Throughtout my life I have received all the vaccines which I was told I needed. My children too are fully vaccinated, and I am perfectly at ease with that. I continue to be supportive of vaccination as a proven and effective way of achieving immunity against certain illnesses. And I intend to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to me, so that I am protected agains the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
But many of my friends and some family members are not that keen on the COVID-19 vaccine. Here I outline some of the reasons why.
But first a couple of disclaimers:
This article is not about Anti-vaxxers or people who for some scientifically illiterate reason are opposed to vaccinations.
Also, I’m not a Virologist, Biomedical scientist or an Epidemiologist. I’m not a healthcare professional, have never undertaken vaccine research and my background and specialisation lie primarily in Electronic & Software Engineering. So some of the notation in this article may neither be precise nor depict accurate terminology. More importantly, I’m not writing this article to endorse, support, defend or otherwise give credence to any medical stance, let alone the numerous views, sentiments and feelings of some of the people I know or is acquainted with.
However at a time of so much uncertainty and a multiplicity of views, I think their perspectives, questions, fears, hesitancy and concerns are valid and matter. They must not be dismissed but must instead be heard as legitimate concerns in a global debate, irrespective of what people sitting on the other side of the table think about such “fringe” views.
I have paraphrased some of the questions and concerns for clarity and to shield the respective identities of the people whose views I seek to replicate. I have also substituted some statements with similar views expressed online by other people I do not know but whose views more coherently mirror the original statements of the people I know.
Finally, it is encouraging to note that some people who previously expressed concern or feared taking a COVID-19 vaccine have since agreed to receive it, after considering in-depth information on the science behind the different vaccine candidates and how they are manufactured.
Watching this transformation from skeptic to convert happen has been delightful.
1. How effective will this vaccine really be?
“For How long will the vaccine protect me from the virus once I have received it?”
“I don’t like needles so don’t want to be receiving a vaccine for this virus every year or every few years.”
“When I was young, I had the BCG vaccine for TB, I’ve never needed another vaccine for TB, so why the hell I’m I being asked to be vaccinated twice for COVID?”
“What guarantees are there that when I receive this vaccine it will protect me against COVID-19? I know people are dying but if my body can produce an immunity response and protect me from further infection, how does what my body can naturally do differ from what the vaccine will be able to do? Give it to the old people with poor immunity, I’d rather let my body protect me naturally than having more chemicals injected into me”
Nigeria eyes domestic vaccine production to tackle COVID-19 (AFRICA BRIEFING)
2. Why do I feel like this vaccine is different from other “normal” vaccines?
There is a feeling among some people that the COVID-19 vaccine is different from other vaccines.
I know that there are several vaccines (and vaccine candidates) being rolled out, being researched or being trialed, and that they use different approches or incorporate different techniques to target the virus. However, several people have told me that they feel that these COVID-19 vaccines are not normal. Sentiments here range from those who believe the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will alter their DNA, to those who think the speed of development should be met with alarm or at least extreme caution.
“This vaccine is preventing people getting the virus, it doesn’t cure COVID-19. There is the need for civic education about vaccines, which historically can sometimes be a gamble “
“I work in the healthcare sector. I have been involved in discussions at the Mosque with lots of people and while the Imans are saying we should go talk to our GPs and are recommending taking the vaccine, some people in my community think we don’t yet know if this vaccine is safe, so I’m on the fence for now.”
“Bruv, is this shit real? Had them vaccines, all of them since i was a kid I’ve had, masteni ndi madala made sure I got them, but this Covid shit lame.”
“Forgive me if this is a mistake, but remember they say ‘having little knowledge is more dangerous than having no-knowledge at all’ so i need to ask: As a way of ruling out all skepticism and mistrust, can’t there be an initiative of engaging our local experts to certify or rule otherwise if there’s something wrong with the vaccine? We have Malawi Bureau of Standards which certifies products manufactured either locally or imported. They inform the citizenry whether a product is worthy of consumption or not. Isn’t there a board that deals with medical products, medicines and poisons too? Whatever it is, why can’t we ask them about these vaccines and let them issue a statement on the safety of each vaccine? By the way, they are funded by taxpayers money 🤷”
3. Is it normal for a Pharmaceutical company to seek advance government protection from legal action in the event that the vaccine harms some people?
Why is AstraZeneca applying for protection from prosecution from national governments and the likes of the EU, in the event that their vaccines cause adverse effects, which could include death? Although any brief research will show that this is not entirely unheard of, especially for vaccines that have not completed Phase 3 trials, some people think it is not normal.
“Sangs, if I come to you and say: I’m selling this car, but its only 66% safe for use and can’t guarantee that it won’t develop a fault that causes an accident while you are on the motorway, so if you buy it, and it causes an accident and you die, I can’t be held responsible.
Will you buy that car amwene?
No, you won’t voluntarily take such a risk. Your better senses, your intuition, will prevent you from taking that step, even if the car happens to be your dream car.
So, why are we being asked to take a vaccine where the maker of that vaccine is requesting protection from prosecution and won’t guarantee its safety and won’t be held responsible if it fucks us up?
Za chamba eti”
4. Will the vaccine cause an adverse reaction when I come into contact with coronavirus?
Here’s a nifty medical term I didn’t previously know about until recently. Much like “Furlough“, which I also only first encountered last year.
Another word related to pathogenic priming, which you may never have heard of before is Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE) or Immune Enhancement. This phenomenon according to several sources is when your body’s immune system reacts badly to the virus AFTER you have already been vaccinated.
Anyway, there are some people who believe the vaccine could cause an adverse reaction in some people, when they come into contact with the virus. The basis of this concern appears to be in the well chronicled Pharmaceutical blunders of the past. I’ll let the experts explain what the term actually means:
“My husband was sick for a whole week after getting the flu jab last year. They were offering it via his workplace and he said ok why not. He was in bed for a week, had splitting headaches, yellow mucus coming out of his nose, a fever, lost appetite and was a wreck. I know COVID is not a flu, but I’m not having the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ve told him if you want you go receive it yourself, me – no! “
5. Will I still be able to have kids after I receive the vaccine?
How will the vaccine affect fertility in say 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? Is there credible information on this, I’ve been asked a couple of times.
“I want to have kids, but not ready to have kids now. How will the vaccine affect my fertility later on down the line?”– a 20 year old daughter of a cousin
But what about Male fertility? Does anyone know the effects of a COVID-19 vaccine on male fertility in 4 years? 10 years? In one article, an opinion of one medical journalist that suggested freezing sperm got some people worried:
6. How will the vaccine affect my other organs in the long term?
Not just the effect on my lungs and the respiratory system, but on my kidneys, my heart, my eyes, my brain, my liver, my digestive system and so on.
“What research has been done to find out the effects of the various vaccines on different organs in the long term? I’m going to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but I think it’s only right that before we ask everyone to receive the vaccine we have to show them some conclusive evidence that it won’t affect other organs in their body in the long term, and if we can’t do that then it shouldn’t be mandatory to receive the vaccine, until after we have that evidence”
“What I know is that pregnant mothers receive a vaccine before a baby is born. And also when the baby is born the baby is vaccinated, and so while I don’t see anything wrong with the COVID-19 vaccine, maybe we should be told what happens in the long term.”
7. Will the COVID-19 vaccine contain nano robots?
This one is rare but there have been at least two occasions when an ordinary conversation with a friend veered into the less heard of but nevertheless real subject of nano robots?
For those not familiar with the term, Nano robots are nanodevices at the molecular level and are a known healthcare innovation within nanotechnology and nanomedicine.
- Self-Propelling Targeted Magneto-Nanobots for Deep Tumor Penetration and pH-Responsive Intracellular Drug Delivery (Nature)
This concern was a lot more pronounced at the beginning of the pandemic, when the internet was awash with bizarre and nonsensical conspiracy theories about the links between COVID-19 and 5G.
8. My Faith in God will protect me from COVID-19
Pretty much every crisis that the world has faced has at some point been met by these types of religious (or pseudo-religious) claims. And often there is little thought as to how such a stance affects other people, which itself may be a verdict on the lack of empathy of the person holding such views. In any case, no one lives in a vaccuum, and our actions, whether good or bad, often impact other people around us.
Considering all of the above views and concerns, it is clear that national governments everywhere have a tough job on their hands. Never mind sensitisation and countering of false information, if a significant percentage of society is opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines and are not willing to be vaccinated, for whatever reasons, it may ultimately defeat the whole global vaccination effort. This is because new viruses (against which the current vaccines have little or no effect) which will inevitably mutate in unvaccinated ‘pockets’ of the population will in no time be transmitted back into the vaccinated population(s) across the world – triggering a whole new pandemic!