With the pandemic well under way and vaccines freely available, many South Africans are still unvaccinated because they are unsure of what the vaccine is and how it works. In this education sheet, we’ll outline the science behind the vaccines, some of the key factors that may prevent people from getting vaccinated, and how getting vaccinated can help protect you, those around you and our country as a whole.
mRNA vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna5
These vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19, instructing our cells on how to make harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. This enables our bodies to recognise the protein that should not be there, building T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes the disease in the future.
Vector vaccines – Johnson & Johnson5
The J&J vaccine contains a modified version of a different virus – not the one that causes COVID-19 – with material from the COVID virus inside the shell of this modified virus. This is called a viral vector. Once this is in our cells, the genetic material gives our cells instructions on how to make a protein that is unique to the COVID virus. From here, the process is similar to mRNA vaccines, in that our cells make copies of the proteins and then build lymphocytes that remember how to fight the virus in the future.
The vaccination rate in South Africa recently hit 60%, which is encouraging. However, that leaves 40% of the population who are still unvaccinated, and the science suggests that 94% of the population must be immune to disrupt the chain of transmission6. While there is a lot of disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines, the facts below are supported and agreed upon by the global scientific community.
Vaccines were developed too quickly and side-stepped safety protocols
For decades, scientists have developed and tested protocols to be used in this exact circumstance4. That means that there were processes in place to ensure that no safety protocols were missed.
The technology that created the vaccines was brand-new
COVID-19, as the name suggests, is not a new type of virus – rather, it is a more serious disease from the coronavirus family. Scientists have been working on coronavirus vaccines for many years, using existing research to develop the vaccines we’re using today.
The vaccine will change my DNA
Vaccines work by teaching your immune system to combat the disease, and do not interact with your DNA in any way.
If I have had COVID-19, I don’t need to get vaccinated
While you will get some kind of natural immunity from being infected, this rapidly decreases over time3. It will also not help you ward off infection from new variants. Getting vaccinated gives you a much better chance of minimising your risk of severe illness.
Big pharma is pushing the vaccines so they can make money
The pandemic has caused an unbelievable disruption in the global community, and vaccines were developed to give us the best possible chance at ‘getting back to normal’. Governments across the world are committed to saving lives and protecting citizens, and vaccines are simply the best possible route to achieve this.
Getting vaccinated is the best possible way to protect yourself and those around you, and to get our country and globe back on track.
Do your part – get vaccinated today!