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Farm Radio International has produced a variety of resources on COVID-19 to help you produce informative programming and answer your listeners’ questions. You can find all of these resources here: http://scripts.farmradio.fm/radio-resource-packs/covid-19-resources/

To understand what issues are important to your audience, speak to listeners and community leaders. When preparing to answer listeners’ questions about COVID-19 vaccines, speak to local public health experts first, particularly about vaccine availability.

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be read out loud on air for your listeners’ benefit, either during a call-in segment, or as part of a weekly stand-alone program. As you prepare these programs, please note that there may be differences in which vaccines are approved by the World Health Organization and which are approved by your national health agency.

To navigate these FAQs, click on the questions listed below in the table of contents. While clicking, also hold down the “ctrl” key on your keyboard. This will bring you directly to the question you clicked on.

To access African language translations of this and FRI’s other COVID-19 resources, go to:
http://scripts.farmradio.fm/radio-resource-packs/translations-available/

Script

 

Table of Contents

 

Basic information

 

Which COVID-19 vaccines are available in Africa? 3

What are the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19? 3

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work? 3

How were the COVID-19 vaccines developed so quickly? 4

When should I get vaccinated against COVID-19? 5

Are vaccinated people immune to all types of coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS? 5

Are vaccinated people immune to all the COVID-19 variants? 5

Can you still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated? 5

Should I avoid getting vaccinated so that I don’t get side effects from taking the vaccine? Are any of the side effects long-lasting? 6

Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me blood clots? 6

What about people who have died after being vaccinated? 6

Will a COVID-19 vaccine infect me with COVID-19? 6

Which COVID-19 vaccine should I get? 7

If I had COVID-19 in the past, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine? 7

Can children and adolescents get vaccinated against COVID-19? 7

Do I need to continue to wear a mask, use preventative measures, and take other precautions if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19? 8

Is it safe for me to take antibiotics after getting the COVID-19 vaccine? 8

Is it safe for me to drink alcohol after getting the COVID-19 vaccine? 8

What is the difference between the immunity you develop from getting COVID-19 and the immunity you get from a COVID-19 vaccine? 9

How long are vaccinated people protected from COVID-19? 9

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a positive test result on a PCR or antigen test? 9

I have diabetes. How does COVID-19 affect me differently? 9

I have cancer now or have had cancer in the past. Can I be safely vaccinated against COVID-19? 10

I am HIV positive. Can I be safely vaccinated against COVID-19? 10

I am HIV positive. Are there any special measures I should take to protect myself against COVID-19? 10

Will getting vaccinated with the Gamelaya (Sputnik V) vaccine make me HIV positive? 10

I have mobility challenges and it is difficult for me to travel. Can I be vaccinated at home? 11

Is there any difference in the health impacts of COVID-19 on men as opposed to women? 11

The COVID-19 pandemic has been very distressing. Can I get help? 11

Sexual and reproductive health and the COVID-19 vaccines

 

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am pregnant? 11

Will the COVID-19 vaccines make me infertile or impotent? 11

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am breastfeeding? 11

Is it safe for menstruating women to get vaccinated against COVID-19? 12

Doses

 

Will two doses of the vaccine protect me better than just one dose? 12

Is it safe and effective to mix vaccines—for example, getting a first dose of one vaccine and a second dose of a different vaccine? 12

What are COVID-19 “booster doses” or “booster shots”? 12

Do people at high risk for COVID-19 need additional doses of the vaccine? 12

Acknowledgements

 

Basic information

 


Which COVID-19 vaccines are available in Africa?

Several COVID-19 vaccines are available in Africa. As of April 2022, these include:

  • Bharat Biotech (Covaxin)
  • Gamelaya (Sputnik V)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Moderna
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

The availability of specific vaccines differs from country to country. All of these vaccines were rigorously tested before being approved for use and have been proven safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.


What are the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19?

Getting vaccinated could save your life. COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to the virus. Being vaccinated will also reduce the chance that you will pass the virus on to others, which means that your decision to get vaccinated also protects everyone around you.


How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

To understand how the COVID-19 vaccines work, it’s important to understand these three words: pathogen, antibody, and antigen.

A pathogen is a tiny organism that causes a disease. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a pathogen.

The human immune system responds to pathogens by producing antibodies. Antibodies help our bodies recognize and kill pathogens.

The specific part of a pathogen that causes the human body to form antibodies is called an antigen. When the human body is exposed to an antigen for the first time, the immune system responds by producing antibodies that are specific to that antigen.

There are two types of COVID-19 vaccines. The most common type (represented by Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), Gamelaya (Sputnik V), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac) contains weakened or inactive parts of the COVID-19 antigen. When someone receives this type of vaccine, it triggers an immune response to the weakened or inactive antigen. This immune response prepares the body to fight COVID-19.

The other type of vaccine (called an mRNA vaccine and represented by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) does not contain the COVID-19 antigen. Instead, it contains the antigen’s genetic information. When someone receives an mRNA vaccine, the body uses that genetic information to trigger an immune response against COVID-19.

Regardless of which type of vaccine you receive, the COVID-19 vaccines will NOT cause you to get sick with COVID-19. Rather, they trigger your immune system to respond as if it is encountering the actual COVID-19 pathogen. They do this by triggering the immune system to create antibodies against the virus.


How were the COVID-19 vaccines developed so quickly?

In the past, it took many years to develop a vaccine and distribute it to the public. But the COVID-19 vaccines were publicly available less than a year after the virus emerged. There are many reasons why this was possible.

Over decades of creating vaccines, research groups and public health agencies realized that vaccine development was too slow, and they have improved the quality and speed of their work. Also, researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades and have learned from two other coronaviruses that affected humans in the past 20 years: SARS and MERS. After the virus that causes COVID-19 was identified, scientists mapped its genetic information within two weeks. This helped them identify exactly what kind of vaccine would work against COVID-19.

Also, many global partnerships were formed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists and organizations in many countries shared data and discussed the best ways to fight the virus.

Globally, funding for COVID-19 vaccines came from many sources, including non-profit groups, governments, individuals, and pharmaceutical companies.

In the past, it has often taken years to test vaccines in clinical trials. Organizing tests, gathering volunteers, and completing the three different phases of the clinical tests required to ensure safety and effectiveness is often the longest part of developing a vaccine. But for the COVID-19 vaccines, the different phases of testing were conducted in overlapping schedules, and vaccine approval agencies studied test data on an ongoing basis and determined that the vaccines are both safe and effective.

Also, many companies were granted funds that allowed them to begin manufacturing the vaccines before they were fully approved. For those vaccines that were later approved, this paid off by reducing the time it took to produce the vaccines and getting them to the public months earlier than expected.

It’s important to note that the COVID-19 vaccines passed many scientific tests, thanks to the tens of thousands of people who tried them. The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use meet strict standards set by government health agencies in countries around the world.

Scientific and regulatory work on the vaccines hasn’t stopped. Anyone who receives a vaccine can share information about their personal experience and contribute to better understanding of how the vaccines work.


When should I get vaccinated against COVID-19?

You should get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as you can. Guidelines regarding the timing of vaccination vary from country to country. For more information, contact your local healthcare provider.


Are vaccinated people immune to all types of coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS?

The COVID-19 vaccines have been designed to increase immunity only to the COVID-19 virus, NOT to other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.

COVID-19 is one kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in birds and mammals, including humans. Examples of diseases caused by coronaviruses include the common cold (which is also caused by other types of viruses), and viruses with more serious impacts on human health such as those that cause SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.


Are vaccinated people immune to all the COVID-19 variants?

All viruses change constantly through a process called mutation, and new variants regularly emerge. A few of the COVID-19 variants, such as delta and omicron, are more transmissible than the original virus. Other variants could lead to more severe health impacts than the original COVID-19 virus.

As of April 2022, all vaccines approved for use are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from all COVID-19 variants—including delta and omicron.

COVID-19 vaccines are less effective at preventing transmission of the delta variant and especially the omicron variant. But if you do become infected after being vaccinated, your symptoms are likely to be milder than someone who is not vaccinated, and you are much less likely to be hospitalized or die.


Can you still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated?

Being vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Vaccination also reduces the chances of being infected and infecting others with COVID-19.

It is possible for fully vaccinated people to become ill with COVID-19 and transmit it to other people. This is especially true with the more highly infectious omicron variant.

However, if you do become infected with COVID-19 after being vaccinated, your symptoms are likely to be milder than someone who is not vaccinated, and you are much less likely to be hospitalized or die.


Should I avoid getting vaccinated so that I don’t get side effects from taking the vaccine? Are any of the side effects long-lasting?

No, you should not avoid getting vaccinated to avoid side effects. And no, vaccination side effects are not long-lasting.

Being vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. That protection includes all variants of the virus, including the more transmissible delta and omicron variants.

Side effects usually occur within the first few days of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Since the first mass vaccination program started in December 2020, close to 11 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally with no long-term side effects.

The side effects of vaccination are almost always mild and typically include the following symptoms: arm soreness, mild fever, fatigue, headaches, and muscle or joint aches. These symptoms are a sign that your body is building protection against COVID-19. However, some people do not experience side effects after vaccination, and they have the same level of protection.

The risk of being infected with COVID-19 is far greater and more serious than the risk of side effects from receiving an approved vaccine.


Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me blood clots?

There have been some reports of blood clots three to 30 days after vaccination with the AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. These cases are serious but very rare.

In fact, studies show that you are more likely to get a blood clot from being infected with COVID-19 than you are from any COVID-19 vaccine.


What about people who have died after being vaccinated?

COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested for safety, and are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Reports of serious adverse events after vaccination are rare. Simply because someone experiences an adverse event after being vaccinated does NOT mean that the vaccine caused the problem. Rather, the problem may stem from a pre-existing health condition.


Will a COVID-19 vaccine infect me with COVID-19?

None of the vaccines that have been approved for use contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, it is impossible for COVID-19 vaccines to make you sick with COVID-19.


Which COVID-19 vaccine should I get?

All approved COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Public health authorities advise people to accept the vaccine they are offered first and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Do not delay getting vaccinated unless advised by your healthcare provider, because this delay could put you at risk of COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated could save your life. The best COVID-19 vaccine is the one available to you soonest.


If I had COVID-19 in the past, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, it’s recommended that people who have been infected with COVID-19 in the past receive a full course of vaccination—the full number of required doses. People who have been infected with COVID-19 develop some immunity against COVID-19, but it is difficult to tell how long this immunity will last and how strong it will be.

Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death because of COVID-19.

For this reason, the World Health Organization and other health authorities advise individuals to get fully vaccinated as soon as they can.

You can be vaccinated as soon as you no longer have any symptoms of COVID-19.


Can children and adolescents get vaccinated against COVID-19?

COVID-19 vaccine trials for children and adolescents are ongoing. So far, a number of countries are offering COVID-19 vaccines to children and adolescents, though the minimum age for vaccination varies between countries.

Children who are not suffering from chronic health conditions are generally less likely than adults to get severely ill due to COVID-19, so the main goal of vaccinating children is to reduce transmission.

But COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective at reducing transmission of the omicron variant. So, as well as getting vaccinated, the best way to protect children is for everyone to continue to wear a mask that covers your nose, mouth, and chin; maintain at least a one-metre distance from others; cough and sneeze into your elbow; and clean your hands frequently with soap and water.

Parents and caregivers should follow national guidelines around children staying home from school if unwell. They should also adhere to national guidelines around getting their children tested for COVID-19 when they show symptoms and where tests are available.


Do I need to continue to wear a mask, use preventative measures, and take other precautions if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes, you do. COVID-19 vaccines provide very good protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. They also reduce infection and transmission of the virus, although they are less effective at preventing transmission of the omicron variant. For this reason, and because many people are not yet fully vaccinated, it’s important to continue to use other ways of protecting yourself and others.

To keep themselves and other people safe, vaccinated individuals should continue to:

  • Wear a mask that covers their nose, mouth, and chin,
  • Maintain at least a one-metre distance from others,
  • Cough and sneeze into their elbow, and
  • Clean their hands frequently with soap and water.

These measures are particularly important in enclosed, crowded, or poorly-ventilated spaces.

Good quality, disposable medical masks are more effective than reusable cloth masks at protecting you from infection and preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Your mask must fit snugly against your cheeks and nose and over your chin to protect you from being infected and to prevent you from infecting others.

If you don’t have access to disposable medical masks, continue to wear well-fitting, reusable cloth masks over your nose, mouth, and chin. Wearing a cloth mask is MUCH better than no mask at all.

Always follow public health guidance from local authorities.

For more information on preventative measures, read Key information on COVID-19 for broadcasters at: http://scripts.farmradio.fm/radio-resource-packs/covid-19-resources/key-information-covid-19-broadcasters/


Is it safe for me to take antibiotics after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

If a health professional prescribed antibiotics for you before or after your vaccination, you should take the full course. If you have a fever, you should not get vaccinated against COVID-19 until you feel better.


Is it safe for me to drink alcohol after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

There is no evidence that eating or drinking anything, including alcohol, before or after getting vaccinated will affect the safety or effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, drinking alcohol can worsen the normal, mild side effects that you might experience after vaccination, such as headache and fatigue. Therefore, health experts recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol until any side effects from the vaccine have passed.


What is the difference between the immunity you develop from getting COVID-19 and the immunity you get from a COVID-19 vaccine?

The immunity that people develop after recovering from COVID-19 can be strong or weak. The strength and duration of immunity following recovery varies from person to person, making it much less predictable than the immunity gained from vaccination.

COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease with a variety of long-term consequences, and billions of people have been safely vaccinated with approved COVID-19 vaccines. So it is much safer to get vaccinated than to risk getting COVID-19.

Get vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available and keep doing everything you can to protect yourself and others.


How long are vaccinated people protected from COVID-19?

Current research indicates that most vaccinated people have strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 for between three and eight months after becoming fully vaccinated, depending on which vaccine they received.

It is also important to note that the first dose of a two-dose vaccine provides less protection than receiving both doses.


Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a positive test result on a PCR or antigen test?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not cause a positive result on either of these tests. This is because the tests check for active COVID-19 pathogens and not whether an individual has developed immunity to COVID-19.


I have diabetes. How does COVID-19 affect me differently?

Recent studies suggest that people with diabetes have more severe symptoms of COVID-19 and are more likely to die because of COVID-19 than non-diabetic people. This is partly because diabetes damages the immune system, and also because people with diabetes often struggle with other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity. These conditions make it more difficult for the body to fight COVID-19.

For this reason, it is very important for people with diabetes to minimize the risk of being infected with COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and continuing to practice precautions.

In addition to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, people with diabetes should continue to:

  • Wear a mask that covers their nose, mouth, and chin,
  • Maintain at least a one-metre distance from others,
  • Cough and sneeze into their elbow, and
  • Clean their hands frequently with soap and water.

These measures are particularly important in enclosed, crowded, or poorly-ventilated spaces.

Otherwise, people living with diabetes should continue to manage their diet and lifestyle as discussed with their doctor or local health authority. This includes regular administration of insulin and other prescribed medicines as needed.


I have cancer now or have had cancer in the past. Can I be safely vaccinated against COVID-19?

Some people with cancer or a history of cancer can safely get vaccinated. Whether someone with a history of cancer can be vaccinated depends on the type of vaccine, the type of cancer, whether the person is still being treated for cancer, and if their immune system is working well.

If you have cancer or have had cancer in the past, talk with your doctor or another local healthcare provider before getting any type of vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine.


I am HIV positive. Can I be safely vaccinated against COVID-19?

Many of the studies which evaluated the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine included a small number of people living with HIV. These studies show that the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization are safe for people living with HIV.

None of the vaccines approved for use contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. So, the vaccines are as safe for people with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, as they are for other people.

COVID-19 vaccines do not interfere with antiretroviral medications. People living with HIV should continue to take antiretroviral medications after being vaccinated and as prescribed by healthcare professionals.


I am HIV positive. Are there any special measures I should take to protect myself against COVID-19?

It’s true that people living with HIV are at higher risk of being becoming severely ill from COVID-19. Therefore, it is important for HIV-positive people, as it is for everyone else, to continue to use the following precautions:

  • Wear a mask that covers your mouth, nose, and chin.
  • Maintain at least a one-metre distance from others.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people living with HIV should continue to take antiretroviral medications as prescribed by healthcare professionals.


Will getting vaccinated with the Gamelaya (Sputnik V) vaccine make me HIV positive?

No. It is impossible to contract HIV from any COVID-19 vaccine.

However, as of April 2022, South Africa has not approved the Gamelaya (Sputnik V) vaccine for use because some studies suggest that it may increase the risk of contracting HIV. Scientists continue to study this.


I have mobility challenges and it is difficult for me to travel. Can I be vaccinated at home?

Each country has its own plan for where people can be vaccinated. For more information about how to access vaccines in your area, contact your local healthcare provider.


Is there any difference in the health impacts of COVID-19 on men as opposed to women?

Scientists haven’t detected any significant differences in how women and men respond to being infected by COVID-19. But it’s important to note that COVID-19 is a serious health risk to men and women, boys and girls. Everyone is at risk of infection, severe illness, hospitalization, and even death from COVID-19.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been very distressing. Can I get help?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extremely stressful and traumatic time. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, or otherwise troubled, contact your local healthcare provider to see what services are available. Mental health and psychological support services vary between and within countries.

 

Sexual and reproductive health and the COVID-19 vaccines

 


Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am pregnant?

Yes, you can safely get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you are pregnant. Scientists continue to study the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women, and they have not identified any safety concerns.

It is especially important for pregnant women to get vaccinated because, during pregnancy, they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They are also at higher risk of delivering their baby prematurely or having complications if they are infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a safe and proven way for pregnant women to avoid these risks.


Will the COVID-19 vaccines make me infertile or impotent?

No, the COVID-19 vaccines will NOT make you infertile or impotent. There is NO evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or impotence in women or men.


Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am breastfeeding?

Yes, you can get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you are breastfeeding. None of the vaccines approved for use contain the live COVID-19 virus. This means there is no risk of vaccinated women transmitting COVID-19 to their babies through breast milk. In fact, it is possible that the antibodies in vaccinated mothers’ breast milk could be passed along to their babies. This could help protect breastfeeding babies against COVID-19.


Is it safe for menstruating women to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes, it is safe for menstruating women to get vaccinated against COVID-19. If a woman has her period on the day of her vaccination appointment, she should go ahead and get vaccinated.

Menstruation is NOT a reason to delay getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Doses

 


Will two doses of the vaccine protect me better than just one dose?

Most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses a number of weeks apart, though the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine requires only one.

Taking only one of two required vaccine doses provides significantly less protection against infection and severe illness.

People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can still get sick with COVID-19 and even spread it to others. But getting vaccinated greatly reduces these risks.

People who receive a full course of vaccination are not fully protected until 2-4 weeks after their final vaccination. During this time, their bodies are creating the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19.


Is it safe and effective to mix vaccines—for example, getting a first dose of one vaccine and a second dose of a different vaccine?

Scientists are studying whether it is safe and effective to mix COVID-19 vaccines. Guidelines on this question vary from country to country. Always follow your national health authorities’ guidelines.


What are COVID-19 “booster doses” or “booster shots”?

A full course of vaccination against COVID-19 means getting the required number of doses of a vaccine to have full protection against the virus. For most vaccines, like AstraZeneca and Moderna, a full course of vaccination is two doses. For other vaccines, like the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), a full course of vaccination is only one dose.

A “booster dose,” or “booster shot,” is a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine beyond the full course of vaccination. Because the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccines doesn’t last forever, some countries are offering their citizens booster shots to help maintain their protection against the virus.


Do people at high risk for COVID-19 need additional doses of the vaccine?

People who are at high risk of COVID-19, including those with compromised immune systems, don’t always develop full immunity after a full course of vaccination. So they may need an additional dose to protect them.

This additional dose is different than a booster shot. It is considered part of a full course of vaccination for people who may not develop sufficient protection after one or two doses. Additional doses help these individuals develop better protection against COVID-19.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, Managing Editor, Farm Radio International and Hannah Tellier, Resources Coordinator, Farm Radio International

This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and its project “Green Innovation Center for the Agriculture and Food Sector” in Nigeria.
This resource was updated thanks to funding by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada as part of the Life-saving Public Health and Vaccine Communication at Scale in sub-Saharan Africa (or VACS) project.