What does the Coronavirus vaccine mean for care homes?
On December 2nd, 2020 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (MHRA) approved the use of the Pzifer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination.
The UK Government swiftly accepted the recommendations and have mobilised one of the largest vaccination programs of all time. But what do we know about the vaccine and how will it be administered?
What do we know about the coronavirus vaccine?
The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is currently the only approved vaccine in the UK and it is delivered in two doses 21 days apart. Within a week after the second dose it is stated that you will have developed your immunity from COVID-19, this vaccine is up to 95% effective in stopping people becoming unwell.
There are several more coronavirus vaccines going through clinical trials and should be available within a few weeks. Similar to the flu vaccine, different vaccines may be given to different people depending on their medical history and it's transportable elements, however whichever vaccine you receive will be appropriate.
Who's eligible for the vaccine?
Most importantly, the vaccine is currently being provided to those that need it the most, which has been defined as "Older adults that are a resident in a care home and their care workers.". This is fantastic news for care home residents as it will eventually mean, once immunity has been developed, that they will be able to live a relatively normal life and be able to see friends and family again in person.
The roll out of the vaccine is to be provided in stages to the following groups:
- Older adults that are a resident in a care home and their care workers.
- Everyone aged 80+ and all health and social care workers.
- Everyone aged 75+.
- Everyone aged 70+ and all those considered clinically extremely vulnerable and were previously advised to shield.
- Everyone aged 65+.
- Everyone aged 16-64 with an underlying health condition and unpaid/informal carers (anyone that provides care for another person, including a relative or friend).
- Everyone 60+.
- Everyone 55+.
- Everyone 50+.
- Everyone else.
This priority list provides a framework, however, due to limiting factors such as transport, storage and so forth, there may be a delay in care home residents being provided the vaccine as quickly as it is hoped.
How are residents and staff being vaccinated?
We are currently in discussions with the NHS and local authorities to arrange vaccination for both staff and residents.
Due to the difficulties in storing the Pfizer vaccine, at this point in time our staff are being contacted directly so that they can attend a "vaccination hub" at an allocated NHS Trust hospital.
We are awaiting further information in regards to how our residents will receive the vaccine, initial advice is that a nursing team will be sent out in the coming weeks to provide vaccines to all residents.
Is the vaccine safe?
The MHRA has confirmed that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe. It has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by them. Whilst there are concerns around how quickly the vaccine was approved, the MHRA confirm that the vaccine went through all the clinical trials and safety checks as other licensed medicines go through, it has (so far) been administered to over 40,000 people in the UK. While there will be different vaccines available for different people, no one will receive a vaccine that hasn’t been properly approved and shown to be safe. Read about the approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 by MHRA on GOV.UK
Each vaccine will have gone through trials to ensure no serious side effects. However, as with other vaccines such as the flu vaccine, there might be some mild side effects that could include a slight temperature that lasts a day or two and an ache in your arm. Any side effects will be explained by a healthcare professional.
COVID-19 vaccine potential side effects
Most side effects 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
It is reported that should you begin to suffer with a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
It’s very rare for anyone to have a serious reaction to the vaccine (anaphylaxis). If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.
What does the vaccine mean for care homes?
Clearly, the imminent deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine across care homes means that life for our residents should revert back to a relatively normal way a week after the second dose has been administered. As our residents will no longer be susceptible to the disease, there should be no need to restrict visitor access as has been during the pandemic.
Of course, in the early days of "post vaccination" we will still need to be mindful that we are effectively the first people to receive it, therefore we will want to slowly begin introducing families back together to ensure that vaccination has been effective. We will continue to seek guidance from Public Health England in this regard, however we do believe that this should mean that residents and relatives alike will be able to see, hug and hold their loved ones again, which is of course fantastic news.
If you have any feedback or questions in regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.