The two leading Covid-19 trials in South Africa – the one by Oxford University in association with the Jenner Institute and the United States-based Novavax; and Wits University’s Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit – have come up with a simplified question and answer page on its website to deepen members of the public’s knowledge on the workings of a vaccine.
Describing a vaccine as “a biological product that elicits an immune response against a specific bacteria or virus,” it explains:
“The immune response stimulates lymphocytes [white blood cells] in the body to produce antibodies and other inflammatory responses to kill off, inactivate or neutralise the germ when a person is exposed or infected. The antibody response is generally specific to individual germs, hence the need for different types of vaccines.
“Vaccines have been shown to be the most cost-effective health strategy in preventing death. Each year, it is estimated that immunisation of children, prevents at least 2.5 million deaths.
“Immunisation is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. However, there still remain approximately 1.5 million deaths that could be prevented each year if vaccines were more accessible and widely used.”
On who should be given a vaccines, the Q&A explains: “Vaccines are ideally given to people before they are exposed to a specific virus or bacteria so that their immune system is able to mount an immediate defence against the targeted germ if they are inadvertently exposed or infected.”