COVID-19 vaccine won’t offer lifetime immunity against disease – Experts

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
A patient receiving COVID-19 vaccine. Copyright © 2021 Gallo Images/Getty Images

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Health experts have said that the COVID-19 vaccines will not offer lifetime immunity against the coronavirus disease.  

Uganda rolled out countrywide vaccination against the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday 10, March 2021 starting with priority groups that include; health workers estimated to be 150,000, teachers and security personnel using the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the vaccine can offer protection for only eight months at the maximum. In addition to this, the vaccine does not protect against infections but severe cases or deaths caused by the disease.

The programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI), Dr Alfred Driwale, says immunity picked through vaccination will give the body a chance to fight against the disease.  

He says people who will be vaccinated can get re-infected with the disease. Vaccination however enables them to get milder forms of the disease. For instance, persons, who might have developed severe cases of the disease, might end up with mild or moderate forms of the disease.

“What we know now is that the vaccines can offer protection for up to eight months. After this time, someone can get infected with COVID-19. The only difference is that they will not get severe forms of the disease or even die. But this is what we know now. Future research might show that protection can last even up to two years or forever,” Driwale explains.

As of Tuesday 9, March 2021, over 40,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Uganda. This number might reduce after vaccination but only if people adhere to public health measures like wearing facial masks, washing hands, avoiding gatherings and not touching their eyes or mouth or nose.

Dr Rhoda Wanyenze, a public health expert and also a member of the vaccine committee says even with vaccination, people must wear masks, wash hands and avoid gatherings since infection can occur after vaccination. He reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccination, won’t offer lifetime immunity.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health says it’s important to follow the public health measures because even after vaccination people can get infected with either variants or existing forms of the disease. 

Records from countries that have vaccinated show that the rate of death and ICU admissions has dropped by over 30 percent since vaccination started.

Read Also: Uganda relaxes National ID requirement for COVID-19 vaccination

The government is planning on vaccinating 49 per cent of the population which amounts to around 22 million people. To carry out this venture, over 1 Trillion Shillings is needed.

When asked whether there’s value for money to protect people for just eight months, the minister said vaccination is the only way to control the disease.

“Vaccination is the only proven method to control this disease. In a situation where there’s no available treatment, vaccination is the only way we can stop severe cases or deaths caused by COVID-19 from occurring. If we do not vaccinate, we might get an increase in deaths when the second wave that we are expecting hits. We cannot sit and look on,” Dr Aceng said.