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Coronavirus advice: updated 16th March 2021

Both the BioNtec/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are approved for use by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK.

The NHS England Highly Specialised Service for Rare Mitochondrial Disorders Services in London, Oxford and Newcastle are very pleased that a vaccine is available and support the Government’s vaccination programme. We recommend visiting https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/mhra-guidance-on-coronavirus-covid-19 for updates to this guidance.

We would expect adults with mitochondrial disease to take up the offer of the COVID-19 vaccine, and only those who are currently pregnant should not be vaccinated. Patients who are immunosuppressed (due to medications or other reasons) should discuss the benefits of vaccination with the doctor looking after that aspect of their care.

Priority and eligibility

The vaccination is to be given to the following groups as a priority:

  • People over 80 years
  • People in care homes
  • People who are clinically vulnerable.

A full list of people eligible for the vaccine can be found via the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-why-you-are-being-asked-to-wait/why-you-have-to-wait-for-your-covid-19-vaccine#i-am-in-one-of-the-listed-groups-why-do-i-have-to-wait

People who are not in the groups above will have to wait until more supplies of the COVID-19 vaccines are available. When more vaccine becomes available the government will offer it to more groups of the population.

Pregnancy and breast feeding

At present there is no information on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy, either from human or animal studies. The Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is therefore following a precautionary approach and does not currently advise COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy, unless in exceptional circumstances.

There is no known risk associated with giving non-live vaccines whilst breastfeeding. The JCVI advises that breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with the BioNTech/Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19, and the woman should be informed about the absence of safety data for the vaccine in breastfeeding women.

Children

There are no data available on COVID-19 vaccination in young children and only limited data in adolescents. At present there are no plans to prioritise children for vaccination and the JCVI advises that only those children at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes should be offered vaccination. The majority of extremely vulnerable children should therefore continue to shield.

Doses

The vaccine is given in two doses. As per government advice, we strongly recommend accepting both doses to provide stronger and longer lasting protection.

Suitability

Both the BioNtec/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are suitable for vegetarians (they do not contain egg or egg based preparations) and do not contain any animal or human product.

People who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised, for example transplant recipients, should talk with their specialist doctor or team as to whether they may be able to have the vaccine.

People with a history of severe allergic reaction are currently being advised not to take the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may be safer in this respect and this should be discussed with a GP.

Effectiveness of vaccine

This vaccine has been tested in a large group of people, of all ages, and is 95% effective. It works well in men and women and people of different ages, races and ethnicities. People with pre-existing conditions who were stable (they had not needed a change in treatment or hospitalisation during the 6 weeks prior to the study) also received the vaccine, and the vaccine was safe and effective in this group of people as well.

Side effects

No serious side effects were reported in the study testing this vaccine.

It is normal to expect some discomfort at the injection site and some mild symptoms such as raised temperature. These symptoms should settle within 24-48 hours. Mild painkillers can be taken after the injection as needed (paracetamol etc.)

Further information

There is no information currently about the other vaccines as they are currently being assessed by the regulator (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).

More information can be found on the NHS Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine page: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/

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