COVID-19 vaccine brings hope to many frontline heroes
With the imminent arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa, many doubts have emerged from various sectors of society. The healthcare workers (HCW) have been identified as the first group to receive the vaccine to ensure we safeguard our health force.
In a recent poll amongst its staff, the Western Cape Department of Health received comments from 1 680 health workers on their views on the vaccine, with 54% indicated they would take up the vaccine, 26% indicated they would consider it while 19% indicated they would not.
It is understandable that some HWCs have concerns about receiving the vaccine, after all, we live in an era where facts and misinformation can become viral instantly. While respecting the rights of individuals to refuse, it is crucial that people must be assisted to make informed decisions. The Department has started various information sharing engagements with its staff along with other stakeholders such as the private sector, traditional leaders, NPOs and would like to share this with the rest of the citizens.
We have developed a set of evidence-led and quality information which includes a workplace readiness toolkit with answers to frequently asked questions, a presentation, guides for managers with updated information.
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 tradename COVISHIELD™ for use in India, the UK and South Africa.
What is the COVIDSHIELD 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.
- Nozipho Nyakatya who works as a home-based carer in the community of Phisantekraal says, “I am definitely taking the vaccine. As a healthcare worker, I would like to encourage others to consider taking the vaccine. It is not being introduced to us to harm us but to protect us as a country. It can help us fight this pandemic together.”
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.
- Dr Anita Parbhoo, Acting CEO, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital says she believes in the science of the vaccine. “‘I am taking the vaccine. Scientists have provided evidence to show that this is currently our best medical defence against COVID-19.”
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.
- Beaunez Coerecius, works as a home-based and spiritual carer at the Brackengate Hospital of Hope and contracted the virus previously. “I am going to take the vaccine to protect myself and the people around me, this includes protecting family members, patients and staff I work with. The other reason I want to take the vaccine is to help prevent COVID-19 re-infection.”
- Leandra Jeftha, administration clerk, Scottsdene day hospital also contracted COVID-19 says, “We have had other vaccines in the past and they worked to protect our children, for instance. I trusted the other vaccines as a health worker, so I will take this one. I know there might be side effects, as with any other medication.”
- Candice Mills, operational nursing manager for the Maternity Unit at Delft Community Health Centre, says. “I had COVID-19 during the first wave. I would take the vaccine to build my immune system. When you come to work, you often come to work with fear of contracting and spreading the virus. I believe that getting the vaccine will help us fight COVID-19 and protect us so that we can continue to take care of others.”
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.
There have been widespread claims that the COVID-19 vaccine could somehow alter your DNA. Viral RNA and DNA does not have any effect on human DNA and is not taken up into the body’s own DNA when injected. Instead, the viral RNA/DNA helps the human immune system recognise what the virus looks like and so mount a better defence response.
- Jackie Voget, a Pharmacist and Vanessa Mudaly, a Public Health Registrar feels enough scientific evidence exists to trust the vaccine. “We will be taking the vaccine as we trust the science and believe that the vaccines have sufficient efficacy and safety from the trial data.”
We understand there are many questions and the Department is committed to answering them as best we can. We urge the public to consult trusted sources for information (web pages/FAQs) and to check the source of information before sharing on social media. We urge everyone to find the facts before making an informed decision to take up the vaccine by visiting https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/covid-19-vaccination