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Most frequent questions and answers about the COVID-19 vaccines in the Gambia

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective:

  •  They can keep you from getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • The vaccines also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • They prevent you from getting the serious and secondary/ long term effects after COVID infection which can affect up to 30%.
  • It also affects those with mild or asymptomatic symptoms. The effects include what is called post COVID-19 fatigue syndrome or “Long COVID”. Symptoms vary but usually include fatigue, persistent high temperature, breathlessness/ difficulty breathing, cognitive impairment, generalized pain, palpitations, and mental health and sleep problems.
  • These symptoms can last for months after COVID-19 infection
  • The vaccines are free of charge.

The vaccines work by producing:

Antibodies (humoral response): The antibodies can latch onto coronavirus spikes, mark the virus for destruction and prevent infection by blocking the spikes from attaching to other cells

Killer T Cell (Cellular response): The antigen-presenting cells can also activate another type of immune cell called a killer T cell to seek out and destroy any coronavirus -infected cells that display the spike protein fragments on their surfaces.


Differences between Astra Zeneca and J&J Vaccines:

AstrazenecaJohnson & Johnson
2 shot vaccine1 shot vaccine
Second dose after 84 days 2-3 monthsNo second dose currently recommended
Efficacy about 70-90%Efficacy about 70-85%
Viral vector (Human Adeno virus)Viral Vector (Modern Chimpanzee Adeno virus)


The safety of the vaccines was first studied in animals before conducting clinical studies in human beings. All the studies conducted in animals and humans showed that the vaccines are safe enough to be used in mass vaccination campaigns.

The safety data from animal and human studies were reviewed by the WHO Expert Committee, who are independent group of scientists and they concluded that the vaccines are safe. The group then recommended for Emergency Use Listing (the approval system by WHO) of the vaccines based on the quality, efficacy and safety of these vaccines.

Nationally the vaccines also were submitted to the Medicines Control Agency who also did their own evaluation of the application including the scientific review reports before finally giving emergency Use Approval for use in The Gambia. The vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades.

The vaccines are not experimental, and they went through all the required stages of clinical trials even if expedited. Extensive testing and monitoring have shown that these vaccines are safe and effective. The vaccines have received and continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in history worldwide

The current recommendation is that people should not mix AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines as there is no evidence that supports the mixing of the two. This needs some clinical studies to investigate the clinical effects of receiving the two vaccines. These clinical effects could be beneficial or adverse (causing problems).


However, there is evidence that people who took AstraZeneca first dose and then followed by Pfizer vaccine have higher protection (higher antibodies titers) than those who took two doses of AstraZeneca (higher efficacy).

MOH is expecting enough doses of AstraZeneca soon to vaccinate everyone that has already received the first dose. Therefore, people are advised to wait for it. In addition, people should also not worry about the time lapse between the first and second dose which is normally up to 3 months but a longer time is also very good.

There is no active ingredient or excipients (inactive ingredients) that is known or shown to cause this electromagnetic effect but some people naturally may experience injection site reactions to certain vaccines or non-vaccine injectables especially pain, swelling and tenderness. There are other typical side effects including fever, headache, dizziness, general body pain, numbness etc but doesn’t affect everybody and benefit outweighs the risk.

Both the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are viral vector vaccines and we do not currently have mRNA based vaccines( Pfizer & Moderna vaccines) in the Gambia. The MCA has recently approved Pfizer vaccine, Sinopharm vaccine in addition to AstraZeneca and Janssen for use in The Gambia.

The Sinopharma vaccine is an Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 (Vero Cell) vaccine- meaning it contains killed or inactivated virus (not a live virus). The product can be stored at 2-8°C for 24 months.


The ingredients of AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines:

The researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to another virus called an adenovirus. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause colds or flu-like symptoms. It can enter cells, but it can’t replicate inside them. The Oxford-AstraZeneca team used a modified version of a chimpanzee adenovirus which is commonly used in other existing vaccines. The Johnson and Johnson team used human adenovirus.

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