Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

This information was last updated on 01 September 2021.

Details about the vaccine we will be using

We will receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which was developed by Oxford University and approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) on 30 December 2020. Unlike other versions of the vaccine it does not need to be stored at super-cool temperatures which makes it easier to transport to the Falkland Islands and to store at this end.

Current data shows that the overall efficacy of the vaccine is 70.4%, but this has involved a pooled analysis of three separate trials using different dosing strategies. Most importantly, continuing trials indicate that it will be a major tool in our ability to combat the pandemic.

However, even after receiving your vaccine, you will still need to follow public health advice to protect yourself and others, as no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get Covid-19 despite having a vaccination, although the illness they experience should be less severe. Clinical evidence suggests that the vaccine is most effective, particularly for longer term protection, following the second dose of the vaccine.

We are not the guinea pigs; the UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people. As of 14 March, 24,453,221 people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, which will either be Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca.

We have received four batches of Oxford/AstraZeneca to date and have been able to fully immunise the majority of our adult population.

People will need two doses of the vaccine. The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has approved the interval for receiving the second dose as being between 28 days to 12 weeks after the first dose, in order to become fully immunised. We are looking at scheduling our second dose of vaccination approximately six weeks after the first dose.

Plans for delivering booster injections in the UK are still under development, although those who are most vulnerable are being prioritised for their booster first. We continue to have regular discussions with the UK to understand how and when a booster regime might be delivered in the Falkland Islands. Durability of immunity is something that scientists are continuing to investigate at this stage of the pandemic, in order to build a longer term plan for future immunisation requirements.

Health and safety concerns

People may have seen recent media stories linking the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots, and some countries have temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine. However, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said the evidence does not suggest that the jab causes clots. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also said there is no reason to stop using it, stating: “There is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus.” Throughout the pandemic, KEMH has kept in continuous contact with national health bodies in the UK, including Public Health England, to ensure that we are using the most up-to-date evidence and information and are kept abreast of the latest clinical trials. This remains the case during the rollout of the KEMH vaccination programme.

It is true that all Covid-19 vaccines have been developed in under a year, but despite the speed, none of the trials have skipped any steps – instead some of the stages have overlapped. Vaccine trials can be held up due to waiting for funding, resources and permissions to be approved, but because of the worldwide impact of the pandemic, a huge amount of support was put into vaccine development efforts across the globe. The vaccine is still subject to the same approvals process even if it were developed over a longer period of time.

Reported side effects of the vaccine are mainly pain/redness/swelling/tenderness at the injection site. Some people may also experience mild flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, headache, general aches or chills. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has a very small number of ingredients so the risk of allergic reaction is very small, even for individuals who are known to be prone to allergic reactions.

After being given the vaccine, there will be a 15-minute observation period to check that people are not experiencing any significant side effects. You should be able to resume normal activities after your vaccination, although if your arm is particularly sore you may find heavy lifting difficult. If you feel very tired or unwell you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving. If symptoms last for more than a week, please contact KEMH on 28000 for advice.

1) Needle phobia

They will still be offered the opportunity to receive the vaccination and KEMH will work with each individual to find the least possible stressful way of administering the vaccine.

2) Allergy to ingredients

Allergic reactions to vaccines are rare and the widely reported incidences have all been related to administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. There are no contraindications to the administration of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, apart from known allergy to one of the substances within the vaccine or to previous administration of the vaccine itself. This means that even those who carry EpiPens due to known anaphylactic reactions can safely receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

3) Existing medical conditions

Although the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a live virus, it is not replicating, so even those who are on immunosuppression treatment are able to safely receive the vaccine.

Individuals on anticoagulant therapy (such as warfarin or a NOAC) can also safely receive the vaccine although they are more likely to develop bruising at the site of the injection.

4) Personal conviction

As the vaccine is not mandatory, if people have a personal conviction which prohibits them from taking the vaccine, such as a religious belief, then that is their choice to make. There are no ingredients within the vaccine that go against any of any of the major religious groups, such as Islam or Judaism.

The UK Vegan Society has released a statement addressing this issue as follows: “It has never been more important for us to talk about the definition of veganism in the context of medications, including vaccines. The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable to avoid animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations. In the case of Covid-19, vaccination will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. As all vaccines currently are tested on animals, at this stage it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.”

There’s no chance of catching Covid-19 because the virus within the vaccine is not actively replicating. While you may experience minor side-effects, which are synonymous with Covid-19 symptoms, this is just your body responding to the vaccine and not an indication that you have Covid-19. As with any ‘flu-like symptoms, should you continue to experience these for more than a week you should call KEMH on 28000 for advice.

Ideally it is better to wait until you have recovered, but you should still have it as soon as possible. If you feel unwell during your allotted slot for vaccination please contact KEMH on 28000 for advice.

Every virus mutates, it is part of its life cycle. In the case of Covid-19, medical scientists believe that the changes seen across the globe have not mutated enough from the original strain to render any of the coronavirus vaccines ineffective. Although there are still clinical studies being conducted on emerging new strains, the indications are that current vaccines are likely to be able to protect people against the original strain and new mutations as well.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine and is based on different technology to the Pfizer/Biotech and Moderna vaccines which are mRNA vaccines – which stands for messenger RNA. RNA is similar to DNA, but its role is to tell human cells how to make coronavirus spike proteins to prime the immune system and guard against infection. There is no way that RNA can change DNA.

Who will be vaccinated and when

Most adults who are ordinarily resident in the Falkland Islands have now received both doses of the vaccine via the KEMH vaccine programme which began in February 2021. We used the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) tier-based system to determine priority groupings for our population using evidence-based decisions on vaccination schedules and safety. Anyone who still requires a first or second dose is asked to contact KEMH directly to discuss their options by calling 28000.

We are offering the vaccine to everyone aged 18 and over as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is not licenced for use in people below the age of 18.

BFSAI has been carrying out a vaccination programme, also using the JCVI tier-based system as we have done for the rest of the Falkland Islands population. Where possible, extra vaccines are also held in reserve to continue a rolling vaccination programme for new personnel arriving into the Falkland Islands, if they have not already received their first or second dose during their previous posting.

Receiving your vaccine

Usually through an injection to the muscle of the upper arm, if it is not medically viable for a person to receive an injection in this area, they might instead receive the injection in their buttock or upper thigh.

Provided you have sufficient muscle mass, you can choose which arm you prefer to have the injection in and can elect to have each dose in a different arm if you wish.

No, you cannot. Most people will receive the vaccine via an injection to the muscle of the upper arm. In cases where this is not possible, an alternative site will be determined by healthcare professionals and not by the individual patient. This is due to the need to optimise the effectiveness of the vaccine and minimise the potential for adverse reactions – both of which are clinical judgements.

Yes, you can. KEMH has a record of people who are in quarantine or self-isolating. It may be that we decide that it would be preferable to defer your vaccination until you have completed your quarantine or self-isolation, but either way you will not miss out on the vaccination programme.

No, but do remember to take your reading glasses if you need them, as you will need to complete a consent form prior to having your vaccine. This paperwork will be completed on the day and just prior to you receiving your vaccine.

After being given the vaccine, there will be a 15-minute observation period to check that people are not experiencing any significant side effects. A member of staff will tell you when you can leave.

Most people will experience mild side effects, such as pain/redness/swelling/tenderness at the injection site. Some people may also experience mild flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, headache, general aches or chills. If you feel very tired or unwell you should rest and avoid operating machinery or driving. If symptoms last for more than a week, please contact KEMH on 28000.

If you need to leave the Islands, please speak to KEMH to inform them of your travel plans so that they can develop the best solution for administering both doses of your vaccine in the necessary timeframe.

Keeping the community safe from Covid-19

Medical evidence shows that you can still pass on the virus even if you have been vaccinated. Most vaccines reduce the overall risk of infection, but some vaccinated people may still get a milder version of the illness as well as be able to pass it on to others.

Quarantine is a legal requirement in the Falkland Islands, however if you have received two doses of your vaccine you are eligible to take part in the 5-day test to release programme. If you have not been vaccinated, are partially vaccinated, or travel to the Falkland Islands with children then you can choose to participate in the 8-day test to release programme. For details of these, please visit: https://www.fig.gov.fk/covid-19/quarantine

No, there is no provision in law to make the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory. Current regulations give the government powers to prevent, control or mitigate the spread of an infection or contamination, but explicitly cannot require a person to undertake medical treatment, including vaccinations.

The government is strongly encouraging eligible people to get the vaccine, but it is not compulsory. Firstly, there are people who will not be able to receive the vaccine. Secondly, as with swabbing, a vaccine is an invasive procedure and no government in the world has made either type of intervention mandatory. We want people to be at the centre of decisions about their own health, rather than for the government to legislate on matters relating to private and personal freedoms.

Herd immunity hinges on vaccination, because without a vaccine the only way to become immune is to become infected. Not everyone will be able to receive the vaccine, so we are relying on the majority of the population to get vaccinated in order to protect the most vulnerable.

The vaccine is being provided free of charge by the UK government. There are likely to be some logistical and resource costs attached to the overall vaccination programme in order to roll it out across the Falkland Islands, but these will be met by FIG’s existing Covid-19 budget.

Everyone will receive a card, following their second dose, which states that they have been fully immunised. Depending on where you may be travelling to, it may be that you are required to provide additional evidence, so please check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to.

This is not the current policy and it would be a political decision should it be introduced. The government has a system in place to regularly review its Covid-19 protocols to ensure that they are still suitable for the protection of public health; this includes looking at all of the latest evidence and determining where changes to existing measures may be necessary. It’s important to remember that every country is having to vaccinate its people and that for nations with big populations, it will take them longer to be able to vaccination everyone who needs it.

Our first priority has been to protect the Falkland Islands community, however with the arrival of a third batch of vaccines in August, we have been able to not only continue immunising those in our local population who didn’t receive their doses during the February and May rollouts (for example, individuals who only recently turned 18), but also have been able to immunise crews from vessels which have been fishing in Falkland Islands waters. We want to make the best possible use of our vaccines, so that none are wasted, which is why we will use our stocks to protect as many people as possible from the disease.

As with every other country, the UK will determine who should receive the vaccine based on clinical need and, to date, have vaccinated most of their adult population (including students over the age of 18). Given the fact that Falkland Islands students who are studying at university tend to travel outside of term time, it may be the case that they can receive their first dose here and then their second in the UK, or vice versa. In terms of students studying in the UK who are under 16, they may be eligible for vaccination using an alternative version of the vaccine that has been licenced in the UK for younger people. We would recommend that anyone living in the UK for an extended period of time ensures that they are registered with a local GP as this will ensure they are called forward for vaccination (if needed) at the appropriate time.

Vaccinating our community is a big step in protecting ourselves against the threat of Covid-19. However, there are still many other considerations to take into account before we can resume many of our usual activities, including how the pandemic is continuing to impact on other countries. The government regularly reviews our Covid-19 policies and procedures to ensure that these remain fit for purpose – for example the reduction in quarantine – and will continue to take a measured and evidence-based approach to relaxing existing measures in the months ahead.

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