The UK’s first Covid-19 vaccinations are due to start among the highest priority groups on Tuesday December 8. However most healthy people won’t be getting theirs until next year.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has so far been approved for use in individuals who are 16 years of age and older – this is because the safety and efficacy in children hasn’t yet been established. The vaccine will be administered in two separate doses – 21 days apart.
It’s not been spelt out whether those who’ve recovered from Covid-19 should take the vaccine, too. The logic goes that their immune systems will have already fought off the virus once – so they might not have to.
However a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson has confirmed to HuffPost UK that people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 will still be encouraged to have the new vaccine.
Vaccine trials have so far focused on people who haven’t had Covid-19 before, so we don’t know how a person recovered from the virus might react to it.
But experts don’t appear to be worried. There is no evidence that a vaccine would be unsafe for people who’ve recovered from Covid-19, Dr Sarah Fortune, chair of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NBC News, but she added more research is needed.
Professor Eleanor Riley, an expert in immunology and infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, explains that people who have recovered from Covid-19 have varying levels of antibodies, with varying levels of neutralising activity, so they “may be protected for varying lengths of time into the future”. Some people may be protected better than others after natural infection, she adds.
Who will be prioritised for the vaccine?
- Older adult residents in a care home and care home workers
- All those 80 years of age and over. Front line health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All Individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions.
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
- The rest of the population (priority to be determined)
But these people who have had Covid-19 are also at risk of encountering the virus again. So, it’s important they are as well protected as possible, she says.
“The vaccines induce very high levels of neutralising antibodies which are thus likely to protect for longer. So, the vaccine will likely protect for longer than infection in many people – especially people who had mild symptoms who tend to have lower concentrations of antibodies,” says Prof Riley.
“It is impossible, logistically, to test everyone for antibodies, and measure the precise concentration and function of these antibodies, in order to decide whether they would benefit from vaccination or not,” she adds. “It is simply easier, quicker, cheaper and much less risky for everyone to have the vaccine, whether or not they have had – or think they have had – the infection before.”