• Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines have gone through a rigorous, multi-stage testing process that includes large clinical trials with tens of thousands of people. These trials are designed to identify any safety concerns.
• COVID-19 vaccines have been tested in large, randomised controlled trials that include people of a broad age range, both sexes, different ethnicities, and those with known medical conditions. All vaccines that are currently allowed in South Africa are safe, effective and reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalisation.
• COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognise and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It usually takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity against the COVID-19 virus. So it’s possible to still get COVID-19 before or just after vaccination, and then get sick because the vaccine didn’t have enough time to provide protection.
• When you get vaccinated against a disease, your risk of infection is also reduced – so you’re far less likely to spread the disease to others. As more individuals in a community get vaccinated, fewer individuals remain vulnerable, and there’s less chance for passing the virus on from person to person. Lowering the possibility for a virus to circulate in the community protects those who cannot be vaccinated due to other serious health conditions from the disease targeted by the vaccine. This is called “herd immunity.”
• “Herd immunity” exists when a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, making it difficult for infectious diseases to spread, because not many can be infected. But herd immunity only works if most people are vaccinated.
• Vaccines train our immune system to recognise the targeted virus and create antibodies to fight off the disease without contracting the disease itself. After vaccination, the body is ready to fight the virus if it is later exposed to it, thereby preventing illness. Most individuals who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, develop an immune response within the first few weeks, though researchers are still learning how strong and lasting that immune response is, and how it varies between different individuals.
We recommend that you get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available to you. However, because you can still get sick and possibly spread the virus to others after being fully vaccinated, please continue to take everyday precautions to protect yourself and others by:
- Wearing a mask
- Social distancing from others
- Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Washing your hands often