The South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) says people will still be required to exercise health protocols, such as wearing masks, after taking the coronavirus vaccine. South Africa is due to receive one million doses from India’s Serum Institute in the coming days.

Government wants to vaccinate at least 40 million South Africans by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity.

“One of the things we don’t know about the vaccine is whether you will still possibly be able to get a low level of infection – either asymptomatic or with minimal symptoms. But with that, whether you are going to be shedding the virus, we don’t know about that. You might be protected from serious infection, but we don’t know if it is going to stop people from getting a very low level of infection which means that they will be infectious. If that is the case, they will be good at protecting you but not as good at transmission and these are other questions that we are still trying to answer,” says SAHPRA’s Chairperson, Professor Helen Rees.

Rees says people who have recovered from the coronavirus are advised to take the vaccine to combat the coronavirus.

“So at the moment, the recommendation is that even if you have had the infection before – but if it is your turn and you have an opportunity to take the vaccine – some people may say I recently had the infection and I want to defer which would be an individual choice – but at the moment the recommendations from the WHO and nationally is that we will offer the vaccine to everyone including people who have had an infection,” she says.

Below is a discussion on the matter with Prof Rees: