It has been a year since lockdown and COVID-19 took over our rainbow nation and stopped life as we know it. Masks, sanitizer, and social distancing are words that are forever going to be etched into our brains.
The global COVID-19 vaccination has now started to be rolled out and millions of these COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to people worldwide. The vaccines started being administered in December of 2020 but unfortunately not every country has had access to these potentially lifesaving vaccines.
There are many who are sceptical about the vaccine and whether or not it is effective and safe. While some of the world are literally dying to get it there are others who say they don’t want to be vaccinated in case of side effects.
In this article we will discuss more on how the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered in South Africa, the potential side effects, and the ingredients of this controversial vaccine.
South Africa’s Rollout of the COVID-19 Vaccine
South Africa’s roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine programme aims to vaccinate at least 40 million people. The program which is being rolled out by the South African government includes procedures such as procurement, distribution, vaccinating and then monitoring those who have had the vaccination.
The rollout has been said to take place in three phases so as to provide vaccinations to at least 67 % of the South African population in order to achieve what is known as herd immunity.
What this essentially means is that the majority of the population should ideally become immune to the COVID-19 virus. If this is the case, then the vaccine will protect those who are not immune thus making the spread of the virus much easier to manage.
To date, doctors, and scientist from South African and all over the world have studied the virus and its effects in order to respond more effectively to it. The South African vaccination program has been a massive way forward in fighting the virus as well as the significant economic impact that the virus has had on the country.
How Does the Covid-19 Vaccine Work?
For many people who are not scientist, it is important to have a basic knowledge as to how the vaccine works. In order to do this we need to have a basic understanding on how our bodies fight illnesses.
When germs that carry the virus known as COVID-19 enter out bodies they start to attach to the cells of the body and multiply. Another word for this is an infection which in turn causes us to get ill. Once we are ill our bodies naturally try to use various tools in which to fight the infection.
One of methods that the body uses is to increase the amount of red blood cells that it produces. These are the cells that carry oxygen to the organs of the body. White blood cell counts also start to increase so as to try and eradicate the infection that has taken over the body.
There are different types of blood cells in the body that are used to fight infections in various kinds of ways. These blood cells are namely:
Macrophages are white blood cells that try to digest the germs from already dead or dying cells in the body. These Macrophages leave behind antigens that the body identifies as dangerous. Once the body has identified these antigens it realises that they are a danger, and the body starts to stimulate antibodies in order to attack them.
These are the defensive white blood cells that the body produces when a virus starts to attack. These blood cells are used to produce antibodies to kill off any parts of the virus that have been left behind by the macrophages.
Basically, when familiar antigens are detected within the body the B-lymphocytes produce antibodies in which to fight the virus. Scientists are still trying to identify how long these memory cells work to protect people against the virus that caused COVID-19.
This is another type of white blood cell that is produced to try and defend the body from viruses. These blood cells try to attach to the cells in the body that are affected by the virus.
The human body is known to hold a few of these T-lymphocytes, otherwise known as memory cells. These cells are able to react quickly when the same kind of virus attacks the body again.
Now that you have a basic understanding on how the body works to protect us from viruses it makes sense that after a person has been infected with a virus the immune system learns how to protect the body against the disease. Sometimes it can take a few days or even weeks to get these tools to start working to fight infection.
What Is in The Covid-19 Vaccine?
To date there are two COVID-19 vaccines that have currently been authorised for use on humans. These are the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines. More conventional vaccines tend to rely on weakened and inactivated pathogens to trigger an immune response.
The COVID-19 vaccines uses a more specific approach in which mRNA is delivered into the cells of the body in order to give the cells specific instructions to produce a specific viral protein that causes the immune system to respond appropriately.
1) The Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is made from the following ingredients:
mRNA is the only active ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine and contains genetic materials so as to provide your body with instructions on how to produce a viral protein in order to trigger an immune response in the body.
Why is this ingredient important? This is because the immune system is what helps our bodies to produce the antibodies that are needed to protect us from getting infected when exposed to the coronavirus.
Lipids form a major part of the COVID-19 vaccine. These lipids are used to protect the mRNA as well as provide a greasy-like exterior in which to assist the mRNA to be absorbed into the cells.
There are various salts can be found in the Pfizer vaccine. These help to try and balance the acidity in the body. These salts are:
- Potassium chloride
- Monobasic potassium phosphate
- Sodium chloride
- Dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
This ingredient helps the molecules within the vaccine to maintain their shape during freezing. This is a basic table sugar which is also known as sucrose.
2) The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is made up of the following ingredients:
- Moderna also uses mRNA technology in order to help the cells build up antibodies against the COVID-19 virus.
- The Moderna vaccine also uses lipids so as to assist the delivery of the mRNA to the cells.
The other ingredients as shown below work together with the Lipids and the mRNA to maintain the vaccines stability after it has been mass produced.
- Acetic acid. This is a colourless organic liquid compound with a chemical formula’
- Tromethamine & Tromethamine hydrochloride. This helps to make the blood and urine more alkaline or less acidic and is commonly used to treat metabolic acidosis.
- Sodium acetate
- Sucrose otherwise known as normal table sugar much the same as the ingredient found in the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine.
Are These Vaccines Safe?
There have been rumours that the COVID-19 vaccine may alter our DNA due to the fact that the RNA molecule is able to turn information that is stored in the DNA into proteins.
Contrary to popular belief this is not true. mRNAs are never able to penetrate through the nucleus of a cell so it will not be able to affect the bodies DNA.
Once a person is injected with the COVID-19 vaccine the mRNA is released into the cytoplasm of the cells. The viral protein is made on the surface of the cell and then the mRNA is broken down enough to permanently get rid of it, making it impossible to change a human’s DNA.
For those who have watched programs such as the Walking Dead it is only natural to wonder about the safety of the new vaccine. The reason for this is that it was developed at a fairly rapid pace which makes people wonder just how safe and effective it is.
Alright, so let’s have a look at what we already know.
- The overall effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine has been reported in the range of 70% to 95%. which is significantly higher than the effectiveness of other vaccines such as the flu vaccine.
- A Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial which had about 44,000 volunteers found the vaccine to be 95% effective.
- The Moderna vaccine trial that was conducted in America and had more than 30,000 volunteers reported an overall effectiveness rate of 94%.
The Benefits of Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine?
There are many benefits to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. These benefits far outweigh the potential side-effects.
- These vaccines can prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Even if you do contract it, the vaccine can help to prevent serious illness and death.
- The vaccine is able to stop you from spreading the virus to other people.
- The more the vaccine is distributed, the more it can contribute to herd immunity.
- It can prevent the virus from replicating and mutating.
Who Should Not Get A COVID-19 Vaccine?
Unfortunately there is no COVID-19 vaccine that has been made for children under the age of 16 just yet. Clinical trials and studies are still being conducted on children who are aged 12 and upwards but to date there has been no vaccine yet that is suitable for the younger generation.
What Are the Possible Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine?
When you receive the COVID-19 vaccine you may experience mild side effects such as:
- Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
- Muscle and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Once you have received the vaccination you will more than likely be monitored for a few minutes just to make sure that you show no immediate adverse reactions. Most of the time, if you are going to experience any side effects then this will happen within the first three days after you have been vaccinated. Fortunately these side effects will only last one to two days.
Are Vaccine Side Effects a good sign?
If you experience side effects after taking the vaccine this more than likely means that the vaccine has stimulated an immune response which shows you that the vaccine is working. Remember that everyone reacts differently, and some people may show absolutely no side-effects at all. This does not in any way mean that the vaccine is not working.
Can I Get A COVID-19 Vaccine If I Have A History of Allergic Reactions?
Yes, you can! All that will happen is that the nurse or doctor who has administered your vaccination will monitor you for a little longer than normal. It is important, however, to make sure to let your doctor or nurse know of your past history.
If in the past you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredients that are in the COVID-19 vaccine, then it may not be a good idea to take the vaccine before you discuss your decision with a medical professional.
If you have an immediate or severe reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, then it is advisable to rather not get the second dose.
Can I still transmit Covid if I Have Been Vaccinated?
Unfortunately the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus in vaccinated people cannot be totally ruled out. In some cases vaccinated people could still contract COVID-19 and then pass it on to others if hygiene protocols are not adhered to.
Masks, sanitization, and social distancing should still be followed at all times. If you have been vaccinated then your individual risk becomes substantially lower, but you may still carry enough of the virus to make others who have not been vaccinated sick.
Vaccines are made to work hand in hand with your body to fight any viruses that you have been exposed to. It is important to note that after you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, you should still carry on taking the necessary precautions
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