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#AskDrH: Dr Hilary Jones answers your question on the vaccine and lockdown

The government is aiming to vaccinate all of the top four categories of the most vulnerabe people in the country by the middle of February but it could take as long as Easter.

Dr Hilary Jones answers audience questions on the vaccine, the vaccine rollout, the South African variant and when restrictions could end.

Why are some GPs still giving the second dose of the Pfizer 3 weeks after the first dose when others have delayed it to 12 weeks?

Dr Hilary said: "GPs are using their discretion. So if an elderly person arrives at the surgery and there is availability of the vaccine which has to be stored very carefully and has to be used within a certain timeframe then there's no reason why that second dose can't be given.

"The directive right now is that people invited for the second dose will be 12 weeks after the first dose.

Is it safe to have the vaccine if you've caught the virus in the days before or after the jab and have no symptoms?

Dr Hilary said: "The vaccination is safe. You're only giving a tiny fraction of the genetic material of the virus not the whole virus so it can't give you Covid-19 and it will stimulate antibodies whether you already have them or not.

"There are plenty who have been vaccinated who've already had Covid because we don't know if the infection confers lasting immunity so the vaccine is still important."

My daughter has an allergy to penicillin, can she have the vaccine?

Dr Hilary said: "Absolutely. About 10% of the population are allergic to penicillin and antibiotic and it doesn't mean that you can't have the vaccine. The vaccine can even be given to anyone with anaphylaxis, people with severe allergies, provided they're not allergic to any of the excipients of the vaccine - that's the diluent solution that the vaccine is in.

My 82-year-old mum gets her first vaccination today, will she have to carry on following the lockdown rules or will it give her some sort of normality?

Dr Hilary said: "She still needs to follow the social distancing rules and all the other guidelines because her immunity won't be there for about three weeks. You're not given antibodies when you have the vaccine, you're given the wherewithal to make your own antibodies and that takes at least three weeks.

"You get a better protection after the second jab but you get very good protection after the first jab."

I've had a heart attack (or blood thinners) in the past can I still have the vaccine?

Dr Hilary said: "No it doesn't stop you having the vaccine. It's even more important if you have a history of heart disease to have the vaccine because you are one of the most vulnerable people. There are very few people who shouldn't have the vaccine. It's perfectly safe."

How cautious do we need to be about transmitting the virus in enclosed spaces or if someone is exercising near us in an open space?

Dr Hilary said: "Enclosed spaces are much more likely to transmit the virus and I think there's evidence that supermarkets have been an area where there's been concern and spreading has occurred. So following the one way system is important, always wearing a mask, sanitising regularly and not touching fresh food and putting it back."

Is the South African variant more deadly?

Dr Hilary said: "Genetically it is a variant which is significantly more different to the new variant we saw in the UK. We don't know if it is more transmissible but it is certainly causing havoc in South Africa. There's a second identified case of it here and there's likely to be many more, that's why lockdown is necessary because if we can stop the new variant from spreading it saves us a lot of work in the long term.

"This new variant offers a challenge to vaccinators now because we don't yet know whether the vaccine is going to be less effective in the face of the new variant or not."

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