What COVID-19 vaccines are available in South Africa?


Welcome to Video 5 of our series on Understanding Vaccines with Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Discovery Health Centre for Clinical Excellence. Here we explore the three different COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved for use in the country, how they work, and when you're considered fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines work to train our immune systems so that when we are confronted with the real virus, we're already prepared and ready to fight. In South Africa, there are three vaccines that have been authorised for use for the prevention of the COVID-19 disease.

(available in SA)
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Sinovac (CoronaVac) vaccine
Technology used and how it works A piece of the RNA - the mRNA - is injected into your body to direct your cells to produce spike proteins similar to those on the surface of the Coronavirus. Once mRNAs have been introduced to the cell and have stimulated the production of spike proteins, it disintegrates very quickly. The mRNA does not integrate with your DNA, because it does not enter the nucleus of the cell. Like all other proteins, the spike proteins are broken down into amino acids and disposed of by your body. DNA/Viral Vector: Here an inactivated form of an adenovirus - which is harmless to human beings - is introduced into your cells for the production of spike proteins. As with the Pfizer vaccine, these are not live spike proteins and so they cannot cause COVID-19. The spike proteins train your immune system to identify them as Coronavirus, and mount an immune response. So if you get infected by the actual Coronavirus, you already have an immune system that remembers and is able to fight the real infection. Whole inactivated virus: This vaccine uses virus particles that have been killed so they cannot make us sick. However the process keeps the spike proteins on the outside of the virus in place and this means that when we are vaccinated, we expose the body's immune system to the actual shape of the virus in a safe way. Then, the immune system can be trained to respond to the live virus if you're exposed in the future.
Number of vaccine doses needed: Two doses, 21 to 42 days apart. You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose. One dose. You're considered fully vaccinated 28 days after your vaccination. Two doses, two to four weeks apart. You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose.

Remember, you cannot get the COVID-19 disease from a vaccine, and a vaccine cannot change your DNA. Watch Dr Noluthando explain here:

Here's a breakdown of all the current COVID-19 vaccines available around the globe. Learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines here, and join the millions of South Africans who can proudly say, #IGotMyVaccine.

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