Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccination
COVID-19 VACCINE FAQ
1. Why vaccination?
Vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases before they come into contact with them. Vaccines use your body’s natural defences to build resistance to infectious diseases and make your immune system stronger.
Vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it’s exposed to a disease. However, because most vaccines contain only inactivated or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications.
Most vaccines are given by injection, but some are given orally (by mouth) or sprayed into the nose.
2. Why are vaccines important?
Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health. The COVID-19 vaccine will assist in:
- Preventing more deaths
- Reducing severity of illness
- Achieving herd immunity (also know as population immunity) and preventing ongoing transmission
- Reducing the burden on our healthcare system
Lowering the possibility of the COVID-19 virus circulating in the community protects those who cannot be vaccinated (due to health conditions like allergies).
3. What is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine has been developed to provide immunity against COVID-19. In general, vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism that triggers an immune response within the body. This weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond. Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and the development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory against the virus so it can fight it in the future.
What is herd immunity?
When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated, the virus cannot circulate easily, because most of the people it encounters are immune. If most people are vaccinated, those who are not protected by vaccines are less likely to contract or be exposed to the harmful virus. This is called herd immunity.
No single vaccine provides 100% protection, and herd immunity does not provide full protection to those who cannot safely be vaccinated. But, with herd immunity, these people will have substantial protection, thanks to those around them being vaccinated. Vaccinating not only protects yourself but also protects those in the community who are unable to be vaccinated.
4. What process is followed before a vaccine is given to the public?
Before COVID-19 vaccines can be delivered:
- The vaccine must be proven safe and effective in large clinical trials.
- A series of independent reviews of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine is required.
- This evidence must also be reviewed for policy recommendations on how the vaccine should be used.
- An external panel of experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO), called the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), analyses the results from clinical trials.
- The panel then recommends whether and how the vaccines should be used.
Officials in individual countries decide whether to approve the vaccine for national use and develop policies for how to use it in their country based on the WHO recommendations.
5. What was the process in developing the vaccine and was it hurried?
The development of these vaccines started long before 2020. SARS-CoV-2 is a member of the coronavirus family of viruses. These viruses have been known to cause diseases in humans and animals for many years. Following the outbreaks of SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2017/2018 (both caused by corona viruses), scientists had already started work on vaccines that could be effective against these pathogens. The vaccines being tested now are an extension of this research.
One of the greatest limitations on vaccine development is funding. This time, the whole world has had an interest in developing a vaccine, leading to the funding of this very important work. Companies have seen the value in investing, alongside philanthropists who have also been willing to contribute, as well as many countries have pooled their resources to fast-track the development of these vaccines. This has made the process much faster than usual.
Usually, a lot of scientific development is private and shared in scientific journal publications that are not accessible to everybody. Something truly remarkable about this pandemic is the way so much research has been published “open source”, where anyone who desires can access it. The publishing of the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein on the 11 January 2020 was a huge milestone and making it available to all researchers helped to get the process moving faster.
All the vaccines that have been approved for use have followed the three required trial stages: Phase one (safety/dosage), Phase two (human safety) and Phase three (human efficacy). They have been shown to effectively prevent a large percentage of those who received them from developing severe COVID-19 or dying from it. The side effects experienced by patients in the clinical trials were very mild. As the vaccines are rolled-out to the public, they will move into the next phase of surveillance, where their effectiveness and any new, rarer side effects will be observed, reported and monitored.
6. Who will receive the vaccination?
Subject to availability, the vaccine will be given out in three phases:
- Frontline healthcare workers (HCW)
- Target population: 1,250,000
- Essential workers
- Target population: 2,500,000
- Persons in congregate settings
- Target population: 1,100,000
- Persons >60
- Target population: 5,000,000
- Persons >18 years with co-morbidities
- Target population: 8,000,000
- Other persons >18
- Target population: 22,500,000
HAVING THE VACCINE
7. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine even if I've already had COVID-19?
Getting COVID-19 might offer some natural protection or immunity from reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19. But it's not clear how long this protection lasts.
Because reinfection is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications, it is recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get the vaccine.
8. Can a COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?
No. In most cases, vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism that triggers an immune response within the body. This weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond.
9. If I currently have COVID-19, can I take the vaccine?
In the presence of any acute severe illness, vaccination should be postponed.
10. Is there a risk of an allergic reaction, if I take the vaccine?
It is possible that an allergic reaction might occur, as with any medication or vaccine. Everyone who gets a vaccination must be monitored for at least 15 minutes after the injection. The medications and equipment needed to manage allergic reactions will be available at every vaccination site. Anyone who has previously had any allergic reaction should advise the vaccination team beforehand in order to be monitored for a longer time.
11. Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?
If you get your COVID-19 vaccine first, it is recommended that you wait at least 14 days before getting any other vaccine, including a flu vaccine.
12. Do I still need to take my flu vaccine if I have taken the COVID-19 vaccine?
The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, but it will protect you against the flu. Since the flu season and COVID-19 are now overlapping, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa has recommended that everyone, in particular those who are at high risk of developing severe flu and flu-related complications, receive a flu vaccination ahead of influenza season this year.
13. Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine when I have TB or other underlying conditions?
Anyone with underlying conditions or co-morbidities must consult with their doctor before taking the vaccine.
14. Can I take the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?
Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 than non-pregnant women, and COVID-19 has been associated with an increased risk of pre-term birth. However, due to insufficient data, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women at this time.
In case a pregnant woman has an unavoidable high risk of exposure (e.g. a health worker), vaccination may be considered in discussion with their healthcare provider.
15. Is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine whilst breastfeeding?
If a breastfeeding woman is part of a group (e.g. health workers) recommended for vaccination, vaccination can be offered. The WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination.
16. Can my children take the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine has only been tested in children above 18 years of age.
Therefore, at this time, the WHO does not recommend vaccination of children below 18 years of age, even if they belong to a high-risk group.
17. Can I stop taking safety precautions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Experts want to learn more about the protection that a COVID-19 vaccine provides and how long immunity lasts before changing safety recommendations. Factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will also affect these recommendations.
The best protection we can offer each other right now is to continue to follow current guidelines. So even when you have received the vaccine, it will still be mandatory to follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines. This includes mask wearing and PPE protocols, social distancing and hand hygiene.
18. How many doses of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine are required?
Only one dose is required.
19. What are the side effects of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine?
Initial safety information released for the vaccine shows that the most common reactions after the vaccine was administered included: Injection site pain, Fatigue, Headache, Muscle aches.
20. Is it safe for kidney transplanted/kidney failure patients to take it?
Anyone with underlying conditions or co-morbidities must consult with their doctor before taking the vaccine.
21. If you are COVID-19 positive, have any flu-like symptoms or have had COVID-19 how long should you wait until you can take the vaccine?
If you have had COVID-19, you can get vaccinated, assuming you don't have symptoms or an active infection. If you are feeling ill or have any concerns, you must consult with your doctor before taking the vaccine.
LIFE HEALTHCARE’S VACCINE PREPAREDNESS FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS
22. How are we preparing for roll-out?
We have formed a Life Healthcare Vaccine Task Team that has commenced work across multiple workstreams.
This team is preparing the vaccination plan for the roll-out of vaccines to ensure our employees and healthcare workers can be vaccinated for their safety and the safety of their loved ones, colleagues and our patients.
COVID-19 VACCINE MYTHS AND FACTS
Myth 1: Vaccines are unsafe and normal safety protocols have been circumvented to fast track their authorisation for use.
Fact: The fast development and approval of vaccines is a great human feat worthy of celebration. This has been possible because we have learnt over many decades how to make and test vaccines and we were able to take those lessons and challenge ourselves to produce a vaccine much quicker. No step in the development, testing or ratiﬁcation of the COVID-19 vaccines has been skipped. The world was able to develop vaccines fast because scientists and governments around the world collaborated in a manner that has never been achieved before and pooled resources and information to ensure that everyone can contribute to the knowledge.
Myth 2: The vaccine will change my DNA
Fact: Vaccines work by stimulating the body the same way the virus would if someone were infected. That means when you receive the vaccine the body then recognised that it looks like the coronavirus and then it releases certain chemicals that start a chain reaction to make immune cells that can ﬁght the real virus. The vaccine does not work on the DNA of the body. Some people think that because some of the vaccines are made using RNA technology that means the RNA will interact with the DNA. That is not how it works. The technology is simply the way the vaccine is made - not what it will do to the body.
Myth 3: Vaccines contain a form of microchip that will be used to track and control an individual
Fact: There is no vaccine "microchip" and there is no evidence to support claims that such a move is planned. Receiving a vaccine will not allow people to be tracked and personal information would not be entered into a database.
Myth 4: Big businesses are pushing vaccines to improve proﬁts
Fact: The COVID-19 crisis has caused massive upheaval across the globe and no nation has been spared. A vaccine represents the best hope to save lives and to restore our way of life, many governments have therefore entered into direct talks with vaccine makers to ensure a timeous supply of vaccines.
The above is shared for information purposes only and provided on the basis that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.