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A Physio’s Covid Vaccination Journey

Last week, I had the option of receiving the J&J Covid-19 vaccination. So far in South Africa, only healthcare workers have been given this opportunity. When so many are desperate to have a sense of normal return to their lives, this vaccination has been a privilege that I do not take lightly.

It was a tough decision for me and I weighed up the evidence and personal experience before getting the jab.

My first inclination had been to get the vaccination in order to protect our patients. I started out thinking and believing that being vaccinated reduced the chances of me passing on the virus. However, it has since come to my attention that my beliefs were misplaced and that the vaccination only protects me. It protects me from severe disease and death…after 49 days. It does not necessarily protect me from getting infected or passing it on.

I still have to mask up to protect those around me and will continue to have to do so even after the 49 days have passed.

I won’t bore you with all the pros and cons that I listed for having the vaccination, one of which is the hope of being able to travel again. I will however, say that it is a very individual decision and I will treat every person’s choice with kindness and respect. We each have our own set of very unique circumstances which play a role in the decision process.

Obviously I did end up getting the jab and I thought I’d use this opportunity to give a few good facts regarding the vaccination, the process of obtaining it and my reaction to it.

J&J Vaccination

The J&J vaccine is an adenovirus.

“Adenovirus vaccines (like AstraZeneca, J&J or vaccines for Ebola and Hep A) have three components. I’ve talked about this before in detail. But, in short, the vaccine needs:

  1. Instructions: The vaccine needs to tell the body what to do. This vaccine tells cells to make the COVID19 spike protein.
  2. A carrier: Scientists insert the instructions into a carrier. The carrier is another weakened virus called an “adenovirus”. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause colds or flu-like symptoms.
  3. A pathway: Finally, scientists need to choose one of two paths for that vaccine to replicate in the body…

We need to modify the adenovirus (i.e. common cold virus) to hold the instructions. We do this in three steps:

  1. Remove a gene or two from the adenovirus so it can’t replicate in our body. We don’t want to get colds after we get the vaccine.
  2. Replace that deleted spot with a SARS-CoV-2 gene for the “spike protein” (or the instructions on how to fight COVID19).
  3. However, we still need those deleted pieces (from #1) in the vaccine. So, we create cells that contain those deleted pieces. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, cells came from a family (or cell line) called “HEK 293” (293 for short). For J&J, we used cells from the “PER.C6” cell line.”– Your Local Epidemiologist

A bit of science from Facebook and a page I recommend you follow if you’d like to understand more about the measures to immunise and protect us, how and why they work/don’t work.


If the process runs as smoothly as it did during the Sisonke trail, it will be an efficient roll-out when the time comes. Obviously  the number of people to be vaccinated and the available doses will play a part but the booking, confirmation and queuing was painless.

I was over-prepared for a long wait – a thick science book, a reading book, a bottle of water and a coffee. Thank heavens they were more prepared than me and my tiny bladder. We were even provided with portable luxury flush toilets onsite. My fellow vaccinees and I were even treated to some comedy as a leading administrator made light of the nursing staff with ashen faces waiting in fear for their jabs.



Then came my turn. The vaccination administrator was kind and gentle. She warned me of the coming sensation and suggested remedies (basically panados) for any negative side effects over the next few days.

The jab stings like most injections do and then throbs and aches a few minutes afterward.

Possible symptoms

Pain, tenderness and redness at the injection site, headache, chills, joint pain, muscle pain, tiredness, generally not feeling well, nausea and fever have been seen with this vaccine. These reactions usually start within 1 to 2 days after the injection and most of the reactions get better within 1 to 3 days.


You are then ushered to a waiting area to sit for a further 15 minute rest to check for any immediate or adverse side-effects (allergic reactions are rare but this is the safeguard). If none, you are formally discharged and sent on your merry way.

The next 2 days

I’m a ninja ( or so I told myself) and felt super strong for the next few hours. Worked like a trojan, came home and had an early night. I didn’t sleep well, because turning over onto my left shoulder (injection site) kept waking me up. I had a foggy head the next day (I can’t say if it was the vaccine or just lack of sleep). I had a few body aches and pain but once again, I wasn’t sure if it was from training or the vaccine. I definitely had that sensitive skin feeling where I didn’t want anything rough against it and I was more fatigued than normal.

I think I got off lightly. I know of colleagues that had proper flu symptoms with chills and fever and headaches.

I hope this helps clear up some questions and discard some fears regarding the vaccinations.  If you decide to get vaccinated, I hope that the process is easy and that the wait isn’t long before we have the doses we need for everyday citizens.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me on

2 thoughts on “A Physio’s Covid Vaccination Journey”

  1. Very interesting. I would think that how you react to the vaccine is how severely you would be affected by Covid if you were to contract the disease. The foggy head is a definite Covid symptom … I had Covid in December/January … and brain fog is REAL! I still now and then have it … very much less than before and not as severe. So yes … I think that is what it was … not lack of sleep 🙂 Thanks for sharing! The more information we have … the better we all are.


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