On 20 December, Munier’s Canadian friend posted on Facebook: “Well, just got my first dose of the Covid vaccine.”
“Good for you. Which vaccine? Any side effects?” Munier commented.
The friend, who is a healthcare worker, replied: “Pfizer, none so far.”
He added: “It is comforting to know I’m at a lower risk of becoming sick from the virus, but apparently I can still carry it and infect others, so my lifestyle isn’t going to change: social distancing, isolation, not seeing friends/family, etc.”
Two things struck Munier about this conversation.
The first was that Canadians were getting vaccinated in December already!
This as the government announced on Thursday that the start of South Africa’s rollout will happen later this month and February, with healthcare workers first in line to get vaccinated.
The second was, while people in other countries are already protecting themselves against Covid-19, South Africans are still caught up in crackpot conspiracy theories.
“Coronavirus is a hoax. 5G cellphone network towers are making people sick.”
“Bill Gates is the mastermind behind a plot to inject microchips in people, via the vaccine, in order to control our minds.”
Then there’s nutty professors and their fuzzy logic of “the vaccine only took one year to develop, so it must be a con”.
Suddenly parents, for no reason, are dead against the idea of vaccines, even though their kids have been immunised for chicken pox, polio and measles.
Then you get the cool cats who boast that they’ve done cigarettes, alcohol, weed, acid, ecstasy, cocaine, etc. in their party days, but now they choose not to “poison” their bodies with a vaccine? Right.
And it's not just ignorant fools on social media, community leaders and politicians are also guilty of spreading dangerous misinformation.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng got into trouble over his taatie religious views on vaccines.
“I said if there is any vaccine that is manufactured to advance a satanic agenda of the mark of the beast 666, if there is any vaccine that is manufactured for the purpose of corrupting the DNA of the people, that vaccine must be burnt, it must die. God must intervene and destroy it,” he stated - in public
Well, yes chief justice, agreed. Nobody wants to put the mark of the beast in their bodies.
Hell, if a steak and kidney pie contained 666 juices, then it too must be destroyed with fire.
But why doubt the vaccines? Surely a judge’s job is to weigh up the evidence. What scientific proof is there to suggest that any vaccine has been spiked by the Prince of Darkness?
All community leaders, and this includes members of the media, have a responsibility to provide the public with truthful, accurate and verified information, so that people may make informed decisions.
So here are some important facts regarding the pandemic and South Africa's vaccine rollout.
Who is first in line for the vaccine and when will it be available?
The Health Department aims to vaccinate around 40 million South Africans by the end of 2021. The three-phased rollout is likely to start in April.
Phase 1: Around 1.2 million frontline healthcare workers.
Phase 2: 2.5 million essential workers.
1.1 million persons in congregate settings.
5 million persons older than 60 years.
9 million persons older than 18 years with co-morbidities.
Phase 3: Around 22.5 million other persons older than 18 years.
Who are the vaccine suppliers?
The Department of Health and the Ministerial Advisory Committee have been in discussions with five vaccine suppliers including: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Cipla.
SA is part of the Covax vaccine programme, the global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.
How effective are the Covid-19 vaccines?
Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognise and mount a defence against a virus. The aim of vaccination is to prevent ongoing transmission and to achieve herd immunity.
According to the Health Department, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has shown to be 95% effective in protection against the virus. The biggest challenge with this vaccine option is that it needs to be stored at -70°C. South Africa only has a limited amount of commercial ultra low cold chain storage.
The AstraZeneca/University of Oxford Vaccine offers 70% protection against Covid-19. This vaccine is likely to be widely as it can be stored at 2-8°C, which is around fridge temperature and easier to store.
Can South Africans refuse a vaccine?
Vaccination is NOT compulsory and people are entitled to refuse it, says Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja.
“What needs to be communicated clearly is that the vaccination is important for any health system. It prevents outbreaks of diseases that could be catastrophic to societies,” he however stressed.
How does the vaccine work?
The AstraZeneca vaccine is made up of another virus (of the adenovirus family) that has been modified to contain the gene for making the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The adenovirus itself cannot reproduce and does not cause disease. Once it has been given, the vaccine delivers the SARS-CoV-2 gene into cells in the body. The cells will use the gene to produce the spike protein. The person’s immune system will treat this spike protein as foreign and produce natural defences − antibodies and T cells − against this protein.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses the modified version of the virus to carry a gene from the coronavirus into the human cells. It then produces coronavirus proteins in the cells – but not the virus itself. This should help prepare your immune system to attack the coronavirus when it enters your body.
(Source: SA’s vaccine roll-out explained: who will receive it and can you refuse it? Kelly Jane Turner, Rudolf Nkgadima - IOL)