Busting vaccine myths

Candice Mills is a operational nursing manager for the maternity unit at the Delft day hospital. She has contracted Covid-19 before and says she will take the vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccines started arriving on our shores on Monday February 1 and President, Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza were among the first to get shots.

When the Western Cape Department of Health polled 1 680 of its health workers on whether they would take the vaccine, 54% said yes, 26% said they would consider it, and 19% said no.

The department says the poll results are understandable in an age when misinformation can go viral very easily and it has moved to answer some frequently asked questions about vaccines to counter some of the myths doing the rounds.

• What vaccines will SA use?

We will use a combination of vaccines for the different phases. The first batch of 1.5 million vaccine doses has been secured directly from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, by the national government. It is producing the vaccine under the trade name Covishield for use in India, the UK and South Africa.

• What is the Covishield vaccine?

It is a modified version of an adenovirus that causes the common cold. It has been modified so that it can’t replicate when used as a vaccine or cause illness.

• How do the Covid-19 vaccines work?

There are many different Covid-19 vaccines available and in development and they use different approaches to engage your immune system. There is no live virus in any of the vaccines. These vaccines contain “instructions” for the spike protein of the virus, which primes the immune system to recognise the invading virus and to produce antibodies to fight the virus.

• Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, vaccines are put through several tests and trials to confirm that they are safe.

During the trial of the Covishield vaccine, safety data was collected from almost 24 000 people followed-up for several months. Safety monitoring in the trial was intensive and involved two sets of independent scientific reviewers. While the trials show that the Covishield vaccine has an excellent safety profile, usual vaccine side-effects are common. The most important finding of the trials was that in the group who received the Oxford vaccine, there were no serious cases and no deaths reported. Thus, it has been shown to be very effective in reducing major illness and death.

• How was it created so quickly?

The biggest misconception is the work on the vaccine started when the pandemic began. The Covid-19 vaccine was developed quicker than any other vaccine in medical history because of years of previous research on related viruses, faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed firms to run multiple trials in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal. All this was done without compromising the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as the development process involved two sets of independent scientific reviewers.

• Do I need the vaccine if I have already had Covid-19?

Yes, you should still be vaccinated if you have had Covid-19 previously or if you have a positive antibody test. Vaccination will prevent you from being re-infected with Covid-19 once your natural immunity has worn off.

• Does the vaccine contain a microchip?

No, this is not true and should be considered as false information.

• Will the vaccine alter my DNA?

No it will not.

For more vaccine information and a vaccine fact sheet, visit https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/covid-19-vaccination