Vaccination facts and myths

There have been a great many statements made about COVID-19 vaccines on social media over the past year or so, some expressing valid concerns, sadly many others expressing dangerous myths.

Some of the myths are due to misunderstandings - sadly some others are based on deliberate fraud or fakes although not everyone who shares them is a liar or aware of the fact that they are circulating lies.

Some social media companies have done a better job than others in working against dangerous "fake news" on their platforms and there has been some great work done in myth-busting about vaccines by some of the "factchecker" services like "Full Fact."

I have already responded to one group of myths in my "quote of the day" this morning.

The truth is that

The approved COVID-19 vaccines have had their clinical trials and are not experimental.

During those clinical trials the vaccines were rigorously tested on thousands of volunteers in accordance with the "Nuremberg Code."

The rollout of the vaccines following MHRA approval is not an experiment and the Nuremberg code for medical experiments does not apply to that rollout

If you want to lean more about vaccines and their effectiveness and safety the best place to go is to official websites such as the Government COVID-19 information page, the NHS website COVID page, or the JCVI page.

Or if you are seeking advice about whether a particular vaccination is right for you or a member of your family, talk to your GP or an appropriately qualified medical professional.

Revised postscript

There are immensely strong opinions on this subject on both sides. Here is an example of someone who feels very strongly that everyone except those with a genuine and specific reason should have the vaccine - I have seen and been sent equally strongly held (and also expletive laden) comments in the other direction.

I completely agree with the author of the link immediately above except that I don't think insulting those who don't share her (and my) opinions will persuade them to take the approved vaccines.

And the strength of the scientific evidence is not proportionate to the number of expletives deployed by either side.

Edward Jenner's vaccination against Smallpox is estimated to have saved three hundred million lives. The tests which he did to establish that it is safe were ground-breaking for the century he was living in, but anyone who released a vaccine on that level of testing today would be prosecuted, not because Jenner did anything wrong but because the science of testing the safety of medical treatments of which he was a pionier has moved on so much in two centuries. The approved COVID vaccines have been far more rigorously tested than his smallpox vaccine and we understand how they work much better.

In that sense the anti-vaxxers who opposed Jenner were on far stronger ground than those who oppose today's vaccination programmes - yet if people had listened to them hundreds of millions of people whose lives were saved by Jenner's vaccine and its successors would have died and probably more than a billion people now alive would never have been born.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the successes of vaccination programmes massively outweigh the failures. We are not living in a risk-free world but the overwhelming weight of evidence including the result of rigorous clinical trials in which tens of thousands of volunteers took part support the view that for the vast majority of adults the reduction in risk to health from COVID-19 which the approved vaccines deliver is much greater than the very small minimal risks which the vaccines themselves pose. 

I believe that encouraging people to take the vaccine is quite literally a matter of life or death - the vaccination programme is estimated to have saved over a hundred thousand lives in Britain alone.

As long as I continue to believe that - and I have not seen an iota of convincing evidence in the other direction - I will continue to encourage people to take the vaccine and to discuss the matter with their GP or an appropriately qualified medical professional if they have any doubt about the suitability of the vaccine for themselves of their family.


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