Like a flu vaccine, it may have to be taken more than once as the virus changes
A growing number of South Africans have vowed not to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it finally becomes available. But the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) vice-president for research, Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele, reiterated that there is nothing to fear.
He said what needs to be done to alleviate fears is for more communication to take place regarding the pros and cons, adding that although SA has secured the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine, it will likely receive multiple vaccines from various countries as the jostling to secure enough for everyone is a global struggle.
Many have also questioned the trial period of the vaccines, saying it was too quick.
Mphahlele said although the phases were fast-tracked because of the emergency of the pandemic, all safety stages were satisfactorily followed. “No corners were cut,” he assured.
“With other vaccines it usually passes through three phases over two to three years. But this time it had to be done with urgency to save lives and to get the world economies back on track. Preclinical tests were done where the vaccines were thoroughly screened for toxicology and how it protects against the virus. It is also tested on animals first before human trials even begin. In phase three it is tested and assessed for safety and efficacy. All results are supplied to the South African Health Products Regulatory Council (SAHPRA).
“SAHPRA has a mandate to monitor such adverse effects and ensure that they are recorded and managed properly so that should a vaccine become more dangerous than useful for the purpose it was intended for, regulatory action can be taken to either warn the public about newly discovered adverse effects or remove the vaccine from the market in order to protect the public.”
Some citizens are concerned that the vaccine may give them the dreaded coronavirus. But
Mphahlele explained that vaccines only contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism or antigen that triggers an immune response within the body. He said side-effects may include a slight fever, diarrhoea and/or a headache, but added that this is the immune system responding to the vaccine and symptoms like these should be over after 24 to 48 hours.
“More serious side-effects like anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, is rare, and should it happen, it will happen almost immediately – where help will be at hand as health professionals will be present.”
He also said that because the virus is mutating, a onceoff vaccination may not be possible. “It may, like a flu vaccine, have to be taken more than once every few years as the virus changes and the vaccine is adapted. With the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine, it’s a twojab dose and may also not be a once-off. We don’t know how this virus will further change.” he said.
For now, because trials were conducted on adults, only over 18s can take it.
“The vaccine will not be forced upon anyone. It’s optional. My fear is that those who do take it then ignore non-pharmaceutical measures, which would be detrimental.
“Until enough people are vaccinated, we all have to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical put in place. Wash and sanitise hands, keep social distancing and wear a mask.”
He again assured that the vaccine does not contain any microchips or tracking devices or that Covid-19 and its variants are related to 5G technology.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has also dispelled vaccine myths. “Suggestions that Covid-19 vaccines have the potential to alter human DNA are simply not true. The vaccines do not contain a live Covid-19 virus,” said Mkhize.