Covid vaccine: Myths, facts, testimonies
By Tendai Chara
It appears humanity has developed a disturbing knack for finding humour in every difficult situation.
Of late, there has been a noted increase in morbid jokes relating to serious or frightening issues like death and illness.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, which have since been partially relaxed, have not helped the situation either.
Covid-19 has been associated with a lot of myths and misinformation from the onset.
The rolling out of the Covid-19 vaccine has set social media alight with comical skits. While some are for a good cause, say promoting good hygienic practices to keep Covid-19 at bay, others are in bad taste.
For instance, there are some that seem to wrongly suggest the virus is God’s weapon to eliminate wrong doers.
An underlying fact is a bulk of the skits are created by individuals that lack adequate information or are bent on causing unnecessary panic and despondency within society.
However, as the world is facing a ravaging pandemic others see the need to create humour to help ease the situation.
After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Myths pertaining to the Covid-19 vaccines have primarily been spread through social media platforms.
Among some of the damaging myths are that vaccines contain meat substances such as pork. For some religious reasons, some people do not consume pork.
Another common myth associated with the vaccine is that it can alter a person’s Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
Also, some people are going to the extent of suggesting that after being vaccinated, some people are not going to be able to conceive.
Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga Thursday said the negativity around Covid-19 vaccination is a function of misconceptions and mistaken belief.
Speaking to journalists at his offices, the senior Government official said he is yet to encounter any side effects after taking the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine two weeks ago.
VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, was the first Zimbabwean to receive a jab of the vaccine locally.
“I didn’t feel anything at all and I am okay. As you have seen I am working and I am fit 100 percent. There is nothing wrong with this vaccine, the vaccine is intended to save lives. Our citizenry must take up the jab when an opportunity is presented,” said VP Chiwenga.
In a bid to demystify some of the myths that are associated with the Covid-19 vaccine, The Sunday Mail Society further interviewed a cross-section of people, among them journalists, medical doctors and farmers that have since taken the jab.
John Manzongo, a Zimpapers photographer and one of the first journalists to be vaccinated against Covid-19 notes scepticism is behind some of the rumours that are being spread.
“Vaccination creates a safe world for all of us. Some people are sceptical about vaccination. If people got vaccinated for measles and other diseases, then why are they doubting this vaccination exercise,” Manzongo said.
Two weeks after getting the first jab, Manzongo said he is still “as fit as always.”
“Look at me. Do I look sick? I am in the best of my health and I am looking forward to getting the second jab at the end of the month,” Manzongo said.
Leeroy Dzenga, a reporter with The Sunday Mail said the death of a friend, fellow journalist Zororo Makamba and the desire to live a normal life without constant lockdowns pushed him to get vaccinated.
“I lost a close friend to the virus and some of my family members tested positive. I had a really bad time as I witnessed people I love suffer. I then decided to get vaccinated,” Dzenga said.
“As a journalist, we were forced to do our work over the phone without really mixing and mingling with our sources. This was not an ideal situation. If we do not get vaccinated, we will be forced to have future lockdowns.”
A medical doctor, Dr Raymond Dhliwayo said getting vaccinated comes with advantages.
“I was vaccinated myself and the advantage of doing so is in the event that one is vaccinated and contracts the virus, the infection would be mild,” he said.
Pastor Evan Mapani, who is also a trained dental surgeon assistant and a journalist, gave the vaccine a thumbs-up.
“I will be vaccinated on Monday and I am doing so as a way of showing my congregation and the world at large that the vaccine is a drug, just like other drugs. I am more than determined to fight this scourge,” he said.
Medical experts say for a country to achieve herd immunity, about two-thirds of the population, which is between 60 percent and 70 percent of the population must be vaccinated.
The vaccination programme is already in motion and more doses are expected to arrive in the country.
The first phase is targeting frontline workers that include health workers, the security sector, media workers, the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
The Government has expressed satisfaction with the positive response from the targeted groups.
The Chinese government donated 400 000 doses of vaccines and a further 600 000 doses bought by the Government from China would be arriving soon while a further 1,2 million had been availed by Chinese companies.
India, Russia and Britain have pledged to donate more vaccines.
The country has set aside US$100 million to buy Covid-19 vaccines and the vaccination is being done for free.
There are strict protections in place to help ensure the safety of all Covid-19 vaccines. Before receiving validation from World Health Organisation (WHO) and national regulatory agencies, Covid-19 vaccines must undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials to prove that they meet internationally agreed benchmarks for safety and effectiveness.
Unprecedented scientific collaborations have allowed Covid-19 vaccine research, development, and authorisations to be completed in record time – to meet the urgent need for Covid-19 vaccines while maintaining high safety standards. As with all vaccines, WHO and regulatory authorities will continuously monitor the use of Covid-19 vaccines to confirm that they remain safe for all who receive them.
What are the side effects of Covid-19 vaccines?
Like any vaccine, Covid-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as a low-grade fever or pain or redness at the injection site. Most reactions to vaccines are mild and go away within a few days on their own. More serious or long-lasting side effects to vaccines are possible but extremely rare.
Vaccines are continually monitored to detect rare adverse events. Reported side effects to Covid-19 vaccines have mostly been mild to moderate and short-lasting. They include: fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhoea, and pain at the injection site. The chances of any of these side effects following vaccination differ according to the specific Covid-19 vaccine.
How will WHO inform the public about suspected or confirmed adverse events related to Covid-19 vaccines?
Suspected safety events officially reported to WHO go through a series of rapid verification steps involving an independent panel of experts. WHO shares the results of these evaluations on its website. WHO also coordinates with local, regional, and national health officials to investigate vaccine safety concerns and advise on next steps. Information is also made available through the Vaccine Safety Net, a publicly available network of digital international resources on vaccine safety that have been approved by WHO.
Is it possible that someone vaccinated against Covid-19 will still get infected?
While several Covid-19 vaccines appear to have high levels of efficacy, no vaccine is 100 percent protective. As a result, there may be a small percentage of people who do not develop protection as expected after Covid-19 vaccination. In addition to a vaccine’s specific characteristics, several factors such as a person’s age, their underlying health conditions or previous exposure to Covid-19 may have an impact on a vaccine’s effectiveness. That is one reason why, even as Covid-19 vaccines start to be rolled out, we must continue using all public health measures that work, such as physical distancing, masks and handwashing.
How will WHO ensure vaccine safety monitoring and response when Covid-19 vaccines are used?
Vaccine safety monitoring is ensured at the national, regional, and global level. As is standard practice in all national immunisation programmes, WHO supports the set-up of safety monitoring systems for Covid-19 vaccines in every country. After a Covid-19 vaccine is introduced in a country, WHO works with vaccine manufacturers, health officials and other partners to track safety concerns and potential side effects on an ongoing basis.
Specific safety concerns that may arise will be evaluated by WHO and an independent group of experts (the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, or GACVS) in conjunction with the relevant national authorities. The Sunday Mail