COVID–19: Would you become ill from a coronavirus vaccine?
Dr Faith Obafemi
According to Wikipedia, a vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. It is a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease (Merriam-Webster, 2020).
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as a substance containing a virus or bacterium in a form that is not harmful, given to a person or animal to prevent them from getting the disease that the virus or bacterium causes. Therefore, a vaccine is a substance containing a harmless form of the germs that cause a particular disease. It is given to people, usually by injection, to prevent them getting that disease (Collins Dictionary).
A vaccine, therefore, will not cause disease, but instead prevent disease occurrence. The World Health Organization adds that Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases. A vaccine helps the body’s immune system to recognize and fight pathogens like viruses or bacteria, which then keeps us safe from the diseases they cause. Vaccination involves showing the immune system something which looks very similar to a particular virus or bacteria, which helps the immune system be stronger when it is fighting against the real infection.
Vaccination has made an enormous contribution to global health (Greenwood, 2013). Vaccines are given to help protect from infection; to prevent disease occurrence. Thus, they are ideal for healthy and not sick people. However, many people say they will not take vaccines because they are not sick!
The notion that vaccines will cause disease or worsen sickness by some Nigerians is false and resulted because of the absence of or insufficient knowledge by its citizens on the scientific facts surrounding vaccines and their use.
Vaccines not only provide individual protection for those persons who are vaccinated, they can also provide community protection by reducing the spread of disease within a population (Orenstein and Ahmed, 2017).
Dr. Howard Zucker of the US Department of Health stated that the harm of skipping or delaying vaccination could be both medical (vulnerability to diseases; death threats) and social (isolation, ranging from exclusion to quarantine).
Many Nigerians have voiced concerns about vaccine safety which has led some people declining recommended vaccination. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines do not make symptoms of illness worse—though they may cause mild side effects, like a mild fever or soreness or swelling where the shot was given. Maglione et al in 2014 found evidence that some vaccines are associated with serious adverse effects; however, these events are extremely rare and must be weighed against the protective benefits that vaccines provide.
In Nigeria, reassurance of vaccine safety is critical so that many will embrace the culture of vaccination for population health.
Dr. Faith Obafemi is a lecturer at the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry, Univerisity of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria.
1. Cambridge Dictionary (2020). Vaccine. Cambridge University Press. Available at https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/vaccine. Accessed 05 May, 2020.
2. CDC (2014). Vaccines When Your Child is Sick; Information for parents. Available at Accessed 07 May, 2020.
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Maglione M. A., Das L., Raaen L., Smith A., Chari R., Newberry S., Shanman R., Perry T., Goetz M. B., Gidengil C. (2014). Safety of vaccines used for routine immunization of U.S. children: a systematic review. Pediatrics; 134 (2): 325-337.
5. Merriam-Webster (2020). Available at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vaccine. Accessed 05 May, 2020.
6. OrensteinW. A. and Ahmed R. (2017). Simply put: Vaccination saves lives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; 114(16): 4031–4033.
World Health Organization (WHO; 2020). Health topics: Vaccines. Available at https://www.who.int/topics/vaccines/en/. Accessed 05 May, 2020.
7. Zucker, H. (2015). The Harm of Skipping Vaccinations or Delaying. New York state Department of Health. Available at Accessed 07 May, 2020.