Everyone's talking about the COVID-19 vaccine! It’s our best bet for protection against the virus. To help you prepare for your jab, we bring you all the facts about what you need to do to get registered, what to expect on vaccination day, and how to manage possible side-effects in the days after.
Step 1 - Register
How to register: You need to register online on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS). Registration was opened for people over 60 on 16 April. Other groups will register in phases.
What you need to register: You will need to give your South African ID or passport number, your contact number, information about your primary employer and location of work, and where relevant, your medical aid details.
When will you get the vaccine? The vaccine is being rolled out in phases. Phase 1 is the vaccination of frontline healthcare workers. Phase 2, which includes over 60s and people with comorbidities, is expected to start on 17 May. Phase 3 will include the general population, over the age of 18.
How will you be notified? You will be sent an SMS notification with a unique code, informing you of the time and place where your injection will be administered.
Step 2 - Get vaccinated!
What to take on the day: Your ID and medical aid card, if you have one. You do not need to bring money, it is free.
What happens at the vaccination site? You will be screened for COVID-19. If you display symptoms, you will not be vaccinated, and will instead be referred for testing and given an opportunity to be vaccinated at a later stage. If you are COVID-19 free, you will be given the vaccination.
What vaccine will you receive? Either the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or the Pfizer vaccine. You don’t get to choose - the vaccine you receive depends on which is available at the site.
After vaccination: You will receive an SMS to confirm you have been vaccinated and, if you require a second dose, the SMS will contain the date for receiving the second dose.
Step 3 - Manage any side effects
What are the possible side effects? Reported side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are mostly mild to moderate and short-lasting. They include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhoea and pain at the injection site. For most people, the symptoms go away within 48 to 72 hours after being vaccinated.
The chances of getting any of these side effects differ according to the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are given.
Johannesburg-based GP Dr Pam Taylor, who received the vaccine in the first phase, with other medical workers, describes how she felt after vaccination: “Four hours after I had the vaccine I felt a bit headachey and took a Panado. Four hours after that I developed chills and rigors and muscle pain. I took another Panado and eventually fell asleep. The following day I felt very tired but otherwise absolutely fine. Within 36 hours I was fine. My daughter also had the vaccine and had exactly the same symptoms, although she also had arm pain. She had COVID-19 early in January.”
How to ease the side effects. If you get a red, itchy rash on the skin around the vaccination site, apply a cool cloth. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare worker about how best to manage pain, fever and other symptoms.
When to worry: An allergic reaction to the vaccine happens in rare cases. Most serious allergic reactions happen within 15 minutes of getting vaccinated. The signs are trouble breathing, swelling of the face and throat, rash, and low blood pressure.
What to do: Immediately seek medical assistance or go to hospital if you have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccination.
Note: If you’ve had previous allergic reactions to vaccinations, consult a doctor specialising in immunology before you go for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Are you now COVID-19 safe?
You are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And although the risk of you developing COVID-19 is low after vaccination, you might still contract it and spread it. So you still need to adhere to public safety protocols like mask-wearing.
The vaccine is our best bet in the fight against COVID-19, and being vaccinated is the best way to to protect yourself, so don’t hesitate to register if you’re over 60, or when it’s your turn.
For information, news and updates about COVID-19 and the vaccination roll-out, visit the South African online resource and news portal.