Falkland Islands Government
COVID-19: Information and Guidance

Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

This information was last updated on 02 May 2022.

Details about the vaccine we will be using

At the start of the KEMH vaccination programme in February 2021, we were given doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine unlike others at the time, did not need to be stored at super-cool temperatures which made it easier to transport to the Falkland Islands and to store.

Since then we have also received doses of the Moderna vaccine for people aged 12 and over, and the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11; these COVID-19 vaccines are also approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).

You may receive different vaccines depending on when you receive your dose. However, this does not impact on the overall efficacy of your vaccinations and you will still be considered fully immunised, regardless of the type of vaccine given. 

We will only ever use vaccines that are approved by the MHRA and will administer these in accordance with the latest guidance given by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation).

For more information on the MHRA, please visit Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

For more information on the JCVI, please visit: Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

The World Health Organization collects data on the effectiveness (or efficacy) of each type of vaccination.

This is the latest information from the WHO on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine: what you need to know (who.int)

This is the latest information from the WHO on the Moderna vaccine: The Moderna COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) vaccine: what you need to know (who.int)  

This is the latest information from the WHO on the Pfizer vaccine: The Pfizer BioNTech (BNT162b2) COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know (who.int)

Initially the guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was that people would need two doses of the vaccine, however given the need to maintain protection against severe COVID-19 disease, specifically hospitalisation and deaths, the JCVI has stated that it is preferable to ensure protection is maintained at a high level, rather than implement a booster programme too late to prevent large increases of severe COVID-19 in previously double vaccinated individuals. It advised that people over the age of 16 who are double vaccinated should also receive a booster - this approach was escalated in September 2021, due to the discovery of the Omicron variant in November 2021.A booster was first offered in the last quarter of 2021 and now an additional booster is being offered to the highest risk patients those aged 75+.  At present, it is not known whether recurrent boosters will be required in the long term but they are likely to be required in the medium term.

Health and safety concerns

People may have seen media stories linking the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots, and some countries 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 vaccines 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 vaccines have 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.

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

Most people with allergies (including food or penicillin allergies) can be vaccinated against COVID-19. Tell healthcare staff before you're vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis). They may ask what you're allergic to, to make sure you can have the vaccine. Serious allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines are very rare. If you do have a reaction, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately. If you have a serious allergic reaction to the first dose of a vaccine, you should not have the same vaccine for your second dose.

The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of an extremely rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It's not yet clear why it affects some people. The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. For people aged 40 or over and those with other health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk of clotting problems. For people under 40 without other health conditions, it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

There have been rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) reported after COVID-19 vaccination. Most people who had this recovered following rest and simple treatments. Get urgent medical advice if you have any of these symptoms within a few days of being vaccinated: chest pain, shortness of breath, a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations).

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. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine do not contain any live virus and cannot cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses.

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’ve tested positive for COVID-19, you need to wait before having a booster dose of the vaccine:

  • If you're 18 years old or over you should wait 4 weeks (28 days)
  • If you're 16 or 17 years old you should wait 12 weeks (84 days)
  • If you're 12 to 15 years old and at high-risk from COVID-19 you should wait 4 weeks (28 days)
  • If you're 12-15 and "normal" risk you should wait 12 weeks (84 days)

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 Omicron variant is still very new, but this is the current JCVI advice on the UK vaccine response to the new mutation: JCVI advice on the UK vaccine response to the Omicron variant - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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.

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.

A consent form will need to be completed prior to having your first vaccine, and will be done on the day. Please remember to take your reading glasses if you need them. After your vaccine you will be given a COVID-19 vaccination card, please keep this safe as you will need to bring it with you when you have your second 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.

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 may people who will not be able to receive the vaccine, (for example for religious reasons). 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 subsequent batches of vaccines, 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 2021 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.