As the world tries to 'open up' again, Covid 19 vaccine questions make up among the most common health enquiries today. This is especially so as more people get their Covid 19 vaccine injection and want to understand what it means to have medicines never before in general use until now. From questions about how the Covid vaccines work, to concerns about its safety, what about longer-term issues? Our Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe tackles a few of them here.
Whats On This Page
- Finding Answers
- Q1 - I've read the second Covid 19 vaccine dose can have worse side effects. Is that true?
- Q2 - If I got one type of Covid vaccine for my first dose, do I have to get the same type for my second dose? Or can I mix and match?
- Q3 - If you can still catch and spread the Coronavirus after vaccination, why should I have the vaccine?
- Q4 - Can a vaccinated person pass on the coronavirus?
- Q5 - Am I immune once I've been vaccinated with the Covid 19 vaccine?
- Q6 - Should I still get vaccinated if I've already had COVID 19 infection?
- Q7 - Does the Covid 19 vaccine have a reactive effect on Black genes?
- Q8 - People say that the expression 'BIPOC should get the vaccine first for equity' is a conspiracy — what is the truth?
- Risks V Rewards
Every day, you and I need to make decisions about different issues from trivial to serious - what to have for breakfast, or whether to have surgery.
For serious, life-altering issues like those related to our health, we require accurate information to choose. That's how we find ourselves in risk vs reward scenarios that drive the decisions.
That's why I've looked at eight common Covid 19 questions below. Here are the best answers possible from a wide range of resources available.
Q1 - I've read the second Covid 19 vaccine dose can have worse side effects. Is that true?
This can be true for some people. We know that vaccine reactions could happen in some people after receiving the first dose of the vaccine.
Commonly, these are symptoms like a moderate fever, headache, pain and stiffness in your injection arm, tiredness and so on.
We know the reason for these symptoms developing is our immune system.
Yes, it jumps into work after vaccination.
Our immune cells learn to :
- recognise the spike protein of the Sars-Cov-2 virus,
- create a memory for the germ, and
- produce a fighting arsenal to defeat the virus in the future.
These activities are carried out by immune system cells including hormones, T cells, B cells, Cytokines etc.
They cause some people to experience these vaccine reactions - while other people do not.
It is important to remember that the majority of vaccine reactions are moderate and temporary.
Most of us fully recover from them after a few hours or days.
When you get the second dose, your body has already been exposed to the spike protein.
This can mean a more robust immune response. Thus allowing some people to have a more severe response as a result.
Again, these effects, though, are generally temporary, and most people recover well without needing medical help.
Scientists believe that typically, younger people with a stronger immune response tend to have a more robust vaccine reaction and more side effects.
The immune response does vary among people, with many of us experiencing no significant impact after both doses.
Q2 - If I got one type of Covid vaccine for my first dose, do I have to get the same type for my second dose? Or can I mix and match?
This is a situation that affects two-dose vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna or Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccines. Assuming your first jab was with the Pfizer vaccine, does it matter if the second dose was with Astra Zeneca?
Consider what is really the concern surrounding Covid 19 vaccine questions like this - is it safe to mix and match. Secondly, will such a combination still work?
This question is still under research studies.
Scientists are working to determine how safe it is - and if you will still have immunity after using mixed vaccines; or a booster different from your first or original vaccine.
Ideally, you should have the same vaccine for your second dose as the first, wherever possible.
Early data emerging from an ongoing UK study suggests that people who mix and match appear to get more side effects than those who did not.
None of the effects was severe or required hospitalisation.
With regards to the benefits - we don't know yet as studies are still ongoing.
Q3 - If you can still catch and spread the Coronavirus after vaccination, why should I have the vaccine?
It is possible to have the full vaccine doses and still catch or pass on the virus. But this is RARE and happens less often than if you did not get vaccinated.
The vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of severe infection and hospitalisation, and death. How well they are able to prevent infection or spread is still under study.
First, no vaccine can provide 100% protection against any condition - this is also true for the new covid 19 vaccines.
It is true that most people who get the virus may only suffer mild to moderate effects. But there is a possibility 15-20% chance of severe effects and hospitalisation.
This may affect young or old people. It could even affect you despite having no underlying illness.
The vaccines are effective at reducing the severity of infection or death. They do not totally remove it.
While we have yet to eradicate the virus, we need all the protection possible to go around our daily business.
We will stand a better chance with the vaccines which helps reduce the virus activity and less resistance (mutant viruses).
So, context is so important. Without vaccines, the virus is highly infectious and changeable. It can also lead to death and severe illness in many individuals, old and young. Taking the vaccines reduces the likelihood it is severe or will lead to death in you or someone around you.
This is why it is so important to take the vaccine; there is enough proof that it does help to drive down the risks associated with the virus spread.
Q4 - Can a vaccinated person pass on the coronavirus?
The Covid 19 vaccines give you good protection against developing severe Covid infection. Thus, they reduce the risk that you can have severe illness and make it less likely to pass it on.
However, they cannot do this to a 100% degree. So, the vaccinated person can still get the infection and pass on the coronavirus.
Going by the reported cases of infections in those already vaccinated, the chance of this happening is rare. (It is much more likely to happen if unvaccinated).
Q5 - Am I immune once I've been vaccinated with the Covid 19 vaccine?
Once you take the full vaccine dose, you have a level of protection against severe Covid infection and death.
We know that immunity does not develop immediately after the injection.
Scientists believe it takes 10-14 days for your body to create immunity following your first jab. It will take about 7 days after the second dose.
So, while you can consider yourself immune, this does not completely eliminate the risk of infection. Here are some reasons why precautions are still necessary:
- No vaccine has a 100% guarantee to provide complete protection against infections.
- We should have the mindset that while there is some protection we cannot completely abandon other measures especially in public settings. (examples are hand hygiene, masking and social distancing).
- Not everyone has been vaccinated. This means that vaccine spread is still happening in many places and could easily snowball, given the opportunity.
- In addition, not everyone fully vaccinated can develop antibody to the vaccine. Examples include people with blood cancers like lymphoma. They may have received full doses but could still develop Covid infection because their immune system could not form antibodies.
- Getting your shot means you are also protecting others - family, friends, your local community, country and the world. Unless we all are safe, then no one is safe.
- Scientists suggest that the immunity the vaccines provide is not long-lasting. For how long are you immune following vaccination? We are not sure yet.
- Some studies suggest it lasts for at least 6 months, but it may wane over the next few months. So it means we may need boosters, as it happens with some other vaccines like yearly flu shots.
- Another issue that may affect your immunity is the question of viral mutations. Hopefully, as more people receive vaccines and continue other public health measures, this helps reduce virus spread and mutation. But it is essential to realise that some vaccines may not protect against particular mutants. This provides another reason to operate with caution though you have taken the vaccine.
Q6 - Should I still get vaccinated if I've already had COVID 19 infection?
This is one of the particularly important Covid 19 vaccine questions - and the answer to this is yes. At present, scientists are still studying what kind of protection you may have after recovering from Covid 19 infection.
We do not believe it gives lifelong immunity after the infection like some other diseases like Measles.
So, since we can't completely exclude the chance of another infection from Covid, it is best to have the vaccine. This will reduce the risk of re-infection.
Q7 - Does the Covid 19 vaccine have a reactive effect on Black genes?
This question seems to suggest the covid 19 vaccine has a unique side effect on people of black ethnicity.
There is no evidence to support this position.
Looking at data for the vaccines available so far, we can identify a variety of different ethnic groups who were involved in the trials.
For the Pfizer vaccine, nearly 10% of participants were black, 26% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 82% white.
"Overall, among the participants who received COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 (Pfizer vaccine), 51.5% were male, and 48.5% were female, 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian, and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan native".
There was also a similar distribution for the Oxford AZ vaccine: 75% white, 10% black, 3.5% Asian.
"Overall, among the participants who received COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, 90.3% were aged 18 to 64 years, and 9.7% were 65 years of age or older. The majority of recipients were White (75.5%), 10.1% were Black, and 3.5% were Asian; 55.8% were female and 44.2% male".
Altogether, there is no evidence the vaccine has a special or different effect on any specific ethnic group. And there were no side effects reported that specifically impacted blacks or any other ethnicities more than others.
Q8 - People say that the expression 'BIPOC should get the vaccine first for equity' is a conspiracy — what is the truth?
To date, the Covid 19 pandemic has numbered over 168 million cases and claimed more than 3.5 million deaths - Worldometer; so the enormous global impact it has created cannot be overemphasised.
But alongside the efforts to help battle the covid pandemic and its effects, different theories and beliefs have evolved. They create another type of pandemic because what we know and believe about issues guides our decisions.
In responding to this statement, I would suggest that among the other groups found to be highly vulnerable to the Covid infection and death are black and indigenous people of colour (BIPOC) who make up minority ethnic groups in some countries.
This is in addition to other vulnerable groups like the elderly or people with poor immunity from certain chronic conditions
Why are BIPOC ar risk?
The reasons BIPOC are at greater risk of infection and death are varied:
- coming from deprived communities,
- poor economic circumstance leading to poorer housing,
- having high-risk jobs, and
- inability to access health care are just some of them.
Recognising their high risk, it does seem reasonable to allow them to get the vaccine first.
On the contrary, this is viewed with suspicion - thanks to vaccine hesitancy from worries about vaccine side effects or experimentation.
We should acknowledge that BIPOC have genuine reasons to fear being first in line to get the covid 19 vaccines. This is most likely the case, given their historical mistrust of government and public health bodies.
Among the most common Covid 19 vaccine questions from BIPOC involves the safety of the vaccines.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the question.
Additionally, many have experienced systemic racism, discrimination; or a negative close experience with the healthcare system that further breaks down trust.
With a history of unethical healthcare research in black populations, they are often under-represented in health research and vaccine trials.
All these facts have allowed some to capitalise on the concerns of BIPOC. They claim the existence of a conspiracy that is simply not true.
The data does indicate that blacks and people of colour were involved in the Covid vaccine trials. This provides reassurance for their safety and effectiveness.
Millions of people worldwide, including blacks and people of colour have received the vaccine since uptake began in December 2020. BIPOC as a group have not suffered significant ill effects as a result.
So recognising BIPOC as a vulnerable group and attempting to protect us should not be seen as a conspiracy, rather an effort to repair the existing inequality that already puts people in the group at high risk.
Risks V Rewards
There are many more enquiries than the Covid 19 vaccine questions we listed above. For some, there are very clear answers.
In all cases, we must allow the evidence from the studies going on to guide our decisions. This means we recognise that our choice depends on how much risk we can endure compared to the rewards.
Let's be unafraid of questioning the science and any theories posted around us on the internet and social media. Have you any other Covid 19 vaccine questions? Please share them below.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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