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Experts say Covid-19 vaccines won’t provide full immunity but it’s better than nothing

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Health experts say if and when reinfections with Covid-19 become the norm, most people will be able to fend off the virus as they would any other cold.

CAPE TOWN – Health experts say if and when reinfections with Covid-19 become the norm, most people will be able to fend off the virus as they would any other cold.

On Wednesday, Gauteng MEC for health Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi was reinfected with Covid-19 despite being one of the first people to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in February, under the Sisonke programme in Gauteng.

The provincial government said Mokgethi was at present in isolation with mild symptoms.

Professor William A Haseltine, of the global health think tank Access Health International, says although vaccines didn’t shield the body from infection they equipped the immune system with a sophisticated alarm system – one that would trigger a vigorous and rapid response whenever the invading virus set off the alarm.

“If and when reinfections with Covid-19 become the norm, the majority of people will weather the virus as they would any other cold. You get it, and after a certain period your body forgets it, leaving you vulnerable to its return,” he said.

Speaking on SABC’s MorningLive on Thursday, Dr Fundile Nyathi said vaccinations against Covid-19 did not provide full immunity but were a better option than no vaccines at all.

“None of the vaccines give 100% protection against the infection. If you’ve had a vaccine and you do get infected, then it will be a mild infection, not anything that would take you to hospital for admission,” he said.

All Covid-19 vaccines which were approved for use in South Africa provided protection against moderate-severe disease. Protection started around 10 to 14 days after vaccination and even as early as seven days for severe disease, and could also rise to good levels around a month after vaccination. However, there’s no vaccine which provided 100% protection.

A tracker maintained by the Dutch news agency BNO News recorded 72 confirmed re-infection cases globally as of mid-April 2021.

“Reports of reinfections are biased toward detecting people who develop the symptoms of Covid-19, meaning more asymptomatic infections may be occurring but aren’t being detected,” the agency said.

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