Developed at an unprecedented pace, COVID-19 vaccines, while proof of how advanced modern science has become, have as many doubters as they have believers (if not more).
At the start of the pandemic, the world could not wait for them to be developed. But now that they are here, offering impressive protection from the virus in a way that only affirms how they really are the world's best shot at ending the health crisis, the problem of vaccine hesitancy emerged.
Even Hong Kong that managed to secure more than enough doses to inoculate its entire population of 7.5 million people is currently battling this new crisis. In May, a state official said the country might soon throw away millions of coronavirus vaccine doses, nearing their expiry date, and because not enough people have signed up to get jabbed.
That same problem exists in the Philippines, threatening efforts to achieve herd immunity AKA the return to normal. Beneath supply problems and choosiness over vaccine brands, most Filipinos are hesitant to get vaccinated in the first place. And those chain messages being passed around in messaging apps are not helping at all.
In case you need it for yourself or anyone you know, here are some of the most common COVID-19 myths and the proper answers to them, according to the Department of Health.
1. You don't need COVID vaccines.
As of June 1, over 21,000 Filipinos have died from the virus and globally, the figures are even grimmer (in April, the death toll was at three million). But the rate of how deaths have been occurring is facing a decline, thanks largely to vaccinations from around the world that show how COVID-19 vaccines can protect people from symptomatic disease and subsequently prevent hospitalization and death, DOH said.
Want further proof? Israel, whose vaccination drive is among the fastest in the world, recorded no new daily COVID-19 deaths for the first time in 10 months back in April. The feat is attributed to their having 60% of the population inoculated.
2. COVID-19 Vaccines are not safe.
COVID-19 vaccines underwent a stringent process just so they can be safely jabbed into anyone's arm. In its development process alone, at least a three-phase clinical trial must be conducted, wherein thousands of participants are needed to test their efficacy. And since vaccines are only available at the moment for emergency use, that process entails a lot of regulations.
In every step of the way, there is a review panel that looks at safety and efficacy and other aspects of vaccinations. In the Philippines for example, after the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authorization (EUA), the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) has to look at cost-effectiveness and other ethical considerations.
Then, there's the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) that decides prioritization of who must get vaccinated first depending on vulnerability. Lastly, the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee (NAEFIC) looks at the different adverse events that people might have experienced after vaccination.
"So basically every step of the way, you have different pairs of eyes looking at the same data, making decisions to ensure that any vaccine that makes it to our program is safe and efficacious," DOH's Dr. Anna Ong-Lim earlier told reportr.
3. The COVID-19 vaccines will suppress or alter your immune system.
DOH's answer to this is pretty straightforward: COVID-19 vaccines help boost the immune system to protect the body from the virus. During vaccination, experiencing side effects are normal as they are seen as your immune system's way of absorbing the protection vaccines provide, experts said.
4. You don't need to get vaccinated because you can still get sick with the disease even after vaccination.
One may still be infected after vaccination, yes, especially because transmission protection is a feature of COVID vaccines that is yet to work on or tested by real-world data. However, what experts are sure of is that getting vaccinated guarantees protection from severe COVID-19 and death. Hence, the best vaccine is the one that is available to you, because all COVID-19 vaccines available for emergency use are proven effective in offering those high levels of protection.
Given the loss the pandemic incurred, what matters most is to prevent these hospitalizations and deaths which have been affecting people not just financially, but also mentally and emotionally, due to unbearable grief.
5. COVID-19 vaccines were made by the devil.
This wasn't stated by the DOH but this particular theory is growing increasingly popular, no thanks to those Viber chain messages again. Pasig's Mayor Vico Sotto pointed this out himself in a recent forum.
If this hasn't struck you as absurd already, of course, the easy answer is that it is untrue. COVID-19 vaccines were made by real scientists in the most established manufacturing firms all over the world.
As an example, one Dr. Katalin Kariko, who is not a devil but a real person, spent most of her scientific career just understanding messenger RNA, or mRNA. Now she is credited for laying the groundwork for the extremely successful vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.