Covid-19 vaccines will be safe when rolled out next year: health experts

Health experts are encouraging the public to take Covid-19 vaccines when they are rolled out to limit the spread of the virus.
Health experts are encouraging the public to take Covid-19 vaccines when they are rolled out to limit the spread of the virus.
Image: 123RF/Sergey Chayko

Health experts have encouraged South Africans to embrace the Covid-19 vaccine expected to be rolled out in the country in the second quarter of next year, offering the assurance that rigorous monitoring will ensure its safety.

Speaking on SABC's Morning Live on Thursday, Prof Helen Rees of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority noted the urgency around the development of a vaccine.

“We've never been under so much pressure to develop a vaccine. Normally we analyse and wait ... What we've done is we've cut out the dead time in between. However, we have not lowered regulatory measures,” she said.

“What we want to do as we introduce this vaccine is give people confidence in [it]. The more information we get out there, the better,” Rees said.

She said receiving the vaccine would be a personal choice.

“The first choice is to give people confidence to do it voluntarily and we have to get high levels of people immunised so we interrupt the transmission of the virus.”

According to Rees, the initial introduction of the vaccine would go to health-care workers and those who have comorbidities.

Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele of the SA Medical Research Council said the safety of the vaccine would be monitored even after its rollout, alongside the tests being done now.

He said there should not be any concern that the new variants of the coronavirus could resist the vaccine.

There should also not be concern about what goes into the vaccine during the manufacturing process, Mphahlele said.

He cautioned, though, that even if there was a safe vaccine, Covid safety protocols should still be observed.

“The vaccine will not be the solution to everything. We have to maintain non-pharmaceutical interventions to minimise the spread of the virus,” he said.

The department of health’s Dr Anban Pillay proposed that a single-dose vaccine be administered to avoid the risk of people defaulting.

“Ideally, you would want a single dose that's kept in the temperature of a refrigerator.

“Those who choose not to take the vaccine should not infringe on others by spreading the virus. People need to respond to them [vaccines] positively,” he said.

Pillay said the Covid vaccines were currently in a regulatory assessment phase across the world. The specific type allocated to SA was yet to be determined.

“A dossier will be ready early in January; we can then expect rollout thereafter. They have advised us to plan for a rollout early in the second quarter,” he said.

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