COVID-19 reality check: Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 4.3 million people worldwide have lost their lives to COVID-19. Namibia, despite the low population, has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths per million people globally. To date Namibia has seen 119,984 infections and 3,112 coronavirus-related deaths, with over 99% of COVID-19 deaths coming from those not fully vaccinated.
There is no cure for COVID-19 but vaccination can curb and ultimately stop the spread of the virus. Despite this truth, vaccination hesitancy is at an all-time high in the country. And although getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice, whether you get yours influences your community.
The reality is that viruses need to infect new hosts all the time to keep alive and going. They cannot survive as an independent organism. And every time a virus infects a new host there is the chance a new mutation that can make the virus more deadly or transmissible can emerge. However, when that virus comes into contact with a dead-end host, or someone that is immune to infection due to vaccination, the likelihood that it can continue to survive and cause further infection goes down. This is the principle behind herd immunity. If everyone, or almost everyone, that the virus comes into contact with is immune, the virus has nowhere to thrive and will disappear. Herd immunity also protects those who cannot be vaccinated, such as children.
Vaccines have long provided humanity with immune protection against viral infections and have the potential to eradicate diseases, as seen with the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s. The Sinopharm vaccine is an attenuated/ killed form of the virus. This vaccine uses the same principles and technology as the MMR (mumps, rubella and chickenpox) vaccine given to children at 12 months. The AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine which has been changed so that it can tell your body to mount an immune response but not make you sick, as it cannot replicate.
The key things to know about the COVID-19 vaccines are:
- The vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus.
- The vaccines are safe and effective at preventing disease, especially severe illness and death.
- None of the vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 so a vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
- You may have side effects after vaccination. These are normal and should go away in a few days.
- It takes the body time to build protection (immunity). You are not fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine.
- In Namibia over 99% of COVID-19 deaths are among those not fully vaccinated. This is the same statistic as seen in the USA.
- The vaccines were not rushed to market: Development was quick as the vaccine technology already existed and just needed to be applied to COVID-19.
- Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) can occur in people even if they have already had COVID-19. But receiving the vaccine can provide protection against severe COVID-19 complications.
- The AstraZeneca vaccine has shown 100% protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death (following 2 doses) in the primary analysis of Phase III. It has an efficacy of 82% and can reduce disease transmission up to 67%.
- Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are nearly as effective against the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant as they are against the Alpha.
- The Sinopharm vaccine has a vaccine efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalised COVID-19 disease of 79%, and in some cases up to 90%.
In order for us to reach herd immunity, about 90 percent of the population needs to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Higher vaccination rates make future outbreaks much less likely. They decrease the likelihood of further mutations. They reduce the need for preventive measures, such as border closures, strict lockdowns and travel restrictions. In turn, they will reduce the impact on health, social and economic conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately help save lives and livelihoods.
Do the right thing, get vaccinated. For your own health, that of your family and for the good of the country!