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Hey COVID vaccine sceptics ⁠— healthcare experts answer some of the worrying questions

Hey COVID vaccine sceptics ⁠— healthcare experts answer some of the worrying questions
Whether it is the likes of Akhilesh Yadav, a senior politician, who said he will not take the vaccine because he does not trust 'vaccine approved by his rival party’, or, you choose to believe the self-proclaimed 'doctor' who claimed that the vaccine is just a ploy to reduce the population and that the coronavirus is nothing but a flu⁠ — one tiny seed of mistrust can spiral into a massive problem of misinformation.

To debunk some of the many myths floating about, Business Insider reached out to Dr Ghazzali Ahmad who works in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as a frontline Accident and Emergency doctor. The first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine, the UK started vaccinations in hospitals for frontline healthcare workers on the 8th of December. Dr Ghazzali received his first dose on the 9th.

We also spoke to Shambhavi Naik who has a PhD in Cancer Biology and is a Fellow at Takshashila Institution, Bengaluru to answer some further concerns one may have regarding the vaccine.

These are some of the questions asked by vaccine sceptics that these two experts have addressed:

​What are the side effects you experienced on taking the vaccine?

​What are the side effects you experienced on taking the vaccine?
BCCL

I have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Side effects were minimal. After the first dose, I had a bit of soreness around the injection site. I was administered the second dose three weeks later, with similar injection site soreness and very mild body ache. The symptoms settled with paracetamol and resolved after 24 hrs. Most of my colleagues who have received the vaccine have reported similar mild symptoms akin to those you get with the standard flu vaccine.

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​Some believe that since they are young and healthy, they will survive the virus without the vaccine. Is that true?

​Some believe that since they are young and healthy, they will survive the virus without the vaccine. Is that true?
BCCL

I was infected with Coronavirus in April. I had a fever, severe muscle pain and fatigue. I have never felt so scared about an illness in my life. Even though I'm relatively young and healthy, and even though deaths from Coronavirus tend to be clustered in the above 70 age group, I had seen young people and middle-aged people fall victim to the disease. You do not know for sure how your body will react to a "novel" disease.

Thankfully I didn’t develop any breathing problems, and I didn't require hospitalization. But I have developed chronic muscle pain in my arms post-Covid-19. This hasn't gone away eight months on. If you have the chance to avoid becoming ill at all, especially with a new mutation for the virus which makes it more infectious, why wouldn't you jump at the opportunity to get a vaccine? I've never been in a car accident. Does that mean I stop wearing a seat belt? Yes, you can survive without a vaccine, but why take the unnecessary chance.

From a social point of view, mass vaccination develops real "herd immunity" in a population. If most of us are vaccinated, we help drive down the virus in the general population, protecting those who cannot be vaccinated for any other reason. So, we help to protect our community when we are vaccinated. We help each other.

— Dr Ghazzali Ahmad, NHS, UK

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​Does the vaccine lead to infertility?

​Does the vaccine lead to infertility?
BCCL

There is no data to suggest the vaccine’s impact on fertility. Again, the vaccine manufacturers will publish their guidance on this. Remember, before being vaccinated, you should receive a pamphlet or literature highlighting these points, published by the manufacturer.

If you ask my opinion, given the way the vaccine works, I do not think it would have an impact on fertility. But the final guidance on this must be from the vaccine developers, and we should listen to their advice.

— Dr Ghazzali Ahmad, NHS, UK

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When someone gets vaccinated, does that mean they no longer need to wear a mask or take any precautions?

When someone gets vaccinated, does that mean they no longer need to wear a mask or take any precautions?
BCCL

So, even after vaccination, it is not known yet conclusively that you are safe from spreading Covid-19. While you are likely to be protected from severe illness, you could still theoretically have enough virus in your airway to infect another person (even after you are vaccinated). You should, therefore, still wear a mask and wash your hands and follow precautions post-vaccination.

It is also unknown if further mutations of the virus in the future or other stains might require a repeat vaccination (just like with yearly flu shots for different influenza strains). Covid could be with us to stay!

— Dr Ghazzali Ahmad, NHS, UK

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Should we distrust the vaccine because the vaccine was developed so quickly?

Should we distrust the vaccine because the vaccine was developed so quickly?
BCCL

The vaccine approval process has been expedited but does not mean the vaccines themselves are rushed. The approval itself is based on adequate safety and efficacy data, and therefore, the vaccines should be safe to use. However, vaccine developers and regulatory authorities should make this safety and efficacy data public to bolster public confidence in the vaccines.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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​Will the vaccine be ineffective on those who have already had the virus?

​Will the vaccine be ineffective on those who have already had the virus?
BCCL

If my understanding is correct, the vaccine is being trialled on those without a prior history of Covid-19 infection. There might not be robust evidence to demonstrate the vaccine's effectiveness in those who have already suffered from the disease. However, given our knowledge about how vaccines work, the vaccine should be effective in this sub-group as well. We are still examining how long natural immunity from an infection persists from and therefore, even those previously infected should get vaccinated to prevent future infections.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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Will more people die due to the side effects of the vaccine than the actual disease?

Will more people die due to the side effects of the vaccine than the actual disease?
BCCL

There is no truth to this claim - more people will die because of Coronavirus. Side effects of a properly approved vaccine should be mild in most cases.

Many vaccines have side effects — such as mild fever or body pain — that go away after a few days. Vaccines which have been approved for public use will have this data reviewed by the expert committees. There may be confusion because of reported health events in the trial stage, however, it is important to establish if these events were related to vaccines.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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Does the vaccine have microchips that will help the government track you down?

Does the vaccine have microchips that will help the government track you down?
BCCL

This myth was probably started as a result of the concept of immunity passports. Immunity passport is a digital certificate that may be given to vaccinated people so that they can travel. In India, the vaccination status will be tracked through the CO-WIN app and database. However, there is no truth to the idea that the vaccine has microchips.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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Will the vaccine work on mutated forms of COVID-19?

Will the vaccine work on mutated forms of COVID-19?
BCCL

There is no data to show the effectiveness of the vaccine on mutated forms of the virus. However, from what we understand from the biology of the virus, it is likely that the immunity generated by the vaccine should cover from the mutated form of the virus. However, it is possible that the virus may mutate to a form that will escape the immunity, much like the flu virus. Hence it is crucial to vaccinate as many people possible in a short time frame, to prevent the chance of the virus mutating further.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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Does the vaccine contain animal and human tissue?

Does the vaccine contain animal and human tissue?
BCCL

While some animal products are used in the research and manufacture of vaccines, there are a few letters from Vegan groups and religious leaders asking their followers not to let these trace amounts interfere with their acceptance of the vaccine and to treat it as a drug and take it.

— Shambhavi Naik, Fellow, Takshashila Institution

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