COVID-19 Vaccine – an outlook of a GP

Our guest blogger this month is Dr Fey Mendes of Holborn Medical Centre. Dr Mendes has been at the Holborn Medical Centre since 2017 where she was initial trained before becoming a salaried GP. She also has a background in Biomedical Sciences, completing a degree in Pathobiology before embarking on her medical career. 

2020 was a difficult year for many. As a local Camden GP, I saw COVID-19 affecting people in many different ways. Both patients and staff have been coping with sickness, loss, grief, and uncertainty. Changes to community services and the strain on our local hospitals have caused disappointment and frustration. Numerous patients are still awaiting routine operations and hospital appointments. Local community centres and drop-in services have been forced to close, with support services reduced. I have also seen an increase in the number of consultations relating to mental health. In addition to physical health problems, many people have lost jobs, loved ones, and are reconciling unexpected changes to their lives and futures each day.

2020 has also taught us that huge social and economic inequalities still exist in our society. Sadly, this has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic with certain communities and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected. Some of my patients who belong to these communities have understandably expressed feelings of fear, confusion and mistrust.

Most worryingly, these communities are also most likely to be targeted by social media campaigns spreading inaccurate information about the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine. This has been echoed by colleagues across the borough of Camden. They share my concern that the most vulnerable members of our local community may be placed at an even greater risk of harm.

At Holborn Medical Centre, we have been working hard to support patients infected by the virus, with help from our community teams and COVID-19 hot hub. Many patients have been supported with caring for themselves at home so that our local hospitals are able to care for our sickest patients when needed.  

Despite our losses and collective grief, hope is alive and well. Ive been impressed by the patience, care and resilience that our community has shown. We have rallied around our most vulnerable. Many people have volunteered to help with shopping, delivering medication and virtuallybefriending those who are isolated and vulnerable.  

Holborn Medical Centre and many other local GP surgeries have made changes to ensure patients can continue to safely access GP services throughout the pandemic. Patients have been extremely understanding and adapted quickly to these changes. Feedback has been largely positive with many making use of the increased telephone, video and e-consult appointments available. Locally and nationally, we have demonstrated that care, compassion and a willingness to adapt can sustain us, even in the most challenging times.  

A number of patients have contacted the surgery with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. It is important to make sure everyone feels confident and supported in making the right choice. They are a number of myths circulating. Here are some facts that may be helpful to know:

  • Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases, they do not give you the disease. ​
  • The COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses to ensure it is the most effective.
  • The new strain of COVID-19 is a version of the virus that has undergone some mutations or changes. There is currently no evidence that the vaccines will not protect people against the new strain.
  • Yes, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine even if youve already had the virus! The bodys natural immune system does have some memory which helps protect us against future infections. However, current evidence suggests this is really short-lived with COVID-19. Vaccines boost your bodys natural immune response to provide more effective and long-lasting protection. ​
  • Solely relying on your body’s natural immunity to protect you is not advisable. While some people may have a ‘milder’ illness once infected others can become severely unwell very quickly. Our local hospitals are caring for patients both young and old with severe infections.​
  • There are no animal products or cells from aborted foetuses in any of the vaccines being administered.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine has been recently endorsed by the British Islamic Medical Council. You can read more about this here

The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan in place. The government is following scientific advice to vaccinate the most vulnerable people first, including those who live or work in care homes, people over 80, and health and social care workers. The full prioritisation list can be found here

It will take some time to get everyone vaccinated, and we all have a role to play to help with the process: 

  • Please do not contact the NHS for a vaccine, your local vaccination hub will contact you when it is your turn.
  • When you are contacted, please attend your appointment on time. 

At Holborn Medical Centre we are contacting patients by phone and text. You will be contacted by a vaccination hub which may be a local GP surgery, hospital or community centre. If your contact details have changed recently make sure you contact your GP surgery and update these as soon as possible. 

When you are contacted, you will be provided with details about where to go. It could be at your usual GP practice, or at a different location in your community. No matter where you are told to go, the location will be safe and secure. The vaccine will be free of charge. Do not trust anyone who is offering you the vaccine for a price.  

Vaccines sometimes produce mild side effects such as fever and pain at the site of injection. These are normal and dont affect everyone. The three available Covid-19 vaccines in thr UK (Moderna, Pfizer, Oxford/Astra Zeneca) have all been through rigorous safety testing. You wont be able to choose which vaccine you get however all have been proven to be safe and effective.  

One thing that binds us all is the hope that we will start to see our lives resembling normality’ again soon. While we cant let our guards down yet, the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine is a promising light at the end of the tunnel. Getting your COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available to you is one of the most effective ways we can all help bring this pandemic to an end. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched everyone in a unique way. I believe that vaccination is the only chance we have, to overcome this pandemic. It gives us the opportunity to take back some control over our lives following a year when so many of us have lost so much. The vaccine can help to protect us from the devastating effects of COVID-19. Personally, I am looking forward to the day when I can hug my 91-year-old grandmother again and enjoy a stroll down to our local market. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that life is truly precious, and we must work together to protect our little slice of it.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, including their safety and efficacy, please visit the NHS website here. If you have any questions that cannot be answered by the information contained in the link above then please contact your GP who will be happy to help you.

Woman receiving an injection