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COVID-19 vaccination: Dispelling all myths remains crucial

Separating myths from facts remains crucial as South Africa ramps up its COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Written by Lilita Gcwabe

With South Africa having vaccinated more than 6% of its population, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy still remains an obstacle and is often fueled by beliefs surrounding severe side-effects. A local doctor has reminded the public to dispell these myths as the country attempts to reach herd immunity.

A number of people have reportedly died after getting vaccinated due to severe side effects. 

Dr Lerato Masemola, a general medical doctor, believes it is important to consider the factors leading up to such adverse effects or complications.

“It is not a myth if there are confirmed reports from vaccine manufacturers linking their products to deaths. However, it is a myth that ‘all vaccines are always dangerous’,” explained Masemola. 

“It is not ideal ideal to lose a life as a result of a vaccine, but is important to put things into context”.  

Vaccines do not work alone and require the continued practice of safety regulations such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus and ultimately reach herd immunity. 

Masemola emphasized that getting vaccinated does not prevent infection but strengthens one’s immune system and lessens the chances of hospitalization and death.  

Long Covid and vaccinations  

Long Covid is defined by COVID-19 symptoms experienced by a patient weeks or months after they recovered from the virus. These symptoms include coughing, tiredness, memory loss, and the shortness of breath.  

It is recommended that those who have had COVID-19, wait at least 40 days before being vaccinated allowing the body to fully recover.  

Introducing viral particles too soon while still recovering will most likely place strain on the immune system. In addition, the recently weakened immune system may not be able to mount a proper response to the vaccine and therefore render it ineffective for future protection. 

“When the body gets an infection, it makes antibodies to fight and get rid of it. How hard the body needs to work depends on one’s general health condition, how their immune system usually responds to infections, and how severely it was affected by the infection,” said Masemola. 

“During that process before the antibodies reach its peak, the body also needs to recover its original strength. One can get what we call secondary / superimposed infections – while still sick and fighting off the original infection because the body is left vulnerable and gets attacked by other different infections. It is unpredictable how this will affect and complicate recovery,” she added.    

Masemola said that there has been an overall health improvement in people with long Covid post-vaccination.  

“Reports show a reduction in re-infection rate as vaccines induce immunity that is not specific to a specific strain/ variant. It is advisable for people who have had a COVID-19 infection to wait anything from 30-90 days post-infection, depending on the severity of symptoms and treatment received during the illness before they can vaccinate. And they should vaccinate: for better future protection against other variants in themselves and to avoid spreading the disease to others should they contract it again.” 

Side effects absolutely normal

All COVID-19 vaccines have potential to cause side effects with varying degrees. 

“All COVID-19 vaccines have the same goal – to trigger the immune system to develop antibodies and have a fighting chance against infection. Some people get side effects, some don’t. Not getting side effects doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working. It’s unpredictable to determine who will get side effects and how mild or severe they will be,” said Masemola.

Symptoms of side effectes usually appear within 24 hours. These include diarrhoea, abdominal pains, heart palpitations and the swelling of glands. 

Masemola confirmed that underlying medical conditions do not necessarily increase the risk of severe side-effects. 

“The severity of side-effects is not determined by age or one’s health condition. The vaccine trials and rollout began with older people, many with co-morbidities, and most of them did well,” she said.

If side-effects last for longer two weeks and become more severe, contact a health professional or visit your nearest healthcare centre.  

FAQ: Is the Covid-19 vaccine causing death in SA?

An increasing number of people on social media have expressed their suspicions of the vaccine causing death in their families after loved ones received their jabs.  

Masemola said that reports have shown evidence of underlying health issues which could’ve contributed or have been brought to the fore by the vaccine and therefore created an adverse reaction leading to death. 

The number of people who have reportedly been linked to a death post vaccination are far less – approximately 0,0018% in the USA so far – than those who benefit from vaccinations. Yes, it is preferred that people not die from getting vaccines and it is unfortunate for those who have died and for their families. However, the overall consensus is that vaccines are safe and serve a greater beneficial purpose for humanity,” explained the doctor. 

Vaccine technology has been developed and improved over many years with safety always at the forefront.

“Also, there is vast and indisputable evidence of the good and health protection benefits that vaccines offer. Cases of people who died should ideally be investigated thoroughly and honestly to determine the reason why they died so that we can educate ourselves and to prevent circumstances that lead to death in some people in the future,” Masemola concluded. – Health-e News 

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Lilita Gcwabe