Kenya: Explainer - Why You Must Get Second Covid-19 Vaccine Dose

Mary Nyoka, 65, of South Sudan gets the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Swinga Health Centre 3 in Bidibidi. settlement, Yumbe district, northern Uganda.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe last week assured first phase Covid-19 vaccine recipients of their second dose of the shot this week.

The ministry had earlier given an advisory on the interval between the first and the second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be eight weeks apart.

It is now 11 weeks since the first cases received the jab on March 5. With the global shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, the Health ministry, however, changed the guidelines on the interval to 12 weeks.

As the hope for the second dose draws nigh, Nation.Africa spoke to Dr Richard Ayah, a public health specialist and member of the National Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment and he answered some of the frequently asked questions regarding the second shot.

Why do I need to get the second dose of the vaccine?

The first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine does not give you full protection from the disease. The protection against the disease after receiving the first dose builds up slowly and it mainly protects against severe disease. The second dose is a boost to that because to some extent, it protects against infection and generally offers a higher level of protection.

What level of immunity do I get after the second dose and for how long will I be protected?

You are likely to get about 90 per cent protection after the second shot. There is no clear-cut on how long the protection will last after receiving the second dose. The first recipients of the vaccine globally got it sometime last year and so far, the protection against severe disease and infection is still on course.

An analysis of phase III trials by AstraZeneca suggested an increased in efficacy levels from 76 per cent in the first dose to 82 per cent.

Do I need to be inoculated in the same arm?

The Covid-19 vaccine is injected in the upper arm and, it is not cast in stone on which side - either left or right arm - is suitable. You can choose either of your arms and the result will still be the same - protection from severe disease.

Will I be required to ease up on the public health measures that have been put in place?

The current guidelines will still stand even after receiving the second dose of vaccination unless advised otherwise. Our country has so far vaccinated more than 900,000 people and that is too small a percentage to achieve herd immunity. We can only ease the containment measures when we know that the majority of the population is protected.

I contracted Covid-19 in between the first and second dose, should I go for the second shot?

You should not go for the second jab in this case until your general medical practitioner advises you. This is because you have had double exposure of the virus by getting first the first shot and then the real virus. That means your immunity system is now prime.

Having had side-effects after the first jab, will the side effects that I am likely to get after the second shot be different?

You will still get similar side effects, but they are usually mild and just like in the first dose, they go away after two to three days. Some of the side effects that people get include; headache, fever, muscle and joint pains, chills, fatigue and nausea. There have been very rare and few reports of blood clots, also ascertained as one of the side effects by the European Medicine Agency.

Why was the waiting period extended from eight to 12 weeks?

In Kenya, the postponement was mainly because of the scarcity of doses in the country and by extension, globally. But also, studies suggest that the 12-week interval for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is better. It is important to have that waiting period because your immune system takes time to ramp up.

Why do we have to wait for the second dose?

When you get exposed to something, your immune system is divided into two, there's the immediate response; for instance, when you smell something bad and sneeze at that moment. It is limited and acts on the spot. After that, your white blood cells start to prepare to act on the specific thing that you have been exposed to and usually that takes a minimum of 21 days for a new cell to be produced.

I did not receive a text when I got my first shot, so I do not know when to get my second shot, what do I do?

The Health ministry has the online system dubbed Chanjo-Ke system that you can register. The other option is to go where you were vaccinated and seek guidance from there.

Can I get the jab in a facility different from the one I got the first?

You do not need to get the second dose from the same facility. You can go to any facility that has the doses armed with your identification card and you will still be served.

Other countries around the globe are giving people Covid-19 vaccine certificates after receiving the second dose, will that be the case in our country as well?

Yes, you will get the Covid-19 vaccine certificate which will be online. In case you need a hard copy version, you can still print it, just in case.

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