Vaccination FAQs

A vaccine is intended to provide immunity against COVID-19.  In general, vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism that triggers an immune response within the body. This weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond. Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory against the pathogen so it can fight it in the future.

Before COVID-19 vaccines can be delivered:

  1. The vaccines must be proven to be safe and effective in large clinical trials.
  2. A series of independent reviews of the efficacy and safety evidence is required.
  3. The evidence must also be reviewed for the purpose of policy recommendations on how the vaccines should be used.
  4. An external panel of experts convened by WHO, called the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), analyses the results from clinical trials.
  5. The panel then recommends whether and how the vaccines should be used.
  6. Officials in individual countries decide whether to approve the vaccines for national use and develop policies on how to use the vaccines in their country, based on the recommendations by the WHO.

The aim of vaccination is to prevent morbidity and mortality. It is also to achieve herd immunity and prevent ongoing transmission. When a person is vaccinated against a disease, their risk of infection is also reduced. Vaccinations help lower the possibility for a pathogen to circulate in the community and protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to health conditions such as allergies or their age.

When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated, the pathogen has a hard time circulating because most of the people it encounters are immune. This is called herd immunity. But no single vaccine provides 100 per cent protection, and herd immunity does not provide full protection to those who cannot safely be vaccinated. But with herd immunity, these people will have substantial protection, thanks to those around them being vaccinated. Vaccinating not only protects yourself, but also protects those in the community who are unable to be vaccinated.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections. Vaccines do not give you the virus, rather it teaches your immune system to recognise and fight the infection. The COVID-19 vaccine presents the body with instructions to build immunity and does not alter human cells. Vaccines have reduced the morbidity and mortality of infectious diseases such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, measles, tetanus, whooping cough and pneumococcal conjugate across the world. Vaccinating enough people would help create herd immunity and stamp out the disease.

Vaccines undergo rigorous trials to ensure they are safe and effective. All vaccines go through a comprehensive approval process by medical regulators to ensure that they are safe. Pharmaceutical companies hand over all laboratory studies and safety trials to validate that the vaccine does work. Any safety concerns are picked up by regulators when reviewing the data. Vaccines are made to save lives - not to oppress, bewitch, possess or indoctrinate people.

We will begin by vaccinating our country’s estimated 1.25 million healthcare workers. The rollout will proceed in the form of an implementation study with the partnership of the Medical Research Council and the National Department of Health vaccination sites across the country. This will provide valuable information about the pandemic in the post-vaccination community and thus ensure early identification of breakthrough infections should they occur amongst vaccinated health workers.

The vaccination system will be based on a pre-vaccination registration and appointment system at a specific vaccination site. The system will help government plan ahead on the amount of doses needed at any particular point in time. All South Africans who are vaccinated will be placed on a national register and provided with a vaccination card.

After targeted groups receive the vaccine, mass vaccinations will take place in urban centres at pharmacies, health facilities, community halls and schools. These sites will have to be registered and must comply with a number of requirements to secure and safeguard the vaccination process.