Unmasking COVID-19 vaccine


Globally, as of 1 March, 2021, there have been 114 million COVID-19 cases with 64.4 million recoveries. Sadly, 2.53 million people succumbed to the pandemic. Out of these, Malawi has registered over 1,000 deaths. 

In response, several measures have been put in place to contain the pandemic and more recently, deployment of COVID-19 vaccine.

Malawi has procured the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as one way of putting a stop to the deadly virus.

Malawi is expected to receive 100,000 vaccines from the African Union for frontline health workers and a further 1.5 million doses is expected this month.

As one way of preparing the ground, UNICEF, has shipped in 360,000 single-use auto-disable syringes and 3,625 safety boxes for the disposal of the syringes. A further 2.16 million syringes and 21,600 safety boxes are expected to arrive mid-March 2021 by sea. 

Amidst all these developments, the country seems to be engrossed in some negativity around the vaccine.

The bottom line to all this, implies we all need more engagement and discussion as Malawians with a view to demystify some of the viewpoints being shared.

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps we as Malawians need to take to protect ourselves from further episodes of COVID-19. Stopping a pandemic like COVID-19 requires using all the tools available and a vaccine, is one such tool.

A single vaccination instance, will prevent the COVID-19 bushfire like virus from further spreading and replicating, which allows it to mutate and possibly become more resistant to vaccines.

Vaccines work with our immune system so our body will be ready to fight the virus if one is exposed. Other steps, like masks, handwashing and social distancing, help reduce the chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following government’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19 for Malawi and the global community.

To understand how the COVID-19 vaccines work, consider looking at how our bodies fight illness. When germs, such as COVID-19 virus, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This soldier like invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. Within the ICT arena, some of you have been victims to virus attack on your computers or similar gadgets. To prevent further episodes, anti-viruses have been installed and updated to deal with emerging strains. Similarly, our immune system through the aid of blood cells termed as T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes, uses several tools to fight infection. 

Take note that getting a COVID-19 vaccination just like having an anti-virus on your computer or smartphone is not a guarantee that one will not be infected.

The first time a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus, it can take several days or weeks for the body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools like T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes needed to get over the infection. The vaccine will assist with a supply of “memory” cells that will remember how to fight that virus in the future if the body encounters the same virus again.

Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection. 

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever and most of you might have seen this in your under-five babies. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

COVID-19 vaccine presents, perhaps the best hope for Malawians for ending the pandemic and the unnecessary deaths hence allowing the world and Malawi in particular, to return to normality.

Given a chance to get a single jab from the few vaccines to be made available to few Malawian adults, I would urge you to grab that rare chance without any delays. Whether you are a frontline worker, teacher or even a scribe like me, roll up your shirt to get that first jab and even the second one if made available. 

About the Author: Public Relations Officer for COVID-19 Response by Private Citizens