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You’ve done your bit to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19 by having the COVID-19 vaccine. Now what? Can you go about life as you did in the ‘pre-COVID ERA’? We explain why not, and answer some of the most asked questions, post-vaccination.
WILL I HAVE SIDE-EFFECTS AFTER THE VACCINE?Back to top
As with any vaccine, some people may experience side effects after they get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is normal and they are just signs that your body is building up immunity. The side effects are generally mild and resolve within a few days. The most common side effects reported are pain/redness at the injection site, fever, fatigue, muscle pain, chills, nausea, and diarrhoea.1,2
For those getting the 2-shot COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer), the side effects may be more pronounced following the second shot (at least 42 days after the first). Again, this is normal, is a sign that your body is building up protection and should go away within a few days.2
Extremely rarely, more serious side effects may occur, such as anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). This is the reason for the 15-minute wait (30-minute, if you have a history), after you’ve been vaccinated. If you have a history of anaphylaxis, please inform the vaccine site before getting the vaccine. Sites are prepared and the healthcare workers trained to recognise the reaction and what steps to take.1,2
Both globally and locally, vaccine safety is being monitored closely, to ensure safe vaccination for all.1 To ensure monitoring, side effects can be reported by both the public and healthcare practitioners on the Med Safety App. An explainer video on its use can be found on the SAHPRA website.3
WHEN TO CALL A DOCTORBack to top
In most cases, side effects will resolve on their own. If they get worse, or are not getting better, consult your healthcare practitioner.2
IF I DON’T GET SIDE EFFECTS, DOES IT MEAN MY COVID-19 VACCINE DIDN’T WORK?Back to top
No, different people react differently to vaccines. Data from clinical trials has shown that people who had no side effects after their COVID-19 vaccination were also protected against COVID-19.1
HOW LONG AFTER GETTING THE VACCINE AM I PROTECTED?Back to top
Protection from the vaccine is not instant, as it takes time for the body to build up protection. You are considered protected two weeks after getting the J&J vaccine and two weeks after getting the SECOND Pfizer vaccine.2
I’VE HAD MY FIRST DOSE OF THE PFIZER VACCINE, AM I PROTECTED NOW?Back to top
You are partially protected. Full protection is two weeks after the SECOND dose.1
WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET COVID-19 AFTER MY FIRST DOSE?Back to top
You will still need to get the second dose, but you must wait until 30 days after recovering from COVID-19. This will lead to enhanced immunity boosting i.e., you’ll have some natural immunity from having COVID-19 added to your vaccination-induced immunity.4
ONCE I’M FULLY VACCINATED, CAN I STOP WITH ALL THE PROTECTIVE ACTIONS (HANDWASHING, MASKS, SOCIAL DISTANCING)?Back to top
No. While the vaccine will protect you from getting severe COVID-19, you can still get it and, therefore, spread it. To protect yourself and your community, all standard protective actions should be continued.5
CAN THE COVID-19 VACCINE GIVE ME COVID-19?Back to top
No, that is biologically impossible. The vaccine contains a tiny ‘spike protein gene’, which is not the virus itself and cannot grow into the virus or replicate as the virus.4 In other words, none of the vaccines contain live virus, so they cannot cause COVID-19.6
If you develop COVID-19 after being vaccinated, it means that you were exposed to somebody with the disease and has nothing to do with the vaccination.4
CAN I STILL GET COVID-19 AFTER I’VE BEEN VACCINATED?Back to top
Yes. The vaccine does not provide 100% protection against getting COVID-19 but it is very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death due to COVID-19. This is why it is vital that we continue protecting ourselves by masking, handwashing and practicing social distancing.1
CAN I STILL TRANSMIT COVID-19 IF I’M VACCINATED?Back to top
While the viral load (amount of virus) is generally low in people who’re vaccinated and get COVID-19, it is still possible to transmit the virus, so the usual isolation procedures should be followed.7
WILL THE COVID-19 VACCINE PROTECT ME FROM NEW VARIANTS THAT WILL EMERGE?Back to top
It is unknown, at this point.2 As new variants emerge, data will be gathered to establish this. COVID-19 vaccines have shown efficacy against the Delta variant,8 which is currently dominant in South Africa.
HOW LONG DOES PROTECTION FROM THE COVID-19 VACCINE LAST?Back to top
The exact duration of protection is currently unknown, as it is too early in the process.1
SHOULD I GO FOR A BOOSTER COVID-19 VACCINE?Back to top
Currently, no. It is imperative that many more people in South Africa get their primary vaccine dose, to try and establish herd immunity.7
‘Herd immunity’ refers to the lowering of the possibility of spreading a disease, like COVID-19, by reducing the risk of infection. This is done by mass vaccination.
The more people vaccinated, i.e., protected from the disease, the less likely it can spread.
Herd immunity only works if a significant proportion of people are vaccinated. This is why, if you’re eligible for vaccination, you should go as soon as possible. This will not only protect you but will also protect your loved ones and community.
Everything you need to know about how to get vaccinated – it’s free – can be found at COVID-19 vaccines.
SA Coronavirus (South African National Department of Health). Vaccine Updates. Available at: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/vaccine-updates/. Accessed: 2021 August 14.
Centres for Disease Control (CDC). Possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Updated 2021 August 6. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html. Accessed: 2021 August 14.
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). COVID-19 vaccination: Reporting adverse effects FAQ. Available at: https://www.nicd.ac.za/covid-19-vaccination-reporting-adverse-effects-faq/. Accessed 2021 August 14.
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination. Available at: https://www.nicd.ac.za/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-covid-19-vaccine/. Accessed 2021 August 14.
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). What you need to know once you’ve been vaccinated. Available at: https://www.nicd.ac.za/what-you-need-to-know-once-youve-been-vaccinated/. Accessed 2021 August 14.
Centres for Disease Control (CDC). Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines. Updated 2021 July 77. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html. Accessed: 2021 August 14.
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