Man getting vaccine


Overcoming vaccine hesitancy

09 December 2021

Hesitant about getting your vaccine shot? We address the top COVID vaccine concerns.

Vaccine hesitancy is defined as the reluctance or refusal to receive a vaccine despite its availability. The reasons for vaccine hesitancy are varied. For some, a fear of needles, concerns about missing work, or anxiety regarding potential side effects are behind decisions to delay or avoid a vaccine. For others, the reasons can be more complex and tied to deep-rooted spiritual, religious, philosophical and/or political beliefs, therefore making conversations about vaccines all the more emotive.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to global health. According to health experts, ending the pandemic relies heavily on the vast majority of us getting vaccinated (between 70 and 90 per cent of the population) to safely reach herd immunity and limit the ability of the virus to spread. Waiting too long to be vaccinated allows the virus to continue spreading in the community, with new variants like Delta and now Omicron emerging.


If you are hesitant about getting your vaccine shot, we address some of the most common COVID-19 vaccine concerns to assuage your fears. 

Feelings of worry or hesitancy are normal reactions to something “new” like the COVID-19 vaccines. Although the vaccines were developed in record time, those authorised for use have gone through the same steps and requirements as every other vaccine, meeting all safety standards.

The vaccines were made using processes that have been developed and tested over many years, and which are designed to make - and thoroughly test - vaccines quickly in case of an infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. They were also extensively tested by independent scientists, and regulatory agencies across the globe have endorsed them. 
Although we don’t yet have long-term safety data for the COVID-19 vaccines, the medical and scientific communities are confident in their safety. As is done for all vaccination programs, public health agencies watch for safety signals – associations between a vaccine and an adverse event that warrants further investigation. The COVID-19 vaccination program is no different. Tens of thousands of volunteers world-wide stepped up to participate in clinical trials to test the vaccines, and they will continue to be monitored for several years to come. 
One of the number one concerns about COVID-19 vaccines is side effects. After the shot, you might experience a sore arm, mild fever, fatigue, headache or muscle aches. These symptoms, if they occur at all, are temporary, usually lasting only a day or two. They signal a natural response as your body’s immune system learns to recognise and fight the virus. Compare this to the potential consequences of actually contracting COVID, where symptoms can sometimes linger for months or longer. 
The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, and you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from getting vaccinated. This is not possible with mRNA vaccines, as they don’t contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They only contain the “instructions” for how to make the spike protein on the virus so your body can recognise it and mount an immune response against it. 
Studies show that your risk of getting COVID-19 is much lower if you’re vaccinated than if you’re unvaccinated. In fact, even if you do get infected after vaccination, your risks of getting seriously ill, needing to go to hospital, intensive care or dying, are reduced even further. Vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 illness and death. 
Even if you've had coronavirus, health experts say you should still get vaccinated because the immunity you get from vaccination will likely be longer or stronger than the immunity you got after getting infected. If you get the COVID-19 vaccine after having been previously infected, your body will develop a bigger, faster and stronger antibody response to the virus. You may have some immunity against the virus if you already had COVID-19, but the vaccine will give you even more.
Young and healthy people can suffer long-term complications, including chronic fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath and brain fog months after their infection with COVID-19.  Even if you consider your risk of severe COVID to be low, when you get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself but also others since the vaccine helps reduce the spread of the virus. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to experience severe - even fatal - cases of COVID-19. So the more people receive the vaccines, the sooner vulnerable people can feel safe among others. 

The benefits of getting vaccinated if you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant far outweigh the risks, because pregnancy puts you at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Johns Hopkins Medicine agrees with and strongly supports the recommendations of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and other organisations who recommend that all pregnant or breastfeeding women, along with those trying to get pregnant, be vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, there is no evidence of a link between any of the vaccines and infertility in women or men, health experts say.


As the pandemic continues to rage across the world and cases soar once again, the threat of vaccine hesitancy has become even more urgent. As more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus, research continues to show the shots are safe and effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. Bottom line -  the benefits far outweigh the risks, and getting the vaccine is a powerful step in taking charge of your health.


While it largely remains a personal choice, those who are eligible to get the vaccine but choose not to — for whatever reasons — run the risk of not only getting the virus and transmitting it to others, but also of prolonging the pandemic, contributing to spikes in cases, and giving the virus more opportunities to mutate. If you are still hesitant, you should talk to your doctor, who is the most trusted source for information on the COVID-19 vaccine.

You can find our latest update on Covid-19 vaccines here.