What to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa


Jade Poole from I write words

COVID-19 vaccine

It’s official! South Africa has kick-started the very first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and there are a number of things you will need to know about the programme!

Did you know that South Africa is the first country in the entire world to officially roll out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? We aren’t just leading the global programme but making use of a vaccine that works against South Africa's 501Y.V2 variant.

In order to save you the trouble of googling each and every question you have regarding the vaccine, we compiled a list of the most asked questions and matched them with the official answers given by the Health Department. Remember that staying safe means staying informed!

How is the vaccine administered and when does protection start?

When you receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you will receive it in a single dose in your upper arm.

On average, protection begins around 10 to 14 days after you have received the vaccine. It is, however, very important to remember that no vaccine provides 100% protection. According to official reports, this specific vaccine is said to provide you with 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease, and 100% protection against death.

Basically, even if you get the vaccine it is crucial that you still wear a mask at all times and continue to practice good hygiene. This vaccine does not make you invincible!

Who can apply to get the vaccine?

According to Health Minister Dr Zweli Khize, government health officials have secured enough doses to vaccinate any South African that is in need of the vaccine. That being said, it is important to remember that those currently fighting on the frontlines are a top priority at the moment.

How does the vaccine protect you against COVID-19?

For those of us that aren’t in the medical industry, understanding how a single dose injection can help protect you from the coronavirus may seem strange. So here’s the uncomplicated way in which it works: the injection ultimately trains your personal immune systems to be able to fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. So in the event that your body encounters COVID-19 particles, your immune system will be able to disarm the virus.

Are they injecting you with COVID-19?

This question is completely understandable as many vaccines work this way: with a small dose of the virus getting injected into the body. This is NOT the case with this vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the Coronavirus and will not give you COVID-19. The vaccine also does not contain any animal products and is halal.

Are there any major side effects of the vaccine?

There are a few mild symptoms that you may experience after getting the vaccine. One of which is slight tenderness around the arm where you were injected. Healthcare officials say that should you feel slightly unwell, feverish and suffer from a slight headache after a few days, you shouldn’t worry! This means that the body is mounting an immune response to the virus, which is what you want!

Can pregnant women get the vaccine?


The vaccine is unavailable to pregnant women during the initial stage. This is a common practice when vaccines are still going through clinical trials. Disallowing pregnant women to take the vaccine is based on the fact that there is very little information on the safety of the vaccine on foetuses.

Do I need to sign a consent form to receive the vaccine?

Yes, you will be asked to provide consent for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This isn’t exactly a new requirement when it comes to national vaccine campaigns around the world. Especially when they are being provided under Emergency Use Authorisation mechanisms.

You will therefore be expected to fill in the consent form before you go for your vaccine. Staff will recheck to make sure that it has been signed.

This consent form also allows Sisonke researchers to access your medical records so that they are able to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine programme! But don’t panic because your information is access secured and made anonymous.

Stick to trusted resources

It is very important to remember that there are a number of fake news sites spreading false information regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine. Make sure to only access reputable and reliable sources to find out information on the current roll-out programme. This in turn will help you make an informed decision.

Here are a few of our go-to websites:



Whether you decide to get the vaccine or not, remember that we have a responsibility to keep one another safe. Keep wearing your mask, avoid crowded spaces, continue to practice social distancing and make sure that you ALWAYS prioritise your health and wellbeing – as we do!

Yours in affordable health insurance,


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