A Guide to Understanding Vaccines
Written by Mfundo on 10 January, 2021
By: Mfundo Mabaso
Earlier this month Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been discovered and might be responsible for a recent surge of infections in South Africa.
This as government was in the middle of procuring a vaccine for South Africans which posed a question on whether the vaccine will be effective on the new COVID-19 variant, the 501.V2, or not.
Mkhize announced that South Africa will receive 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccines in January and a further 500 000 in February from the Serum Institute of India (SII), saying government will prioritise the protection of health workers by ensuring that they receive the vaccine by February 2021.
As the country’s roll out is about to get under way, here’s what you need to know about vaccines:
What exactly is a vaccine?
A vaccine are medicines that are meant to help prevent infection by a specific bacteria or virus. They are made from dead or inactive whole or parts of the problem virus or bacteria. These parts or proteins when injected as a vaccine train our immune system to identify the real live virus or vaccine when we get the actual infection. This is because the vaccine already helped create antibodies against the virus. Therefore the infection induced s easily cleared and less likely to make you very sick.
How safe is it to use for myself and my family?
Vaccines go through rigorous testing, what scientists call clinical trials, before being licensed for administration to people. We have regulatory bodies like the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA ), in South Africa, that review studies for safety and efficacy of vaccine i.e. does it do what it is claimed that it does.
What about those conspiracy theories regarding 5G radiation or using the vaccine to install a micro-chip inside my body?
These are made up theories that have no bases in science and are made up by individuals with lack of understanding of biology and epidemiology of viruses and other microorganisms. Viruses are not able to travel through electromagnetic or other invisible waves. This is a myth and it’s not true according to our current scientific understanding. COVID 19 is spread through droplets through inhalation or physical contact between contaminated hands and exposed mucosal surfaces e.g. eyes, mouth and nose.
Besides a vaccine, are there any alternatives to protect me from the virus 99.9%?
Not even the current vaccines can offer 99.9% protection currently. However, other than vaccines the well known public health measures of hand washing and or sanitizing , physical distancing, wearing of mask, quarantining of those waiting test results and isolation and of those infected remain very effective alternatives in the absence of vaccine but remain necessary even after administering the vaccine.
Will the procured vaccines be effective against the new COVID-19 variant?
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech both said their vaccines were effective against new variants of the Coronavirus discovered in South Africa and Britain. But they are slightly less protective against the variant in South Africa, which may be more adept at dodging antibodies in the bloodstream.