The Covid vaccination programme, combined with months of strict lockdown measures, has helped to significantly drive down coronavirus cases across the UK.
More than 54 million people have now received at least one vaccine dose, while almost 19 million are fully vaccinated - which is 28.3 per cent of the population.
NHS England is now inviting people aged between 38 and 39 to book their jabs, with the UK government saying it is on track to offer every adult a vaccine by the end of July.
But while the coronavirus vaccine uptake has been much higher than expected, particularly when compared to the uptake of the flu vaccine, there are still people who may be avoiding making an appointment when they are called due to concerns.
These concerns may stem from a host of misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines that have been circulating online, with social media posts, images and videos continuing to spread false information.
Here, NationalWorld has asked leading health experts and doctors to dispel some of the most common myths about the Covid vaccine.
Will the vaccine give me Covid?
Dr Ayan Basu, MSc Immunology, MSc Molecular Medicine and spokesperson for Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), explained that none of the Covid vaccines cause the disease they are immunising against.
He said: “These vaccines only deliver an inactive piece of the coronavirus (the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein). They do not infect cells, or overwhelm the immune system and organs, in the same way as the disease itself.
“Vaccines can give short-term side effects when the immune system is responding as intended, but these are not typical of the disease itself, and will not cause the disease.
“The vaccine delivers just a sample fragment of the virus.”
If the vaccine doesn’t cause Covid, why do I still get symptoms?
The Covid vaccines can cause minor symptoms for a short time after, with the most common being a sore arm or a mild fever, and can often be controlled by taking paracetamol.
More serious side effects only tend to occur in a very small number of cases, although this is extremely rare.
Professor Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds, explained: “If you put a small piece of the virus in your body you will have an associated set of symptoms. But it is important to note that none of the vaccines are what you call a live vaccine.
“They cannot make you unwell in the same way flu jabs cannot make you ill. They are a way of programming your body against the virus.
“I cannot think of a single vaccine trial where any adverse effect has happened after four weeks, that is extremely rare.
“The symptoms are a sign that your immune response is doing something. A day or two of feeling rough is better than ending up in hospital on a ventilator.
“Any medicine is about the benefit versus the risk, and the benefits of getting the Covid vaccine far outweighs the risk.”
If clinical trials for the Covid jabs were completed so quickly, are they really safe?
Prof Griffin explained that while clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccines were completed within a year, the numbers of people involved in the trials were so vast that the testing was actually much more comprehensive than normal.
The Covid vaccine trials had tens of thousands of people working on them - between 40,000 to 50,000 people - and as such, this made identifying any adverse side effects much easier.
Dr Basu added: “The vaccines were tested on enough people to rule out extremely rare events, some of which have only become evident with massive numbers of vaccinations.
“When these events came to light, a vaccination strategy to minimize risk to those with lower risk from Covid-19 was adopted.”
Can having the vaccine cause alterations to your DNA?
Both Prof Griffin and Dr Basu said this claim is absolutely false. Vaccines simply deliver the genetic material of a small part of the surface of the virus into the body.
Dr Basu explained: “There are two main ways that Covid genetic code is used by today’s vaccines.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik V use an inactivated ‘vector’ (adenovirus) that enters cells but does not cause any disease.
“The vector comes connected to DNA coding for spike protein from the surface of Covid-19. Our cells make the Spike protein from these instructions, but it does not change DNA inside the nucleus of cells.
“Once the Spike protein is made, the immune system can mount an immune response to dispose of it. This is what educates the immune system for Covid-19.
“The second is mRNA vaccines. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna use this technology. It also contains genetic code for the spike protein, as mRNA or ‘messenger RNA’ inside a packaging, the genetic material that nature uses to make proteins.
“It is purer than adenoviral vaccines, as it only contains the coronavirus genetic material, that is made into only the Spike protein of the virus. This process also does not alter any DNA.”
Can Covid vaccines cause infertility? And if not, why were pregnant women initially advised not to take it?
Some information circulating online has alleged there is a connection between the Covid vaccine and infertility in women, with claims some women became infertile as a result of having the jab.
Dr César Díaz-García, Fertility specialist and Medical Director of IVI London, said there is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility in either women or men, and advised that people should go and get their jab as directed by their doctor.
He said: “It was only a precaution to advise pregnant women not to take the vaccine and this is simply because it hadn’t been extensively tested on pregnant women.
“Pregnant women are historically excluded from clinical trials, and they were also excluded from most Covid vaccination trials.
“That being said, so far there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine could cause a negative effect in pregnancy.
“None of the authorised vaccines contain any live virus, which means they cannot multiply inside the body. Without containing organisms that can multiply, there is no risk that the vaccine can have a negative effect on an unborn baby.”
Dr Ellen Welch, editorial lead at DAUK, had two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine while she was pregnant, and said her decision was based on weighing up the risks.
Dr Welch explained: “I received both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine while pregnant and for me, the risks of having long Covid, or being in intensive care with the disease, far outweighed the risks of being vaccinated, but the choice is a personal one.
“The RCOG have useful resources to help women make this decision. But there is no evidence that these vaccinations cause infertility or problems during pregnancy."
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