VACCINATION: UNDERSTANDING MORE

WHAT ARE VACCINES?

A vaccine is a biological product that helps to protect your body against a harmful disease simply by stimulating the production of antibodies(soldiers) in your immune system to fight this disease just like it would if you were actually sick with this particular disease. Vaccines usually contain a microorganism or virus in a weakened, live, or killed state, or proteins or toxins from the said organism.

WHAT IS VACCINATION?

Vaccination is the administration of a vaccine to a person/group of people to help the body system develop protection against a disease in a simple, fast, and effective way. It is the most effective method of preventing infectious disease and is usually administered either by injection, through the mouth, or through the nose.

HOW DOES A VACCINE WORK?

Vaccines help to reduce the risk of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defenses(soldiers) to build protection. When you get vaccinated, your body responds by;

  • Recognizes the invading germ, such as the virus or bacteria.
  • Produces antibodies. Antibodies are proteins(or body soldiers) produced naturally by the immune system to fight disease.
  • Remember the disease and how to fight it in the future. If you are then exposed to the germ in the future, your immune system can quickly destroy it before you become unwell.

UNDERSTANDING COVID-19 VACCINE

The COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine that is developed to help protect the body against the COVID-19 infection. As of today, at least seven different vaccines across three platforms have been rolled out in different countries. Vulnerable populations in all countries are the highest priority for vaccination.

At the same time, more than 200 additional vaccine candidates are in development, of which more than 60 are in clinical development. COVAX(COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) is part of the ACT Accelerator, which WHO launched with partners in 2020. COVAX, the vaccines pillar of ACT Accelerator, convened by CEPI(Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi(Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and WHO, aims to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • speeding up the development of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19;
  • supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities; and
  • working with governments and manufacturers to ensure fair and equitable allocation of the vaccines for all countries – the only global initiative to do so.

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COVID-19 VACCINE

As of April 2021, there are over 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 being developed, of which at least 52 candidate vaccines are in human trials. Typically, many vaccine candidates will be evaluated before any of them are found to actually be both safe and effective. 

Just as stated earlier, there are three main approaches to designing the COVID-19 vaccine. Their differences lie in whether they use a whole virus; just the parts of the germ that trigger the immune system; or just the genetic material of these viruses that provides the instructions for making specific proteins and not the whole virus.

WHY SHOULD I GET VACCINATED?

Without vaccines, you are at risk of serious illness and disability from diseases like COVID-19, measles, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus, and polio. Many of which can be life-threatening. Two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us.

WHEN SHOULD I GET VACCINATED?

Vaccines help to protect us throughout life and at different ages, from birth to childhood, as teenagers, and into old age. In most countries, you will be given a vaccination card that tells you what vaccines you or your child have had and when the next vaccines or booster doses are due. It is important to make sure that all these vaccines are up to date. For the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated as soon as you are able to help both you, your family, and the general public live a healthier lifestyle.

WHO CAN GET VACCINATED?

Nearly everyone can get vaccinated. However, because of some medical conditions, some people should not get certain vaccines or should wait before getting them. These conditions can include:

  • Chronic illnesses or treatments (like chemotherapy) that affect the immune system;
  • Severe and life-threatening allergies to vaccine ingredients, which are very rare;
  • If you have severe illness and a high fever on the day of vaccination.

HOW ARE VACCINES DEVELOPED AND TESTED?

As with all medicines, every vaccine must go through extensive and rigorous testing to ensure it is safe before it can be introduced in a country. Initially, an experimental vaccine is first tested in animals to evaluate its safety and potential to prevent disease. It is then tested in human clinical trials, in three phases:

PHASE I: The vaccine is given to a small number of volunteers to assess its safety, confirm it generates an immune response, and determine the right dosage.

PHASE II: The vaccine is usually given to hundreds of volunteers, who are closely monitored for any side effects, to further assess its ability to generate an immune response. In this phase, some volunteers receive the vaccine and others do not, which allows comparisons to be made and conclusions are drawn about the vaccine.

PHASE III: The vaccine is given to thousands of volunteers – some of whom receive the investigational vaccine, and some of whom do not, just like in phase II trials.

CAN I BE SURE OF COVID-19 VACCINE SAFETY?

According to WHO, each and every COVID-19 vaccine has undergone rigorous research and safety tests before being released for public use, and as such, can be trusted.

I STILL AM NOT CONVINCED ENOUGH

To read more on the COVID-19 vaccine, simply visit WHO COVID-19 website