As the issue of Covid-19 vaccine creates tension among some Nigerians, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency has provided answers to frequently asked questions regarding the vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccines aim to prevent COVID-19 disease by triggering an immune response.
COVID-19 vaccines are being developed following the same legal requirements for quality, safety, and efficacy as for all other vaccines.
Like all vaccines, the effects of COVID-19 vaccines are tested first in the laboratory, including in animals, and then in human volunteers.
The National Regulatory Authority, such as NAFDAC, is the agency in charge of evaluation and supervision of medicinal products. It will evaluate COVID-19 vaccines against the same high standards as for all other vaccines before they can be released for use. NAFDAC will continually monitor side effects in people who have received COVID-19 vaccines and identify and evaluate new information that arises on the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines promptly.
- Were safety procedures and standards not compromised to develop and produce COVID-19 vaccine in less than one year, when it took 5-10 years or more to develop and produce other well known, safe and efficacious childhood vaccines and others like yellow fever and polio vaccines?
No, standards were not compromised nor were safety procedures ignored in producing COVID-19 vaccine. It is huge misconception to assume that the work on COVID-19 vaccine started when the pandemic began.
Prior to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, scientists had experimented and perfected a fast and flexible method- plug and play-to revolutionize vaccine development and production.
Researchers at Oxford University had constructed ChAdOx1 – or Chimpanzee Adenovirus Oxford One and used it as the building block for vaccine against almost any disease. Before COVID-19, over three hundred people had been given ChAdOx1 based-vaccines for diseases ranging from flu to Zika virus, and prostate cancer to the tropical disease chikungunya. The ChAdOx1 is modified to contain the genetic blueprints for whatever you want to train the immune system to attack. ChAdOx1 is in essentially a sophisticated, microscopic postman, and scientists then change the package, such as COVID-19 spike proteins to be delivered by the ChAdOx1 postman.
2. Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?
It is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine will protect you from getting infected, sick, or dying. By getting vaccinated, you also protect your loved ones and your community.
3. How do I get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Nigeria plans to introduce the COVID-19 vaccine in the 1st Quarter of 2021 to halt the ongoing spread of the virus and to save lives. Once the vaccine is available, there will be public announcements on those to be vaccinated through the mass media and traditional channels in the communities on when and where to get the vaccine.
4. Can the vaccine infect me with COVID-19?
No! the vaccine cannot infect you with COVID-19. It is meant to protect you from COVID -19 infection. Once your vaccination doses are complete, you become protected.
5. If I have had COVID-19 and have recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. NPHCDA recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can be infected more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we do not know how long this protection will last. Hence, it is recommended that that you get vaccinated because you can be re-infected.
6. Can pregnant and lactating mothers receive the vaccine?
NO! Studies are yet to be conducted to ascertain the safety of the vaccine on pregnant and lactating mothers.
7. Can the COVID-19 vaccine alter human genetic information (DNA)?
No! COVID – 19 vaccine does not alter your DNA. It triggers an immune response that will protect your body against the virus if encountered. Once you and your community members are protected, the chances of the spread of the disease are reduced.
8. Does COVID-19 vaccine contain a micro-chip?
NO! COVID-19 – 19 vaccine does not contain any harmful substance or micro-chip. All vaccines including COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured under strict compliance with WHO guidelines. Also, before the vaccine is administered in Nigeria, NAFDAC will certify it safe for human use.
9. Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. The vaccine does not cause the disease but helps the body to develop immunity against the disease.
10. Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?
No. There is no guarantee that if you get COVID-19, you will get immunity. In fact, you may get serious illness and die or have debilitating symptoms that may persist for months. Even if you survive the disease, you may only develop short-term antibody protection after recovery from COVID-19, we do not know how long this protection lasts. Therefore, vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe.
11. Will the shot hurt or make me sick?
Mild side effects may occur as in any other vaccinations. However, they are signs that the vaccine is working to build your immunity. This does not mean you have COVID-19. If they do not go away in a few days, please see your doctor.
12. How do I know if COVID-19 vaccine is safe?
Before a vaccine is certified for use, it must receive approval from WHO. Here in Nigeria, in addition to WHO approval, all vaccines including COVID-19 vaccine are certified safe for use by NAFDAC. Even when in use, NAFDAC continues to monitor the vaccine to ensure it causes no harm.
13. Do I still need to wear facemask after vaccination?
Yes, you are advised to continue to practice the preventive measures – wear your face masks, frequently wash your hands with soap and running water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, observe physical distancing and avoid large gathering and unnecessary travels to stop community transmission of COVID-19.
This is because getting the vaccine does not stop you from getting exposed to someone who has been infected, but the vaccination and development of immunity will stop the infection from progressing to disease – hence you still need to practice the preventive measures.