The issue around Covid-19 vaccinations has been hanging over everyone’s heads for nearly two years now, with fake news and conspiracy theories doing the rounds all over.
The Centre of Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC), a non-profit organisation based at University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) Graduate School of Business tracks and counters misinformation and disinformation, fake news and divisive rhetoric that is propagated online to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity and the stability of nation-states.
According to the CABC’s most recent report, social media conversations around the Covid-19 vaccination is largely driven by vaccine hesitancy.
The report states that “the analysis brought to light some concerning rhetoric containing targeted trolling, conspiracy theories, many unsubstantiated claims about vaccine side effects, and government mistrust or manipulation.”
Local celebrity Bonnie Mbuli’s tweet recently gained traction, when she wrote that her side effects seemed to be heavier than what most people had described and that it was even worse than when she had Covid-19.
Shuuu! My vaccine side effects seem heavier than most describe,can’t even get out of bed, didn’t even feel this bad when i had Covid .Did anyone else have hectic side effects?— Bonnie Mbuli (@BonnieMbuli) September 16, 2021
Side effects that have been escalating vaccine hesitancy online, include reports of women missing their periods following their vaccinations, with the media outlet, Daily Mirror tweeting that more than 30 000 women in the UK have reported irregular periods after getting the Covid-19 jab. This post was echoed by many users, who shared their own experiences.
I’ve seen some tweets from SA women complaining about the same thing. But as standard in this joke of a country, they turned it into jokes and giggles about pregnancy. https://t.co/OV0ZfCECMA— Solitudinarian (@OdirileSOuL) September 17, 2021
Accusations have also been thrown left, right and centre, with Twitter accounts like the @ForumCovid accusing pharmaceutical companies of using the Covid-19 vaccine for profit. Many are also accusing medical aid companies of omitting the truth about vaccine injuries.
@Discovery_SA When will we have a discussion on vaccine injuries? Specifically the more than HALF A MILLION Covid vaccine injuries reported to VAERS in under a year?
Surely your employees deserve to see the full picture? https://t.co/h4cXM57L5y— Carpe Diem (@SimonTemplar008) September 5, 2021
In addition to this, the CABC’s researchers have found many posts indicating that there are concerns about coercion and government mandating of vaccinations.
“This, coupled with misinformation about how vaccines actually work indicates that there is a need for more education on this issue,” the report states.
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CABC analyst, Sivuyisiwe Kuse, says: “Despite the many efforts around promoting the education, necessity, safety and crucial need for vaccinations, more and more bizarre content continues to dominate online conversations.”
Epidemiologist and head of health practice at Genesis Analytics, Dr Saul Johnson shed some light on some of the most prominent myths doing the rounds at the moment:
Myth 1: You can get the virus from the vaccine
Many people say they have heard of cases where people have developed Covid-19 after being vaccinated, suggesting the vaccine gives you Covid-19.
Johnson says: “We know that vaccines work by helping your body to recognise when you have been infected with the virus and begins to activate the appropriate responses to fight the infection. There is, therefore, a period immediately following vaccination when the vaccine teaches your body to fight the virus.
“With Covid-19, this period is generally 14 days after your second jab for the Pfizer vaccine, and 21 days for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, both of which are currently used in South Africa. Up to this time, you can still get infected with Covid-19, as you don’t yet have full immunity to the virus, even with the vaccination.”
Myth 2: The vaccine contains a live virus
Johnson says: “None of the vaccines contain actual live virus.”
He says with billions of people around the world having been vaccinated and rigorous monitoring and evaluation processes in place, “we can say with great confidence that the vaccine does not give you Covid-19″.
Myth 3: The vaccines are unsafe as they have not been tested long enough
“Vaccines are developed under stringent conditions, scientific rigour and adherence to ethical standards,” says Johnson.
He says in recent years, scientific advances have enabled vaccines to be developed more quickly than in the past.
“The speed at which vaccines are produced, has however not impacted negatively on vaccine safety or quality. Technology has also enabled global collaboration and oversight which is an additional layer of safety in the production of the Covid-19 vaccines.”
Myth 4: Vaccine comes with side effects and who knows what long-term effects
Johnson says like with any other vaccine, the Covid-19 vaccine behaves in a way that, while your body is learning to fight the virus, it may seem as if you have the virus.
“You could therefore have some pain, swelling or redness where the vaccine was injected; mild fever, chills, tiredness, headaches or muscle and joint aches.”
We might be at the end of the third wave, but the fourth wave is definitely a reality. Johnson says the only thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to vaccinate, be assured that the vaccines are safe and that those who are vaccinated are protected against severe illness and death.