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COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving disease; information may change as management of this disease develops and improves. Medinformer aims to bring you up-to-date information from verified sources. Last revised: 12 December 2021
ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINEBack to top
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is used to train your immune system to be able to deal with an infection and fight it off in the future.1 The COVID vaccines are a vital part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Which COVID vaccine is South Africa using?
Currently, the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine, called the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine™ (single dose) and the Pfizer vaccine, called Comirnaty™ (two doses, 42 days apart) are being used in South Africa.3
Are these vaccines effective against all the COVID-19 variants?
The vaccines have shown good efficacy against the variants we have seen thus far. As new variants emerge, efficacy is measured and adjustments to vaccines and booster doses may be necessary.1
How will the vaccine be given?
You will get an injection in your upper arm. The J&J vaccine is a single dose, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is given as two doses, 42 days (6 weeks) apart. For immunocompromised people, a second dose of J&J/third dose of Pfizer may be given.
Which vaccine do the 12–17-year-old group get?
They get the Pfizer vaccine. Initially it was decided that would only get one dose, but this has been updated and, like all others, they should receive two doses, at least 42 days apart.
COVID-19 VACCINE REGISTRATIONBack to top
All people 12 years and older are eligible to register and are urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
How do I register for the vaccine?1
You do not have to register before going to a vaccination site but registering will save a bit of time at the site. If you want to register for your COVID-19 vaccine before you go, there are several ways to do so:
- Online EVDS (Electronic Vaccination Data System): connect to the internet via smartphone/tablet/computer and go to EVDS Follow the instructions on the welcome screen and fill in all the required details.
- SMS/USSD (free): dial *134*832*your ID number. If you don’t have an ID number, dial *134*832#. Follow the prompts to register.
- WhatsApp: send “REGISTER” to 0600 123 456 and follow the prompts to register.
- Call 0800 029 999 (free): the helpline is open Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 20:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 08:00 to 18:00.
After registration is completed, a confirmation SMS will be sent to the cell phone number that was provided.
If you’re unable to register in any of the above ways, you can be helped to register at a vaccine site. Some provinces also have community health workers going house-to-house and community registration points.
How do I get the actual vaccine?
You can receive your vaccination at any Dis-Chem clinic nationwide (click here to locate your nearest clinic) or present yourself at the vaccination site nearest to you with some form of identification (ID book/card, valid driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or affidavit) and, if you’ve pre-registered, the code that was SMSed to you. If you’re not registered, don’t worry, just go and someone at the site will help you register.
If you don’t know where the vaccination sites are, check out the list on the SA Coronavirus site or phone the helpline on 0800 029 999.
For those requiring a second dose (with the Pfizer vaccine, this will be 42 days after the first dose), an SMS reminder will be sent when you are due to present yourself for it. You will not be allowed to get the second dose before 42 days has passed but going > 42 days after the first dose is fine. Don’t delay too long, though, you want that extra layer of protection!
Can I just go to a vaccine site as a ‘walk-in’?
Yes, most vaccination sites welcome walk-ins, so check the sites near you. For a list of vaccine sites, see the SA Coronavirus website
When will I be protected?
You are considered to be fully protected two weeks after the single J&J vaccine and two weeks after the second Pfizer dose.1
SAFETY AND POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF THE COVID-19 VACCINEBack to top
Are COVID vaccines safe?
Yes, the COVID vaccines being used have been extensively tested to ensure safety.1-3 Billions of people have now received the vaccines safely, across the world.1
What are the common side effects of the vaccines?
Mild side effects, usually starting about six hours after vaccination include:
- Pain and redness in the upper arm where you are injected.
- Feeling tired.
- Muscle and joint aches.
These are normal and indicate that your body is building up an immune response. They usually disappear within the first three days post-vaccination.4 Contact your doctor if the redness or tenderness where you got the injection gets worse after 24 hours or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.
What are the rare side effects of the vaccines?
Rare side effects – affecting between 1 and 7 people per million vaccinations – may occur. These include anaphylaxis (usually within minutes of vaccination, thus waiting half an hour after the vaccine) and a rare form of blood clots (within three weeks of the vaccine).4
It is important to remember that the risk of COVID-19 far outweighs the risk of these side-effects and safety agencies around the world have recommended the Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer vaccines for use.
Contact your doctor if the redness or tenderness where you got the injection gets worse after 24 hours or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.
Is it safe to get a vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. If you are an adult with an underlying medical condition or illness such as diabetes, you may be at greater risk of severe illness from COVID. Because of this, you should consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible.
If you are unsure of whether you should get it due to an underlying medical condition, consult your doctor or call the helpline on 0800 029 999 during office hours and select option 3.1
Can I have the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes, you can have the vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy and during breastfeeding. There
is a small increased risk of severe disease in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women, so they are encouraged to vaccinate. There is also the added benefit of immune transfer to the baby (i.e. protecting your baby from COVID-19).3
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems in women or men.6
Will the vaccine change my DNA?
No, the vaccine will not work on your DNA. Evidence shows that some vaccines are made using RNA technology, but the technology used affects how the vaccine is made, not what it does to your body.7
Is there a microchip in the vaccine?
No, there are no microchips or trackers in any of the vaccines. Getting vaccinated does not mean that you will be tracked or that any of your personal information will be stolen.7
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSBack to top
Do I still need to take the flu vaccine before the flu season, if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, the flu vaccine protects against infection from influenza viruses, while COVID-19 vaccines protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is important to take the flu vaccine to protect oneself from influenza, thereby reducing the burden on the health system.
How long should I wait between having the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine?
The flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine should be given at least 14 days apart.1
Once I’m vaccinated, can I still get COVID?
Yes, individuals may still be at risk of contracting COVID-19, although the disease will likely be milder in comparison to those who are unvaccinated.1
Once I’m vaccinated, can I stop wearing a mask?
No, the evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines protect from severe disease, hospitalisation, and death. No vaccine is 100% effective, so you need to continue wearing your mask, practising social distancing, opening windows and doors, and sanitising/washing your hands and frequently touched objects regularly.1
If I feel sick after vaccination, should I consider having a COVID test?
Several common vaccine side effects are similar to COVID symptoms. If you experience a mild fever, aching muscles, headache, or fatigue, this is likely due to your body’s reaction to the vaccine.
If you develop a cough, sore throat, a change in your sense of taste or smell, or you have a fever over 38°C that lasts several days, you might have COVID and should isolate yourself and have a test. The vaccine does not interfere with the usual COVID tests used for diagnosis such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid antigen tests.
Do I need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID?
Yes, you should still be vaccinated if you’ve already had COVID or if you’ve had a positive antibody test. The vaccination will boost any response your immune system put in place after a previous coronavirus infection.2
You should wait until 30 days after recovering from COVID before getting the vaccine. If you had severe COVID requiring oxygen, you should wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.1,2
Can I get the vaccine if I have symptoms of COVID or if I am in quarantine?
No, please do not go to a vaccination site if you are symptomatic as you risk spreading it to others. If you are currently in quarantine because of exposure to someone with COVID, you should wait until you have completed your quarantine period before getting vaccinated.1
Do I still need to quarantine if I am exposed to a case of COVID-19 after I have been vaccinated?
Yes. A vaccinated person should still quarantine (self-isolate) for 10 days if exposed to a person with COVID-19. People who are vaccinated are less likely to get infection after exposure, but it is not impossible. Being vaccinated, though, will protect you from getting severely ill, hospitalisation and death, if you get COVID-19.3
BOOSTERS AND ADDITIONAL DOSESBack to top
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?
The announcement that boosters – an extra dose – will be offered six months after being vaccinated dose was made mid-December 2021. The rollout of this booster dose will happen in early 2022.
Why are immunocompromised people getting a booster before everyone else?8
This is a misconception. This is not considered a booster but rather an additional dose to ensure protection. Immunocompromised people may not mount a good immune response to the vaccine, so they require an extra dose of vaccine. The additional dose is given 1-3 months after the previous dose.
People who fall into the immunocompromised group are:
- People with haematological or immune malignancy.
- People with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency disorder.
- People with HIV who have had a CD4 < 200 cells/ul within past 6 months.
- People with asplenia.
- People taking high dose steroids or biologic.
- People on long-term dialysis.
- Transplant recipients.
To get the additional dose, people need to get the form filled out by their treating doctor and then register on the EVDS, which has a link for immunocompromised additional doses. They will receive an SMSed code and should take that, the letter from the doctor, and any form of ID to the vaccine site.
Remember: Getting vaccinated protects you, your loved ones, and your community.
- SA Coronavirus website. Available at https://sacoronavirus.co.za/active-vaccination-sites/. Accessed: 16 June 2021.
- Western Cape Government. COVID-19 vaccination information. Available at: https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/covid-19-vaccination. Accessed 15 June 2021.
- National Institute of Communicable Diseases. COVID-19 vaccination information. Available at: https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/what-you-need-to-know-about-vaccines-in-general/. Accessed 15 June 2021.
- Moloi, M & Abdool Karim, A. What happens if you walk into a vaccination site? We break it down. 17 June 2021. Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. Available at: https://bhekisisa.org/resources/2021-06-17-what-happens-if-you-walk-into-a-vaccination-site-we-break-it-down/. Accessed 17 June 2021.
- Centres for Disease Control (CDC). COVID-19 vaccines while pregnant or breastfeeding. Updated 2021 August 11. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html. Accessed: 2021 August 14.
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