Letter: Covid vaccine myths and facts

A doctor injects a vaccine into Josephine Casey's arm.

83-year-old Josephine Casey was the first person in Hackney to receive a coronavirus vaccine. - Credit: Sean Pollock

Virus jab explained and why we must all have it

Toni Gutman, Hackney, full address supplied, writes an open letter to those people in Hackney who are still wary of getting vaccinated against coronavirus:

I’m not talking to those lost in fairy tales of micro-chips implanted by criminals and so on, but to those who have rational worries.

The thing is, while in the country as a whole, about four in every five adults have had their first dose, and nearly two-thirds the second, for Hackney and the City of London just over half of adults have had the first dose, and just over one quarter have had the second. 

Meanwhile daily infection rates have doubled in the UK since mid-May.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

The mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz has called for urgent action from the government after figures showed the borough is behind the national average for first doses. - Credit: PA


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So to take some of your worries (in no particular order):

  • Risk of blood clots: figures to date show that the chances of getting blood clots are about five per million and for those over 70, it’s about one per million; while for those unvaccinated over 70 who get coronavirus, the chances of dying are about 1 in 200. Sure, if you are younger, the chances of dying are less (but you could still end up in hospital, or have serious after-effects such as chronic fatigue and you could get blood clots). But the chances of getting coronavirus and then serious consequences if unvaccinated are on a different planet to the chances of getting blood clots from the vaccination.
  • The speed of the development of the vaccines: yes, new vaccines have in the past taken up to 10 years to develop but a significant part of this was getting the funding which came speedily for coronavirus (including from Dolly Parton for the US!) Vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of volunteers and instead of this being spread over several years. this was done in several months. Finally the basic mechanism had already been developed for use against other viruses, and the researchers just turned round and tweaked it to cope with coronavirus.
  • Coronavirus is no worse than flu: no, the ONS (the organisation that studies and publishes the figures) says there’s been around 116 thousand deaths more than normal; and even in a winter of serious flu, you don’t get hundreds of health workers, bus drivers etc dying or off work with serious long term after-effects.
  • Drug companies are just promoting the vaccines to boost their profits: The Oxford/Astro-Zeneca vaccinations are being sold on a more or less non-profit basis (and incidentally the Oxford University lab has just developed an amazing anti-malaria drug). But yes, Pfizer and some other companies have made fortunes but people seem quite happy to give Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon - enough money to enable him to go to space.
  • They inject the virus into you: no, what they do is get just the ‘spike’ protein into you, and the body is tricked into thinking it’s got the virus, and gets up its antibodies defences.
  • They change your DNA: no, some vaccines contain the MRNA for the spike protein – this is like the coding for the body to make copies of the spike protein, so it will make even more antibodies
  • Other side effects after the vaccination: some people do get some short-term side effects – but like mine (feeling weirdly chilled for 20 minutes, and feeling absolutely exhausted the next day) they pass after a day or so.

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We’ve just been given an extension of four weeks so please, for your sake and for the rest of us, speak to your GP or nurse if you are still worried - but get the vaccination - and remember that one dose is not enough, you need both. 

And then you need to remember that they take two to three weeks to be fully effective.

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