Busting vaccine myths

Many instances of misinformation have been recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic and myths about vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine abound. A number of these myths, and facts, are highlighted below.

Fact: Vaccine development is a rigorous process with layers of safety and efficacy reviews before approval for widespread use can be gained. Once vaccines are licensed for use, they are subject to ongoing safety surveillance. Regulators and researchers use passive or active systems to determine whether there is a spike in adverse events following a particular vaccine. This is particularly the case with a new vaccine programme.

Fact: Claims linking vaccines to autism relied on poor and fraudulent research. This misinformation theory around vaccines stems from a widely discredited, and since retracted, study published in the Lancet in 1998. The study’s discussion raised questions about whether there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Since then further studies have demonstrated there is no causal link between any vaccine and autism.

Fact: Vaccines prevent diseases and do not cause them. One of the rare side effects of vaccines is that they can cause mild symptoms resembling those of the disease they are providing protection against. However, these symptoms are actually the body’s immune system reacting to the vaccine and is not the disease itself.

Fact: Some people worry that ingredients contained in a vaccine, such as mercury, aluminium, and formaldehyde, are harmful due to their perceived toxicity. In high concentrations these chemicals are indeed toxic, but only trace amounts are used in vaccines.

Fact: Vaccines can help where the body’s natural immunity cannot. Some diseases can allow natural immunity to develop without vaccination. However, this exposes the body to dangerous risks that vaccinations do not. For example, to get immunity to measles you must first have the measles. Unfortunately, complications from measles include pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in 1 in 1 000 cases. Vaccines provide a safe way to build immunity without the damaging and potentially fatal impacts of contracting a preventable disease.

Fact: The fast development and approval of vaccines is a great human feat worthy of celebration. This has been possible because we have learnt over many decades how to make and test vaccines and we were able to take those lessons and challenge ourselves to produce a vaccine much quicker. No step in the development, testing or ratification of the COVID-19 vaccines has been skipped. The world was able to develop vaccines fast because scientists and governments around the world collaborated in a manner that has never been achieved before and pooled resources and information to ensure that everyone can contribute to the knowledge.

Fact: Vaccines work by stimulating the body the same way the virus would if someone were infected. The vaccine does not work on the DNA of the body. Some people think that because some of the vaccines are made using RNA technology that the RNA will interact with the DNA. That is not how it works. The technology is simply the way the vaccine is made – not what it will do to the body.

Fact: Vaccines have no connection with any religious organisations and cannot be infused with spirits, demons or other abstract ingredients. There is no conspiracy to possess, bewitch or control anybody.

Fact: The COVID-19 crisis has caused massive upheaval across the globe and no nation has been spared. A vaccine represents the best hope to save lives and to restore our way of life. Many governments have therefore entered into direct talks with vaccine makers to ensure a timeous supply of vaccines.

Fact: There is no vaccine "microchip" and there is no evidence to support claims that such a move is planned. Receiving a vaccine will not allow people to be tracked and personal information would not be entered into a database.

Fact: The World Health Organization has made it clear that viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. It is also a fact that 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.

Fact: The Government would never allow a situation where any country or nation would be allowed to oppress our people through any means. Scientists and governments all over the world, including our own, have contributed to the knowledge that has led to the development of the vaccines. It has not just been the work of Western and rich countries but a global collaboration.

Source: COVID-19 Vaccination Messaging Guideline developed by the Communication Work Stream of the Technical Committee of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccinations. Issued by the Department: Government Communication and Information System. 3 May 2021

Busting vaccine myths