To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? 5 facts to set your mind at ease before taking the Covid-19 vaccine

As it stands, Covid-19 has infected more than 110 million people and taken the lives of more than two million globally. There is no sign of this pandemic slowing down. But hope remains. The vaccine, once thought to be a few years away, is here. But some remain cautious.

Maybe you are just unsure or need some assurance to get vaccinated in this fight against a global pandemic. Well, here you go. These are five myth-busters you need to read today.

1. There is no virus in the mRNA vaccines

Unlike traditional vaccines for measles or chicken pox, the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines do not contain live virus.

After being injected, the mRNA vaccines 'teach' cells in your body to make a harmless spike protein. This spike protein is unique to the Covid-19 virus, but safe for humans.

Your immune cells then learn and develop ways to fight viruses that have this unique spike protein and build an immune response against Covid-19.

Also, there's no way the vaccines can change or affect human DNA as they do not enter the nucleus of cells. The vaccine is naturally broken down by the body within two days.

TL;DR: The mRNA Covid-19 vaccines do not carry the coronavirus.

2. Fast and furious, but no compromise on safety

There are a few reasons why a vaccine developed so quickly is safe.

Firstly, people are more willing to take part in trials against the backdrop of a pandemic. For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech trial very quickly recruited more than 44,000 participants – helping to test the efficacy of the vaccine.

Secondly, with multiple trial phases conducted at the same time, there is more data on testing the vaccine in less time. While trials and studies were ongoing, pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna submitted real-time safety and efficacy data.

Thirdly, there was strong global partnerships with significant investment and dedication of resources. For example, world leaders from more than 30 countries, organisations and wealthy individuals – including Bill Gates and Madonna – pledged billions of dollars to fund and speed up the search for a vaccine.

Without question, all vaccines must undergo compulsory clinical trials and safety checks according to the World Health Organisation's international standards.

At home, Singapore's Health Sciences Authority applies strict international standards to assess these vaccines as well. The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination has also reviewed the clinical data of Covid-19 vaccines before recommending the administration of vaccines to specific segments of our population.

So far, over 100 million Covid-19 vaccines have been given around the world.

PHOTO: Pexels

3. You need two doses for maximum efficacy

To gain maximum efficacy against infectious diseases such as measles and rubella (MMR), you need two vaccine doses within a space of time. The same goes for the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, which have shown a high efficacy of 95 per cent in preventing the disease after completing the two doses.

But does this mean that we won't need to wear masks and limit to small groups now that we have vaccines?

No, because, one, vaccinations still take time to roll out. There are only so many individuals who can be vaccinated at one time.

Two, not everyone can get vaccinated. Some may not be medically eligible e.g. pregnant women, severely immunocompromised people, children below 16, and those with a history of severe allergic reactions.

Three, while there is evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are effective in preventing symptomatic disease, the extent of their ability in preventing transmission to others is still being studied. Therefore, you should still follow public health measures such as keeping a safe distance, wearing a mask, and washing your hands often with soap.

4. Side effects are a natural body response

Your body takes time to adjust. It is not a machine.

Mild side effects such as soreness at the injection site, fatigue and fever, after a vaccination are common. This is your body's response to build immunity against Covid-19. And they will usually resolve within a few days.

Severe allergic reactions are indeed rare. In Singapore, out of over 250,000 vaccine doses given, only a handful of people had severe allergic reactions, and they have all recovered. Highly trained healthcare workers will observe you for 30 minutes on-site after your vaccination, and any serious reactions will be treated quickly.

But if in the rare instance you suffer from a serious allergic reaction from getting your vaccine, you can receive financial assistance under the Ministry of Health's new vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP).

PHOTO: Unsplash

5. Those with chronic conditions are recommended to take the vaccine

Persons with chronic illnesses such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes should receive the vaccine for personal protection and to protect their loved ones. There is a risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 infection, especially in the elderly and vulnerable groups.

The study population for Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's phase three trials included persons with medical comorbidities, who were at risk of serious, life-threatening disease and death from Covid-19 infection, and there were no safety concerns reported in this group.

You can also consult your doctor if you are unsure if you can be vaccinated.

Please encourage seniors around you to go for their vaccination, and do remember to do the same when it is offered to you. Remember, the best time to vaccinate is now, before an outbreak occurs and it becomes too late to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

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