Vaccine Myths vs Facts

Written by Malora Keevey – Group Risk & Wellbeing Manager

The history of vaccines started almost 1 000 years ago, when inoculation against smallpox (a deadly and disfiguring disease) started in Africa and Asia, well before it was used in Europe or America. People would take a small piece of infectious skin or tissue and insert it into others, therefore allowing the body to develop resistance against the virus. Due to further research into vaccines, smallpox was completely eradicated 200 years ago.

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp staff proudly receive their COVID-19 vaccinations

Since then common childhood diseases such as polio, measles, mumps and rubella have been controlled through vaccination campaigns across the world, as well as throughout Africa, for many years. Most of you would have received these vaccines as a child, as well as had your own children vaccinated. Similarly, severe diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), tetanus, cholera, typhoid, pneumonia and others have been managed by vaccines. Vaccinations are not new, and without them, many of us would probably not even be here today.

Since the inception of vaccines, many centuries ago, myths have circulated. Despite every one of them being unfounded, they continue – this time focusing on COVID vaccines. And with social media at their fingertips, today’s anti-vaccine activists have a platform to amplify unfounded fears.

 While many of us like to have more information before we charge off and get any form of medical procedure, it can be difficult in this day and age when there is a lot of scaremongering and false information out there. However each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and others to verify the information we use, and make sure we are not taking part in sharing misinformation. 

By May this year, our Hwange staff were fully vaccinated

Therefore we’ve set out to bust a few of the myths circulating around the COVID-19 vaccination. If you want to read more, at the end of this post, we’ve also included a list of reputable sites to peruse.

  1. MYTH: If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.
    FACT: If you have recovered from COVID-19, your body will have produced antibodies against the disease. However, as current research shows, these antibodies remain in the body for three to six months. This means that there is still a risk of contracting the infection again. We also know that while it is rare, it is possible to contract COVID-19 again after full recovery from another infection. The first reason to get the vaccine even if you have already had COVID-19 is that this is the only way to maintain your immune response for longer than natural immunity. The second reason is that there is preliminary evidence that shows that the vaccine stimulates your immune system to fight COVID-19 more strongly than the infection.

  2. MYTH: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.
    FACT: The coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses and they have been around for a very long time (there are several types of coronavirus, like MERS, SARS and Swine Flu; COVID-19 is the newest known variant), so research into vaccines and treatments for these strains of virus has been going on for some time already. With international financial assistance and global effort, the vaccine was made possible quicker. The vaccine effectiveness currently is shown to be around 95% effective globally.

  3. MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19.
    FACT: The vaccines use various methods to train your immune system to fight off COVID-19 before you contract it. The result is that when you do become infected, you experience less severe illness. One of the methods includes the use of harmless pieces of the virus. You may experience some mild side effects after you have received the vaccine – these are signs that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. Side effects include flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, or fever.

  4. MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine was developed with, or contains microchips/tracking devices.
    FACT: COVID-19 vaccines contain mRNA and other, normal vaccine ingredients, such as fats (which protect the mRNA), salts, as well as a small amount of sugar. These COVID-19 vaccines were not developed using foetal tissue, and they do not contain any material, such as implants, microchips or tracking devices.

  5. MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can kill you, so it’s not worth taking it.
    FACT: There have been 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccines administered worldwide already, and only 0.0017% of those people have passed away after taking the vaccine. More compelling is most of those deaths have been proven to be unrelated to the vaccine itself. Any medical treatment or medicine comes with a risk, but the risk of illness and death from COVID-19 are far greater if you refuse the vaccine. Before you get your vaccine, the healthcare worker will check all your vitals and ask you about your medical history. Afterwards you will be monitored for some time before you can head home.

  6. MYTH: Bill Gates wants to implant vaccines into people to track them (and other Bill Gates related myths).
    FACT: This rumour was started by one of Donald Trump’s former advisors during the US elections, when the Republicans were attempting to convince their members that people like Bill Gates were up to no good. The Bill Gates Foundation had been working on creating digital certificates which could be provided once someone had had the vaccine – there was never any mention of a microchip. These allegations are completely false.

  7. MYTH: 5G mobile networks spread COVID-19.
    FACT: COVID-19 is a virus and viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose.

  8. MYTH: I can’t take the vaccine because I’m terrified of needles!
    FACT: There are many people around the world who don’t like needles, and some that have a phobia (they are terrified) of needles. You aren’t alone, and it’s important to tell your healthcare worker this so that they can help you through the process. If you are crippled by fear, it’s a good idea to seek counselling to help you prepare for your jab.

  9. MYTH: You will become infertile after receiving the vaccine.
    FACT: During early clinical trials of any vaccine, the research doctors (known as epidemiologists), will look at all possible risks. This myth started when a research doctor hypothesised (looked at a possible link) between placenta proteins and the virus proteins being similar. However, this was proven not to be the case. Evidence firmly shows that the COVID-19 vaccine does not cause infertility, and women who took part in the clinical trials and across global vaccine programmes have been able to conceive after receiving the vaccine.

  10. MYTH: You will no longer be able to perform sexually as a male after having the vaccine.
    FACT: Seeing as though nearly 2 billion people around the world have been vaccinated, we can be very sure that all those men would be very unhappy if this was true! This is a statement that has become confused through the rumour mill. The COVID-19 virus has been proven to raise the risk of men experiencing erectile dysfunction by nearly 6% (similar to loss of taste that many people experience). It is categorically not caused by the vaccine. To avoid experiencing this possible side effect from the virus, it is even more worth your while to get vaccinated.

  11. MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine will give you the “Mark of the Beast”.
    FACT: This is unfortunately a very sad misuse of the last book in the Christian bible, Revelations, where a 40-second TikTok video went viral featuring a young, blonde-haired woman with heavy make-up, being portrayed as a woman beaten to death for refusing to take a vaccine that contains a microchip carrying the mark of the beast. At the end, she enters a heavenly skyscape with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant”. This is a common scare tactic used by anti-vaxxers.

  12. MYTH: Africa is the testing place for the vaccines.
    FACT: A French doctor made a very ignorant statement in April 2020, when he asked if it was not worth doing vaccine trials in Africa. He was very quickly shot down by a global movement saying #wearenotlabrats. Africa is most certainly not a testing ground. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were trialled in Europe and the USA. Sputnik was trialled in Russia and Israel. Sinophram was trialled in China. Africa has actually been left behind in the vaccine programmes, and the countries are largely only starting to get the vaccines now.

  13. MYTH: African countries are getting expired or bad vaccines.
    FACT: A survey by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that vaccine hesitancy is compounding the COVID threat. In Uganda, only 350 000 people turned up to get the jab, even though 960 000 vaccine doses became available in February. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 22 African countries have used less than a quarter of their supplied vaccines. In May 2021, Malawi was forced to incinerate 20 000 expired vaccines, becoming the first African country to do so. South Sudan plans to discard 59 000 shots, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo says it cannot use most of the 1.7 million doses it received earlier this year. This is because people did not come to take the vaccine before it expired. It’s simply not true that we are receiving expired vaccines.

  14. MYTH: I will be forced by my employer to take the vaccine.
    FACT: A vaccine is a medical treatment, as such no employer can force you into taking any medical treatment without your consent. Also not everyone may be eligible to take the vaccine due to specific health issues. Personal choice is a basic human right and will always be respected. Governments and employers will encourage people to take the vaccine because it is to the benefit of individual and population health and wellbeing. Vaccinations are also giving people the confidence to travel again. We are seeing more and more travellers who have been vaccinated wanting to travel to Africa, and they want to know that staff are vaccinated as well. So by embracing the vaccines, it will allow the re-opening of the industry, and for us to get back to a more normal way of life.

FACT CHECK FOR YOURSELF

Speak to your colleagues across the business who have had their jab and have a look at some of these useful sites for more information on vaccines.

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html

Our World Data: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html

Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines-myth-versus-fact

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20210407/erectile-dysfunction-risk-6-times-higher-in-men-with-covid
https://africacenter.org/spotlight/dispelling-covid-vaccine-myths-in-africa/