Covid vaccine programme rolling onCoronavirus will 'not be eradicated with vaccination' like smallpox - BBC Science Focus Magazine

At last, there is a cautious but optimistic air now the vaccine programme is rolling out successfully

However, for those who may have genuine medical reasons to check the vaccine, the NHS can’t be bothered

For those who want facts

You are probably reading this because you have had worrying side effects from cancer drugs, etc. You might be from an ethnic minority, or one of the tiny percentage who could have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and want to check before accepting the vaccine.  We have every right to do so – but why the reluctance to give us information, or help us check before taking the vaccine?

All the information, including the expensive 12 page 4-colour leaflet that is sent out with our vaccination letter, passes the buck.  Phone calls, online forms etc. send one round and round and back again.  It’s time the NHS offered a one-stop Helpline to answer sensible queries.

Now, a Minister has been appointed in charge of the vaccine programme.  But before you contact Nadhim in his capacity as Minister for Vaccine Deployment, the contact details are a bit suspect.  The offical Government website says …… please direct all enquiries to the Department of Health & Social Care here or by calling 0207 210 4850. Alternatively, you can contact your own Member of Parliament.

After a half-hour bad-tempered conversation with the Dept. Health, who categorically assured me they knew nothing about this, I have sent off a please to my MP.  And am waiting!  I know Whitehall is in a state of War between different departments, but there is no need to take this out on the public.

At last – some honesty

As a medical journalist, I like US Government medical websites, and have been turning to the US Food and Drug Administration site

As does the NHS Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam, who mentioned this website (twice) in his excellent 45-min TV interview.  Strange – previously a senior member of the local 111 team told me they are not allowed to access this site “because it isn’t an NHS one”, although she admitted it had the best information.

Let’s hope Mr. Van Tam can have words with 111, because we need the best information, whatever nationality produces it.  The interview is here

And if you want cancer-related covid information, see

Checking short cuts

Meantime, I go checking every agency that might help us.

The Patients’ Association was founded to give patients a voice, and Angela from their helpline comes up with info that provides reliable answers to many vaccine concerns.  Your questions may very likely have an answer here

When my questions didn’t have an answer

I always check before taking a new drug, to ensure that it won’t (hopefully) give me more problems.  Currently I have become a ‘cyber-pall’ of Jo, a super helpful person in NHS England, but even she can’t find a way for me to check  information, people who have genuine concerns over the vaccine aren’t being catered for.  I wonder how many are being lumped in with anti-vaxxers?  Surely it’s time the NHS came clean?  Honesty is always the best policy.

Their cop-out is “Ask your GP”.

Almost 3.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are understood to be awaiting approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory AgencyMy GP is far too busy organising a massive vaccine roll-out, but helpfully suggests the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the better bet for me, as I have a hisgtory of allergies.  She then sends over the list of vacciner ingredients saying “let me know when YOU find out if this is OK for you”.

Will you have the vaccine?

For over 200 years vaccines have done a fantastic job ridding us of diseases such as smallpox, diptheria, etc.  If Salk had produced his vaccine before I caught polio, I would have avoided a lifetime of disability. But I blessed the anti-rabies vaccine that saved my life when I was bitten by a rabid dog.

But I also grew up in a circle that was heavily involved in raising funds to get compensation for those who suffered from Thalidomide, so have learnt to be wary when a new drug appears.  I don’t take a new one without asking about possible side effects.

Anyone who has been treated with the cocktail of drugs cancer patients are given, or who has a history of allergies should check before taking any new drug.  With the massive vaccination programme rolling out globally there are bound to be some reactions.

Allergic reactions

MHRA are no longer advising as a precaution that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to any vaccine, medicine or food do not get the vaccine. However, their advice remains that individuals should not get the vaccine if they have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients or if they experience anaphylaxis after the first dose. Individuals should be closely observed for at least 15 minutes following vaccination.

They also advise if anyone has a severe or bad reaction after receiving the vaccination, they MUST report this via the Yellow Card scheme.  Get info from

This updated advice follows enhanced surveillance since the initial precautionary advice was issued, which has found no evidence of an increased risk of anaphylaxis in those with prior severe allergic reactions, other than to the vaccine and its ingredients.

Ingredients for each vaccine can be found at point #6 at each of the following links:

Customer services line (staffed weekdays 9am to 5pm): 020 3080 6000

MHRA say talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before you are given the vaccine if you have concerns.  However, if you have had an allergic reaction in the past, it might be sensible to make an appointment to talk this over,

Vaccine safety is of paramount importance and they continually monitor the safety of vaccines to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. The MHRA encourages anyone to report any suspicion or concern they have beyond the known, mild side effects on the Coronavirus Yellow Card site. Reporters do not need to be sure of a link between a vaccine and a suspected side effect but are still encouraged to report

If you are a cancer survivor see below for info from Dana-Farber Hospital.

Hapless Hancock and his colleagues haven’t any idea when I phone the Dept. Health.  They should listen to GPs like Dr. Michael Firzpatrick, who told me  “If you google ‘Green Book Covid-19 vaccination‘ that will take you to the latest edition of the chapter in the handbook produced by the official vaccination committee (JCVI).

Page 14 onwards has detailed information on Contraindications, Precautions, Adverse Events, Reactions etc.
The MHRA has issued the following advice::  Any person with a history of a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food (such as previous history of anaphylactoid reaction or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector) should not receive the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.
And on Verywell, a US medical website that has explanations, information, facts etc.  Rupali Limaye, MD, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explains part of the issue regarding these messages is that they had to change. And that’s because science—and the virus—is always evolving  See more on
Verywell also gives this information:  People who have had any anaphylactic reaction in the past are asked to wait for half an hour (after vaccination), in case of an anaphylaxis reaction.  Anaphylaxis can be reversed with a drug called epinephrine that health facilities distributing the COVID-19 vaccines must have on hand. 
I do finally get in touch with AstraZeneca researchers,  in Finland and Portugal. Both offices tell me that they can’t talk to me, and will only talk to my GP.  What a time-wasting cop-out.

Eventually the Merry-go-round on the Helplines works!

How does one can get through to the NHS that it is sensible to discuss possible side effects before taking a new drug? Simples, but Hapless Hancock and his team don’t posses Common Sense.

I am running out of optionsAnd  until my inbox starts up with emails from Dana-Farber  Hospital, (one of the top Dana-Farber buildingcancer hospitals in the world) who come up with definite. but non-scary information if I have had allergies from drugs : .

And then the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) say those with numerous allergic reactions should check first, and even has YouTube videos

Finally, I call the Macmillan helpline, and get a really helpful and informative Glaswegian Chemo nurse.  He talks me through the pros and cons, and gives me enough accurate and up-to-date information to realise that I was right to investigate further.  0808 808 00 00

After, I phone the CRUK (Cancer Research UK) Helpline.  Just as helpful as Macmillan.  The Nurse asks pertinent questions, then gives me sensible advice.  0808 800 4040

Why was vaccine approval so quick?

One of my medical friends send me a video explanation featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci, the American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

After vaccine, should you still wear a mask?
The NCCN (American National Comprehensive Cancer Network) says  “The guidance acknowledges that although these vaccines have been shown to be safe in general populations, their effectiveness among cancer and transplant patients is not precisely known at present. Available data from vaccine trials have demonstrated that vaccines decrease the incidence of COVID-19 disease and complications, but it is unclear if these vaccines prevent infection and subsequent transmission. Therefore, everyone should continue to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, and follow other recommendations for preventing COVID-19 acquisition and transmission, even after vaccination. The committee feels strongly that caregivers and other members of the same household should also be encouraged to get the vaccine as soon they are considered eligible where they live”.
Any other problems?

You must turn up for your second dose. Make sure, if you have received your first dose, you return for the follow-up.

The US medical media company Healthline has information on contents, so you could check these – but it is only a start, and the NHS needs to be more open on what this vaccine contains


But why – with all the resources that have been thrown at the vaccine process – has no-one thought to have an official department to answer sensible queries about genuine vaccine concerns?


Share This