- Is it mandatory to get vaccinated against COVID-19?
The vaccination is voluntary. However, considering the benefits of vaccination against severe disease and death, it is strongly recommended that all eligible persons be vaccinated.
The vaccines are good at slowing transmission and excellent at preventing severe disease and mortality. Mortality in countries with even 30% vaccination has plummeted by 80% within weeks.
With the Covid positivity rate in Kenya averaging 15% and Nairobi at almost 60%, the option is not whether to get the vaccine or not, but rather whether you will be vaccinated or not when you get Covid.
- How does the vaccine work?
The Covid-19 vaccine helps our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness.
The Covid-19 vaccine is “Viral vector vaccine” that contains a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the shell of the modified virus, there is material from the virus that causes COVID-19. This is called a “viral vector.” Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.
It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination.
- How many doses should one take?
Two doses 4-12 weeks apart are administered. In Kenya, the doses shall be 8 weeks apart.
- What is the efficacy of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine?
In the different clinical trials conducted, this vaccine has been shown to protect against symptomatic infections with an efficacy ranging between 60% and 90%. According to an analysis published in The Lancet, this difference may be due to the interval between both doses: a longer interval (12 weeks) protects better (above 80%) than an interval below 6 weeks (under 60%).
To date, no hospitalizations or deaths have been registered among people who received both doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine in clinical trials.
- What are the contra-indications to the administration of the vaccine?
Hypersensitivity to the active substance or to any of the excipients. Note that none of the currently available vaccines include human or animal products. Thus, egg allergy is NOT a contraindication.
A positive IgG test (i.e., having been exposed to the disease) is not an exclusion criterion for vaccination; available data suggest that previously infected individuals can be at risk of COVID-19 reinfection and could benefit from vaccination.
- What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Injection site tenderness (>60%); injection site pain, headache, fatigue (>50%); myalgia, malaise (>40%); pyrexia, chills (>30%); and arthralgia, nausea (>20%). The majority of adverse reactions were mild to moderate in severity and usually resolved within one to two days of vaccination.
- Is the vaccine safe in Pregnancy?
There is a limited experience with the use of COVID-19 Vaccine in pregnant women. Preliminary animal studies though do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects with respect to pregnancy & embryofetal development.
COVID-19 vaccine therefore should be considered for pregnant women when their risk of exposure to Covid-19 is high and cannot be avoided, or if the pregnant mother has underlying conditions that place her at high risk of complications of COVID-19.
And since generally pregnant women remain at increased risk of severe COVID-19, and their risk of being admitted to intensive care is higher than non-pregnant reproductive aged women, the potential benefits of Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the potential risks. Consult your doctor before going for the jab.
- Is the vaccine safe in Breastfeeding?
There is evidence from some vaccines that the breast-feeding baby may acquire a level of protection. The vaccine is recommended for use during breast feeding.
- Does the vaccine affect Fertility?
Preliminary animal studies do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects with respect to fertility.
- How was the vaccine developed so quickly?
Medicines, including vaccines, are highly regulated – and that is no different for the approved COVID-19 vaccine. There are a number of enablers that have made this groundbreaking medical advancement possible and made it possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines.
a). The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of running sequentially which sped up the clinical process.
b). There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial.
c). Clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.
- Do I need to continue to social distance and wear a face covering after receiving the vaccine?
It is important to note that even when you have received both doses of the vaccine, you must continue to follow current guidance on social distancing, wearing a face mask when you are in public places and avoid crowded places.
- Can the Covid-19 Vaccine aid in development of herd Immunity?
Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had the disease or because they’ve been vaccinated.
Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person. It even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns or people who are allergic to the vaccine. The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.
- I am currently ill with COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?
People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until they have recovered.
- How do I access the vaccine?
In Kenya the Covid-19 vaccination will be done in Three Phases:
Phase 1 covers about 1.2 million Kenyans targeting frontline workers who include those in the health sector, teachers & staff working in institutions of learning, members of the disciplined forces, immigration officers & persons aged 58 years and above & the clergy.
Phase 2 – As more vaccines become available the plan is to vaccinate 10 million more Kenyans, targeting all Kenyans with underlying health conditions putting them at increased risk of contracting severe Covid disease.
Phase 3 – will run concurrently with phase 2 depending on availability of adequate vaccines. It will include all other vulnerable populations like those in congregate settings such as prisoners & refugees.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being offered free of charge at designated centres across the country.
But in order to get more people vaccinated, the Government has allowed private hospitals to import the Covid vaccines and offer it to Kenyans at a charge.