Four in 10 (40%) of the 186 respondents to the poll – which ran on the C+D website from December 3 to December 11 – said they are “not confident that a vaccine that has been developed so quickly will be safe” and for this reason will not get a COVID-19 jab.
An additional 16% said they will not get a COVID-19 vaccine because they “have reservations about vaccines in general”.
More than a quarter (27%) said they will get a vaccine “as soon as it’s available”, while 17% will protect themselves against the virus by having the jab “but not immediately” as they “have concerns about how fast [the vaccine has] been developed”.
C+D launched its poll following the announcement last week (December 2) that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had been approved for use in the UK.
Healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are expected to be the second cohort to be able to get vaccinated, after elderly people and care workers.
Earlier this week (December 9), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) specified that “any person with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine”. This followed two reported cases of anaphylaxis and one “possible allergic reaction” to the vaccine, the MHRA said. However, it added that “most people will not get anaphylaxis”.
Persuade those who need it
Kent-based locum pharmacist Neil Sinclair will get the vaccine “as soon as it’s available”. He told C+D today: "I feel it’s our duty to get ourselves vaccinated as soon as possible so we can encourage others to do it. In my case, I can also say that my health isn’t perfect but I would rather take a very small risk than contract a disease which will certainly knock me out for several weeks."
Paul Watson, pharmacist partner at Kingston Pharmacy in Hull, East Yorkshire, said he would get a COVID-19 vaccine but “not immediately”.
People who “would benefit most from vaccination” should be persuaded to get it, Mr Watson told C+D.
“However, for a very large number of younger healthier people, I cannot see why the unknown and untested potential of long-term side effects of a vaccine should be risked against the possibility of catching a virus – which is unlikely to be much more than a minor inconvenience – if anything at all,” he added.
A pharmacy manager based in Hertfordshire who wishes to remain anonymous said they are not confident that “a COVID-19 vaccine that has been developed so quickly will be safe”.
As a person from an Asian background, the pharmacist feels it is important to understand what proportion of participants from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community were involved in the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine clinical trials, they said.
RPS: “Seek and accept advice” on COVID-19 vaccine
An MHRA spokesperson told C+D yesterday (December 10) that the “general safety profile” of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is similar to other vaccines already in use and that while “like all medicines, it can cause side effects – most of these are mild and short-term and not everyone gets them”.
COVID-19 vaccines “require continuous safety monitoring” that manufacturers have a legal obligation to undertake, the spokesperson said. This applies to “any vaccine or medicine”, they added.
“No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met,” the MHRA spokesperson said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Sandra Gidley told C+D yesterday that pharmacy professionals who might have reservations about a COVID-19 vaccine should “seek and accept advice from health professionals and experts in this field”.
“We have every confidence in the MHRA approval process. We appreciate, however, that during the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19, there may be different individual responses to the vaccine.
“This is not unusual in the administration of medicines and vaccines. We are very pleased to see that the allergic reactions seen in some patients has been identified early and this reaction is being addressed,” Ms Gidley added.
A National Pharmacy Association (NPA) spokesperson told C+D yesterday that community pharmacists play an important role “both in administering and communicating to the public about the vaccine”.
“As highly trusted health care professionals and experts in medicines seeing more patients every day than any other part of the NHS, we are well placed to provide reassurance about the rigorous nature of the registration process and the value of this vital vaccination programme.”
Professor Mahendra Patel says pharmacists can tackle patient misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines by reassuring them about safety concerns. Listen to C+D's podcast here.