COVID-19: Tackling the Confusion, Controversies Around Vaccines

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About a year after Coronavirus emerged, scientists and health experts around the world have developed and approved some vaccines as antidote to the virus. However, these vaccines have not been without controversies.

Questions regarding who needs the vaccine, the extent the vaccines prevent COVID-19 infections and whether there are notable side effects of the new vaccine have become daily conversations for so many people, experts included.

In this report, Fact-Check Ghana looks at some of the emerging controversies about COVID-19 vaccines and provide answers from credible and trusted health and scientific sources.

Does everyone need the COVID-19 vaccine?

YES. Scientists assert that in order for the world to be safe for habitation, everyone must have a jab of the COVID-19 vaccines.

They added that the more the virus spreads, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the greater chance it has to continue to change in ways that put the whole world at risk.

As a Public Health tool, vaccines are needed to protect the whole population against the deadly coronavirus which has been ravaging the world since December 2019.

Andrea Taylor, an assistant director at Duke Global Health Innovation Center noted explicitly that "this idea that no one is safe until everyone is safe is not just an adage, it is really true."

"Our immune system stores information about every germ ever defeated. We sometimes call this immunological memory. "said Taylor.

The US Center for Disease Control explained that some antibodies remain 'on patrol' in our bloodstream for long. The need for a vaccine is further boosted so that if our bodies ever encounter the real germ in the future, the immune system can quickly trigger the memory cells and produce antibodies to defeat it.

Can a vaccinated person still contract COVID-19?

YES. The US Center for Disease Control said "no vaccine is 100% effective, and the makers of coronavirus vaccines are still evaluating whether the shots protect against all infections, or just those that cause symptoms."

It added that vaccines take time to build up immunity, and the authorized coronavirus vaccines require two doses, given several weeks apart, to train the body's immune system. People can be exposed to the coronavirus after being vaccinated which leaves the body vulnerable as its immune systems are yet to develop defenses. On average, scientists say an 'immune response' will take around 7-21 days.

Do the vaccines have a lifelong immunity or it needs occasional boosters?

There no simple answers to the question of vaccine immunity particularly in the face of COVID-19.

However, experts recommend two doses of the COVID-19 Vaccines which is expected to provide some form of immunity.

They added that the first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer.

"I suspect two doses will also give longer immunity," said Dr. Michael Merson, a professor of global health at Duke University and senior scholar at the City University of New York, School of Public Health and Health Policy.

When is Ghana getting a vaccine?

In his 23rd address to the nation on measures taken to combat the novel coronavirus on Sunday, January 31,2020, President Akuffo-Addo said the Government of Ghana is working assiduously through the Food and Drugs Authority to granting emergency-use-authorization for each vaccine in Ghana.

He said about 17.6 million doses of the vaccines will be procured by June, with the first batch arriving in March, 2021.

On Monday, February 1, 2021, the Food and Drugs Authority also announced its approval for the first herbal medicine clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment by the KNUST School of Public Health.

It said its approval will put the drug, Cryptolepis sanguinolenta locally known as Nibima, on trial at two sites

Are there any notable side effects of the new vaccine?

YES. Experts say there are notable side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines as witnessed in Norway, UK and the US.

They however hasten to point out that "this is not a flaw or a failure. Side effects are a sign the immune system is kicking into gear, as intended."

"Things like fever or soreness at the injection site are normal, and actually they indicate that your body is reacting to the vaccine, which is what you want," said Ellen F. Foxman, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine. "That's a good thing." She concluded.

Despite the jabs of vaccines being administered to the general populace for protection against the coronavirus, experts have advised the continuous use of nose masks, frequent hand washing and more importantly, physical and social distancing of about 6 feet from others in order to limit the spread.

"The best hope for ending the pandemic isn't to choose between masks, physical distancing and vaccines but to combine them." "The three approaches work best as a team," said Paul Allan Offit, a specialist in infectious diseases, vaccines, immunology, and virology, School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: BBC