Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
In South Africa, we are currently on a 3rd wave of the covid-19 surge. It is somewhat hard to tell what went south with the progress we were making. A couple of months ago, the numbers seemed to be improving and the restrictions were loosened. Now, it feels like we are back at square one. The restrictions are currently as tight as they were during the first months of the emergence of this pandemic. And now, more than ever, our hope lie in the preventative measure which is the vaccine. But the big question among many is; does it work and if so, how?
Alongside the worries, fear, and concerns we are all currently facing. We are also getting introduced to new medical terms which were once only used in and by medical practitioners. Terms such as vaccines, immunity and a few more are being used with reckless abandon and most of us are feeling confused and uncertain of what it all means. The introduction of vaccines on the surface of our vocabulary has, just like covid-19, sparked a lot of questions coupled with anxiety.
Is it safe to take? Will its effect somehow negatively impact or alter other biological and physiological functions in the long run? If not, how can we be sure? Some people are also wondering if all this is just a scam or worse, some kind of a bioweapon? And what is a vaccine made of?
The Oxford concise color medical dictionary explains vaccine as a special preparation of antigenic material that can be used to stimulate the development of antibodies and thus confer active immunity against a specific disease or number of diseases.”
In simpler terms, vaccination is a procedure whereby an inactive/false virus or bacteria are introduced into your body. This is done so that the body's immune system can recognize said false virus or bacteria as foreign and harmful. When the inactivated virus is in the body, it triggers the production of a “blood protein” (called an antibody), as a way to fight off the intruder (inactivated virus). The body produces more and more of the antibodies so that in the future, if the same virus (whether active or not) enters the body, it won't survive because the body recognizes it as foreign and harmful. And most importantly, now the body knows how to fight it off.
And while the the inactive bacteria/virus cannot make you sick. You may experience side effects of the vaccine as your body adjusts to this new virus or bacteria in the body. This is the case for any other medication that many of us take that may have mild side effects. However if you are not sure and would like to know more. It is important to talk to a registered health practitioner who can explain the process a bit better to you and hopefully put your mind at ease.