The UK is days away from what has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’. On July 19 the Government will lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England. Although the Delta variant is still raging across the country, many people will have received two shots of a coronavirus vaccine by now, which should help allay some of the fears. However, the viral disease can still breach the immune system’s defences.
The team behind the ZOE COVID Study app have been hammering this message home over the last couple of weeks.
It’s app, which has been accumulating data on the pandemic from millions of users, clearly shows you can still catch COVID-19 after being vaccinated.
A curious development to spring out of its data is that people who had been vaccinated and then tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to report sneezing as a symptom compared with those without a jab.
This suggests that sneezing a lot with no explanation after you’ve been vaccinated could be a sign of COVID-19.
READ MORE: Delta variant symptoms: The key DIFFERENT symptoms to look out for
However, “it’s important to remember that the link between sneezing and COVID-19 isn’t very strong,” the team behind the app noted.
What’s more, sneezing is just one possible symptom out of many that even those vaccinated should be on the lookout for.
“You should stay alert to the 20 symptoms of the disease, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated,” advises the Symptom Study app experts.
What are the 20 symptoms?
The full list of reported coronavirus symptoms include:
- High temperature (fever)
- Chills or shivers
- Persistent cough
- Loss or change in smell (anosmia)
- Loss or change in taste (dysgeusia)
- Unusual tiredness (fatigue)
- Sore throat
- Sudden confusion (delirium), especially in older people
- Skin rash
- Changes in the mouth or tongue (COVID tongue)
- Red and sore fingers or toes (COVID fingers/toes)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Muscle pains
- Hoarse voice
- Skipping meals
- Abdominal pains
- Runny nose
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It is important to note that, while the vaccines will not stop you from catching COVID-19, they will render the viral disease far less deadly.
In fact, those used in the UK are as effective at preventing symptomatic disease in the majority of people with underlying health conditions as the rest of the population, Public Health England (PHE) recently reported.
The verdict is based on a study from PHE that included more than one million people in at-risk groups.
“Within these clinical risk groups, there will be people with more severe forms of illness – particularly in the immunosuppressed group – who may not respond as well to the vaccines, and we recommend they seek advice from their specialists,” Advises PHE.
The study found:
- Overall vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease in risk groups is approximately 60 percent after one dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech, with little variation by age
- After two doses, vaccine effectiveness is 81 percent with AstraZeneca in people in risk groups aged 16 to 64. No data is available for Pfizer-BioNTech
- In people in risk groups aged 65 and over, vaccine effectiveness with Pfizer-BioNTech is 89 percent and 80 percent with AstraZeneca
- For those who are immunosuppressed, vaccine effectiveness after a second dose is 74 percent, with similar protection to those who are not in a risk group. This rises from four percent after a first dose.
Although age is the greatest risk factor for adverse outcomes following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, certain health conditions also increase the risk of severe disease, they study noted.
Diabetes, severe asthma, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, neurological disease, and diseases or therapies that weaken the immune system – such as blood cancer, HIV or chemotherapy – have all been linked to an increased risk of hospitalisation or death with COVID-19.
People with these conditions who are at highest risk were initially advised to shield during the peak of the pandemic and all risk groups were then prioritised for vaccination.
“The government announced the dose interval would be brought forward from 12 to eight weeks for the clinically vulnerable on 14 May, and everyone in these groups should now have been offered a second dose,” reported PHE.
Data on vaccine effectiveness among people in clinical risk groups was previously limited.
Though more data is needed, protection against hospitalisation and death in risk groups is expected to be greater than protection against symptomatic disease, as has been seen in studies of the general population.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: “This real-world data shows for the first time that most people who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 still receive high levels of protection after two doses of vaccine.
“It is vital that anyone with an underlying condition gets both doses, especially people with weakened immune systems as they gain so much more benefit from the second dose.”