Covid Vaccines: What's fact and what's fiction?

  • Dr Ash Banerjee

There are now three types of coronavirus vaccines approved for use in the UK - the Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca, and Moderna vaccines.

The first dose of the Coronavirus vaccine has now been offered to all those in the top four groups most vulnerable to the virus.

It means the UK has moved to phase two of the vaccine rollout, with over 65s and those considered clinically vulnerable to coronavirus now being offered jabs.

But, it's claimed up to a fifth of adults say they don't want to be vaccinated, and there are concerns that myths and hoaxes spreading online and on social media are to blame.

We cut through the chatter with:

  • Dr Samara Afzal who works at the Netherton Health Centre in Dudley

  • Dr Samira Hassan who works in Leicester

  • Dr Ash Banerjee who works for Public Health West Midlands

  • Dr Jane Falconer, an Immunologist.

1 in 5 people are not convinced they should have a vaccine. Credit: ITV News

'I can behave like normal as soon as I've had my jab' - FICTION

Two doses are required before they are fully effective.

Then your risk of getting severe disease is much reduced, says Dr Banerjee.

But we don't know yet if the vaccine stops you getting the infection and passing it on to others, so you need to follow the same guidance as everyone else - 'hands, face, space', that is - washing hands, wearing a mask, and keeping distance from others, with spaces indoors well ventilated. You should also still be vigilant for any symptoms.

If you're contacted by NHS Test and Trace, you may still need to self-isolate.

It will simply take time to manufacture the vaccines, and get round the entire population, so until we get herd immunity, or enough people are vaccinated, we must all follow the rules.

'I've had Coronavirus so I don't need the jab' - FICTION

If you are in the priority group you should still get the jab.

We don't yet know for sure how long immunity lasts.

'The vaccines have been developed really quickly so they can't be safe' - FICTION

The roll out has been exceptionally fast because all of the world's experts who study the immune system and diseases have come together, says Dr Falconer.

They've put all of their energies into one particular job.

There were also other coronavirus outbreaks in 2012 and 2002 that were really similar to this one, so we learned a great deal about the makeup of coronaviruses and how to produce a vaccine against them back then.

A nurse prepares a dose of one of the vaccines Credit: PA

'My second dose has been delayed by three months so dose one will have worn off' -FICTION

The national policy is to receive your second dose three months after the first.

The first dose is very effective, says Dr Banerjee, and within a few weeks, you will have 70% protection, rising after the second dose. The first dose does last 12 weeks.

We are limited by the quantity of vaccines available, so if we want to protect as many people as possible, it's about getting the first dose into as many people as possible.

Every second dose which goes into someone, is someone else's potential first dose. Dr Banerjee also comments that sometimes having a dose a bit later makes that second dose more effective.

'Once I've had the jab I'm set for life' - FICTION

We don't know yet, because Covid-19 is such a new infection.

We don't know if the vaccine will be given every year like the flu vaccine, or less frequently.

You can become infertile, or the vaccines can cause other medical problems' - FICTION

Dr Afzal says there is no link to fertility issues.

People with a history of "significant" allergic reactions have been warned not to currently receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine after two people who had the jab had allergic reactions.

It's understood they had a significant history of allergic reactions - they needed to carry adrenaline with them.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: "As is common with new vaccines the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination."

Pfizer said the vaccine was "well tolerated" during the trials with "no serious safety concerns".

Reported side effects are similar to the flu jab - soreness or redness at the injection site and some have reported a headache.

  • Dr Samira Hassan

'It's not Covid-19 or the pandemic causing deaths' - FICTION

A small section of society do believe there is no such thing as the pandemic, according to Dr Hassan.

People point out to her that many people die each year, but no one makes such a fuss about it.

She replies by reiterating that there is evidence of a new virus, which replicates itself thanks to our cells, but that she can see people's concerns around how the deaths have been recorded.

Methodologies differ, but some death figures include people who had had a positive test result for COVID-19 and died within 28 days of the first positive test. The cause of death may not have been directly Covid related.

Margaret Keenan was the first person to have the Pfizer vaccine in hospital in Coventry Credit: PA

'The vaccine contains genetic material and will affect my DNA' - FICTION

Coronavirus uses our cells to replicate itself. It cannot replicate itself as it needs our cells to build proteins.

But the injection of the vaccine cannot change your DNA. Your DNA is your entire genetic code.

What is injected is a copy of one particular aspect, to trick the immune system into thinking the virus is present.

The 'master copy' of what makes you, you, is deep within your cells and cannot leave.

'The vaccines are a type of microchip surveillance' - FICTION

Dr Hassan describes this as a "fantastical theory which has no basis in science," widely disseminated on social media and messaging groups.

But, she says, its origins stem from a wider mistrust in governments, and a belief that they wish to control the population.

She says people believe that millions of pounds would not be pumped into an initiative which doesn't benefit the investors financially.

She finds this harder to debunk, as people simply respond that 'she doesn't know what governments think,' but she simply asks to see the evidence that this is true.

Brian Pinker received the first Oxford Vaccine Credit: PA

'The vaccines might worsen the situation because they've not been tried and tested' - FICTION

They have been widely tested during clinical trials which took place during the development of the vaccines, the manufacturing process, and prior to their approval for widespread use.

Monitoring will continue once it is being used.

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