South Africa’s Ministry of Health has recently outlined the COVID-19 vaccination programme which had three phases, beginning with the most exposed population. In which Phase one included the frontline workers who received Johnson and Johnson vaccine shots. In Phase 2 people over 60 years old and those in serious health conditions were vaccinated.
The third and final phase is now under way that covers the remaining South African population. In February 2021, the programme got off to a dicey start. However, it saw a number of setbacks like supply, logistics and governance issues, but has gained momentum in recent weeks. Currently as many as 200,000 doses are being administered daily.
Almost 2.9% of the South African population had been fully vaccinated by the end of July 2021, and 7.5% had their first of the two Pfizer doses.
Despite this uptake, many South Africans are still hesitant to take the vaccine. The myths and misinformation circulating around created the danger of hindering efforts to control the pandemic.
So, here are some myths surrounding the vaccination
Myth 1: A social media post shared by Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, a physician and former chief scientist for allergy and respiratory therapy at Pfizer, and Dr Michael Yeadon, a pulmonologist in December 2020 which stated that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect a woman’s fertility and this myth spread around like fire. It was also claimed by them that the spike protein on the coronavirus was the same as the spike protein that is responsible for the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. This created a fear among the normal population, as a result of the vaccine, the immune system would not be able to distinguish between the two spike proteins and would attack the placental protein. Well, this is untrue. The overall makeup of the placental protein is very different from the coronavirus spike protein.
Moreover, 23 women volunteers became pregnant after taking the vaccine and during the Pfizer vaccine tests. Furthermore, the benefits of being vaccinated overshadow the risks of infection in women who are pregnant.
Myth 2: There is a very common myth that says that I’ve had COVID-19, so I don’t need a vaccine Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can occur even in individuals who have previously been contracted with the virus. But protection against severe COVID-19 complications can be provided by receiving the vaccine. The level of protection that is achieved from natural immunity after being infected by the virus is unknown. But it is believed by scientists that the vaccine provides better protection than natural infection.
Myth 3: COVID-19 vaccine side-effects are dangerous.
There are many studies that have been conducted since the start of the pandemic that have measured South Africans’ perceptions of vaccine issues. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa found that of the respondents who did not want to be vaccinated, 25% were concerned about side effects. Most of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are minor. These include low-grade fever, sore arm and fatigue, and these usually subsided after one to three days. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine have reported rare side effects like blood clots have been reported. However, the chances of experiencing these side effects are low.
Doctors are aware of this concern and are trained to identify and treat the condition quickly. Moreover, the risks of blood clots as a result of COVID-19 infection are 8-10 times higher than the risks associated with the vaccine.
Myth 4: Vaccines have a microchip that will track and control an individual This conspiracy theory has been propagated by anti-vaxxers who believe that the American business magnate, investor and philanthropist Bill Gates will implant microchips to track people’s movement, using the vaccine as the method of delivery. Well, this is not true and has been also clarified by Gates in the media. This myth gained attention of people when a video was shared on Facebook making fake claims about the optional microchip on the syringe’s label of the coronavirus vaccine. This microchip’s purpose is to confirm that the injectable and the vaccine are not counterfeit and haven’t expired. It will also confirm if the injection has been used. People commenting on the video appeared to have misinterpreted the technology as an injectable. But the microchip is part of the syringe label and not the injectable substance itself.
Myth 5: The coronavirus vaccine development was rushed, so it may not be effective and was developed very quickly. This was possible only because the vaccine technology had been in development for many years. When the genetic information of SARS-CoV-2 was identified, the process could begin quickly. There were sufficient resources to show the research and social media which made it easier to recruit participants for the clinical trials. Because SARS-CoV-2 is contagious, it was easy to tell whether the vaccine worked or not.
Myth 6: The COVID-19 vaccine can alter my DNA The messenger RNA vaccine (Pfizer) and the viral vector vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) cause your body to develop protection, so that when you are infected by SARS-CoV-2, your body is prepared to fight the virus. DNA is located in the nucleus of your cells and the vaccine material does not enter the nucleus. So it does not alter the DNA. Social media plays a huge role in propagating myths and conspiracy theories. Before you share any information, you should ensure that it is from a scientific and reputable source