As the world hears the long-awaited news of not one but two COVID-19 vaccinations proving effective in their final stages. Although both vaccines still need to go through more safety tests, data from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination has shown it offers 95% protection against the virus within 28 days of the first dose (94% for over 65s). The Moderna vaccination is a little behind Pfizer and still in an ongoing trial, but results so far show that the vaccination is 94.5% effective. However, although this is good news in terms of the ongoing battle against the coronavirus crisis, another battle raging Is that of myth-spreading and misinformation. False claims about the COVID-19 virus and the upcoming vaccine can prove extremely dangerous. Here are some widely shared false claims that have been debunked by fact checkers:
Bill Gates has been the subject of many false rumours over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been working with and donating to organisations working to develop and deploy a vaccination via the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and has thus been the subject of misinformation. The false claim is that Gates is using the pandemic as a cover to implant tiny microchips into people, this is untrue. Other rumours suggest that Gates owns the patent for the vaccine and is a partner in the Wuhan lab in China, these again are false, debunked by independent fact checking organisation, Full Fact. According to The BBC ‘In May a YouGov poll of 1,640 people suggested 28% of Americans believed Mr Gates wanted to use vaccines to implant microchips in people – with the figure rising to 44% among Republicans.’
The notion that the mRNA vaccine, a new type of vaccination which works by introducing a fragment of the virus’s genetic material (RNA) into the body. The RNA essentially provides the body with instructions to build a specific antigen, which forces a person’s immune system to create antibodies to fight against the real disease should they be exposed. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations are RNA vaccines. The myth is that these vaccinations will alter and modify your DNA. Fact checkers and scientists have debunked this. The BBC quoted, Prof Jeffrey Almond of Oxford University, who said: “Injecting RNA into a person doesn’t do anything to the DNA of a human cell.” And, Pfizer spokesperson Andrew Widger, said that the vaccine “does not alter the DNA sequence of a human body. It only presents the body with the instructions to build immunity”. Part of the issue surrounding RNA vaccines is that there is not enough credible information available, leaving room for misinformation.
Vaccines will give you COVID-19
This is a pretty common myth that occurs with many different vaccinations for different viruses, commonly many people mistakenly think that the flu vaccine gives an individual the flu. This is not the case, the same with COVID-19. The CDC writes:
‘None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity… It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.’
There have also been rumours that the vaccinations have side effects. Pfizer has thus far, (at the time of writing this article) experienced no serious side effects. Most vaccines however, have relatively minor side effects, as explained by, Dr Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London to the BBC: “Like all vaccines, this vaccine can cause short-lived side-effects, including pain at the injection site, fever, muscle aches and pains, headache and fatigue.” These side effects are relatively minor in comparison to a lot of the false claims out there.
If you come across some information about COVID-19 and the vaccination ensure that the information you are reading is properly sourced. When in doubt, visit websites from leading health organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Scientific claims should be sourced from reputable scientific journals and peer-reviewed. Social Media platforms is one of the quickest ways to spread misinformation so be careful what you believe on there, images and videos can be faked and anyone can make a ‘fact’ seem real, celebrities can be misinformed too. Headlines have the intention of grabbing attention but often do not tell the whole story, be sure to read the article and cross reference the information against other reliable publications and independent fact checking sites. Most of all, when it comes to a health crisis such as this, listen to your healthcare professionals and organisations such as the CDC and WHO.