What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccines produce protection against the disease, as a result of developing an immune response to the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Developing immunity through vaccination means there is a reduced risk of developing the illness and its consequences. This immunity is not 100% effective to prevent infection but helps you fight the virus if exposed. Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you, because if you are protected from getting severely infected with the disease, you are less likely to infect someone else. This is particularly important to protect people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as healthcare providers, older or elderly adults, and people with other medical conditions.
What are the different types of COVID-19 vaccines?
There are four types of vaccines in clinical trials: whole virus, protein subunit, viral vector and nucleic acid (RNA and DNA), each of which protects people, but by producing immunity in a slightly different way. Some of them try to smuggle the antigen into the body, others use the body’s own cells to make the viral antigen.
How did we get COVID-19 vaccines so quickly?
An unprecedented combination of political will, global collaboration and funding have enabled the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, without compromising vaccine safety.
How safe are COVID-19 vaccines?
Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, several vaccines have now been rolled out across the world, including some that use new RNA technology that has never been approved for use on humans before. Although all these vaccines have been produced at record speed, with processes run in parallel to save time, there have been many checks and balances to ensure their safety, including being subject to the same scientific and regulatory rigor as any other vaccine. With receiving the vaccine any possible risks that may exist are considerably lower than those associated with COVID-19 infection, and vastly outweighed by the benefits of protecting people and preventing the virus from spreading.
A candidate vaccine goes through several stages before it can be given to people – right from the exploratory science, to the pre-clinical testing (often on animals), then clinical development (which includes three phases of human trials), and finally regulatory review and approval, manufacturing and quality control.
In pre-clinical studies, a vaccine is tested to see whether it is toxic and how it reacts with the body – this is to identify a safe dose before testing the vaccine candidate in people.
Human trials are designed to spot side effects – these are not the same as temporary short-term reactions such as a headache, sore arms, fatigue, chills and fever, which are not uncommon in other vaccines or injections, and are usually not harmful in the long term. Genuine side effects mean anything that is long-lasting and potentially dangerous.
Can the vaccine cause infertility or miscarriages?
There is not enough data to prove this. The vaccine is not tested on pregnant woman or on woman younger than 18 years old. If we look at the current data available, the infertility data is still the same in people who have had the vaccine compared to the people who didn’t have the vaccine. With the available data there is also not a higher incidence for miscarriages in woman who received the vaccine.
Nor can the vaccines give you COVID-19, and there is no biologically plausible mechanism through which they could do so. While there have been anecdotal reports of people appearing to get COVID-19 after the first dose of the vaccine, it is most likely that these patients already had the virus incubating before their shot. Or they were part of the small percentage of people in whom the vaccine failed to trigger an immune response, and then subsequently became infected.
Ultimately safety is paramount throughout the entire vaccine development and the regulatory approval process. Moreover, any possible risks that may exist are considerably lower than those associated with COVID-19 infection, and vastly outweighed by the benefits of protecting people and preventing the virus from spreading.
Can the mRNA vaccine alter my DNA?
No. mRNA isn’t the same as DNA. This vaccine principle has been studied for almost 60 years. A small particle of mRNA is injected intramuscularly, and it enters the body’s cell cytoplasm. mRNA cannot enter your cell nucleus and it cannot combine with our DNA to change our genetic code. It is also relatively fragile and will only hang around inside a cell for about 72 hours before being degraded.
Can the vaccine cause damage to the skin at the injection site?
No the vaccine is not cytotoxic and it cannot not leave a black mark on your skin.
Who can’t have a COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccines are one of the most effective public health interventions going, but there are some individuals who cannot receive them. Fortunately, none of the COVID-19 vaccines which have been approved for emergency use around the world contain any live virus, so it is safe for people with weakened immune systems to receive them, unlike some others, including the yellow fever and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines. This means more of the world’s population can be protected against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Even so, there are still a few groups who should either avoid being vaccinated for now, or carefully weigh up the risks and benefits with a health provider:
- PEOPLE WITH A HISTORY OF SPECIFIC ALLERGIES
Only people who had experienced an allergic reaction to the first dose of this vaccine, or had previously had reactions to any of its components, should not receive it. They emphasize that an allergic reaction refers to anaphylactic symptoms e.g. lips or tongue get swollen, the airways close, difficulty in breathing. It doesn’t include a sore arm, skin reaction around the injection site, fever etc. None of the COVID-19 vaccines approved so far contain egg proteins or latex, so people with allergies to these substances can be vaccinated.
- CHILDREN UNDER 16 YEARS
Different countries vary in their attitudes towards vaccinating children under 16 against COVID-19. For instance, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone aged 12 years and over should get a vaccine, with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine authorized for this age group. The European Commission has also authorized this vaccine for those aged 12 and over. However, children account for less than three percent of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, and they tend to experience less severe disease and a better prognosis compared to adults, so the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recommend vaccinating children at the current time.
- WHAT ABOUT PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING PEOPLE?
Since pregnant people were excluded from clinical trials of the vaccines, there is not enough data to say whether they are safe. However, because pregnant people appear to be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 than non-pregnant people, and there is an associated slightly increased risk of premature birth, there is an argument for some to receive the vaccines. Having reviewed all the available evidence for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said these vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant people in high-risk groups which have been prioritized for vaccination, and should be offered to breastfeeding people in these groups.
Similarly, although the WHO doesn’t recommend vaccinating pregnant people with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at this time, it said in light of the benefits outweighing any potential risks, vaccination may be considered in discussion with their healthcare provider, if the person has an unavoidably high risk of exposure, for example because of their occupation or a higher risk of developing severe disease. The vaccine can be offered to breastfeeding people, and the WHO doesn’t recommend discontinuing breastfeeding afterwards.
What are the possible side effects after the vaccine?
You can experience common symptoms like symptoms you experience after any other vaccine. Fever, a skin rash, pain around the injection site, tiredness, headache. If you don’t get any symptoms after the vaccine, you should not think that your immune system is not active.
Severe side effects of the vaccine.
There are 2 side effects people fear a lot. Blood clots (emboli) and inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).
Blood clots were under investigation specifically in the younger women between 20-50 years old receiving the vaccine. The data showed 8-11 cases per 1 million patients after having the vaccine, had this side effect and the risk of getting blood clots when infected with COVID-19 is much higher.
Myocarditis can be caused by any virus, not only the COVID-19 virus. It is usually a transient condition; you do not get chronic heart damage and it is treatable. The data showed an incidence of 5 cases per 1 million patients after having the vaccine. Therefore we can currently conclude that despite these to severe side effect, the benefit of receiving the vaccine is much higher than the extremely low risk of these side effects.
When can I start to exercise after receiving the vaccine?
Listen to your body! A Few examples.
If you get low grade side effects like a slight headache – don’t go exercise that afternoon.
If you have body aches and fever – wait about 48hours.
If you have no side effects, you don’t need any down time.
If I have COVID-19, when can I go for a vaccine?
Even if you have had COVID-19, you should still be vaccinated when it is offered to you. The vaccine still improves your protection dramatically. The protection that someone gains from having COVID-19 will vary from person to person, and we also don’t know how long natural immunity might last. (Booster shots are continuously investigated.)
You must isolate for your full 14 days before you can go and stand in the queue to get your vaccine. This is to prevent further spreading of the virus. If you go for the vaccine without knowing you are currently infected with COVID 19, the vaccine will not make you feel more sick.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a positive test result for the disease, such as for a PCR or antigen test?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not cause a positive test result for a COVID-19 PCR or antigen laboratory test. This is because the tests check for active disease and not whether an individual is immune or not. However, because the COVID-19 vaccine prompts an immune response, it may be possible to test positive in an antibody (serology) test that measures COVID-19 immunity in an individual.
Please note that daily the information changes and we will try our very best to keep up to date with the research and guidelines. Hopefully in 6 months we will have more answers about the things we are still unsure about, but we must be patient. For us we wish that all our patients will receive information which is scientifically correct, currently up to date and not politically influenced.