you should always speak to your clinical care team.

I’m worried about getting the coronavirus vaccine - why should I have it?

Having the vaccine is a very personal decision that only you can make.  
The vaccine not only helps to protect us from coronavirus but those around us – our friends, family and wider community.  
Vaccination helps you build immunity to the virus, so your body will stop the infection more easily. This can reduce your risk of becoming infected with coronavirus or make your symptoms milder. This is especially important to consider if you have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, or clinically vulnerable, as you may be more likely to be very unwell if you were to catch coronavirus.
More people being vaccinated will, in time, reduce the amount of virus that can spread in our communities. 
There are also people in our population that are not able to have the vaccine and rely on the rest of the population who can have the vaccine to do so to protect them, as there will be less virus circulating.
If you decided not to have the vaccine but change your mind later on – that’s ok! The vaccine will still be available to you.

If I have been shielding from coronavirus, can I stop once I’ve had the vaccine? 

Unfortunately not.  We all have to continue to follow the national guidance once we have had the vaccine, even after having both doses.  
It is hoped that in time, as more people are vaccinated, that there will be less virus in the community and restrictions will be lifted gradually.
It is still really important to continue to protect ourselves and each other by washing our hands, covering our face and keeping space between us (social distancing). 

How do I know when I can have my coronavirus vaccination?

You may get a text, letter or phone call from your GP practice when it is time to book your vaccine.
Unfortunately, there have been some scam emails and texts. You do not have to pay for the NHS vaccine, or confirm bank details in order to register. Always make sure any links you’re using are real.

How many doses of the coronavirus vaccine will I need?

You will have two doses of the vaccine, up to about 12 weeks apart.

What happens on the day of my coronavirus vaccination? 

It is useful to have the appointment letter/text with you on the day when you book in.  
Unless you are medically exempt, you will need to wear a mask.  There should be plenty of hand sanitiser available but you can also bring your own.
You’ll be told ahead of time whether someone can come in with you or not. 
Try to arrive as close to your appointment time as possible – this is to avoid queues of people outside the centre.  It’s helpful to wear a T-shirt or similar so the top of your arm is easily accessible – this will help speed up the process when you are there.
These centres are incredibly well run with one-way systems, social distancing and cleaning of all seats and surfaces.  All the staff will be wearing appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment such as aprons and masks) to help protect everyone.  
There will be loads of staff and volunteers helping at these centres so if you get there and you feel a bit overwhelmed just have a chat with someone and they will be able to take you somewhere quiet.  
You’ll be asked some questions when you arrive and will be asked to sign a form to say that you agree to have the vaccine.  Staff will be on hand to help with this.  
The injection itself only takes a few moments and may feel like a sharp scratch in your upper arm.  
You will be given a card with your name, date and which vaccination you have been given. It’s important to keep this safe and bring it with you when you go for your second dose.  A note that you have had your vaccination will be put on your GP records too.
Depending on the vaccine centre, you may be given your date for your second appointment  or they may get in touch with you at later date to arrange it.
You may need to wait after your vaccine has been given to you, just to check you’re ok. If that’s the case you’ll be told where to wait, and for how long.
Depending on which vaccine you have had, you might also need to wait 15 minutes before you drive. 

Is there a difference in which coronavirus vaccine you should have as a young person with cancer?

There are currently three vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK -  Pfizer- BioNTech, Oxford- Astra Zeneca and Moderna (expected to be given by some vaccination centres in a couple of months).  
At the moment the vaccines have only been approved in young people over the age of 16 although trials have started to test the vaccines in younger people. 
At this point in time people can’t choose which vaccine they get.  Vaccination centres may be administering one or all of the available vaccines at different times. But all approved vaccines have been shown to offer effective protection against the virus. 
There is no evidence to suggest that young people with cancer should receive a particular coronavirus vaccine.  
Because of how the vaccine works, young people who are immunosuppressed at the time of the vaccination will still get some protection from the vaccine. 
We still don’t know if we will need to have a vaccination each year like the flu vaccine or if the vaccination we have now will give us long term protection.

I’ve had a severe allergic reaction in the past. Is it safe to have the coronavirus vaccine?

The information about the vaccines and people with allergies has changed several times since we started vaccinating, as we now have lots more information about side effects and allergic reactions.
The current guidance is that 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 COVID-19 vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccines
The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority) who approved the vaccines in the UK and who look at all the side effects reported, have confirmed that even people with severe allergies to foods or other medicines can now have the COVID-19 vaccines.  
If you are worried about your allergies, have a chat with your doctor, pharmacist or specialist nurse who will be able to check the lists of ingredients with you.
Serious allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccines are rare.  If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens within minutes of getting the vaccine and staff at the vaccination centres are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

Will there be any side effects to the coronavirus vaccine?

More than 20 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of the vaccine so we have lots of information now about side effects.  
A sore and achy arm after the vaccine is the most common side effect with some people experiencing mild side effects like a headache, feeling tired, joint and muscle aches and chills for a couple of days.

Information about the coronavirus vaccine may change 

The information on this page was up to date at the time of writing. But guidelines, processes and advice is changing as more people get the vaccine. So always make sure you check the latest information from NHS Choices. And if you ever have questions, always check with your GP or clinical care team.