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HomeFact-CheckHere are 5 fear-mongering claims about the COVID vaccine, because even Harbhajan Singh is...

Here are 5 fear-mongering claims about the COVID vaccine, because even Harbhajan Singh is not ‘immune’ to rumours

In July 2020, Prof Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said several factors helped in the quick development of the vaccine. He said the previous research on the vaccine, faster approval for the funds, and volunteers' availability helped in pacing up the development.

The covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we see the world completely. The year 2020 has brought a ‘new normal’ to our lives, and we are trying to adjust to it. Governments worldwide are trying to ensure people take precautions, and the death rate stays minimal. The scientists are working day and night to develop a vaccine for the infection. However, there are several misleading claims about the vaccine and its importance in making rounds on social media platforms that need to be debunked.

India has a 93.6% recovery rate – Why do we need a vaccine?

The claim: The pharmaceutical companies are releasing a glimpse of the success rate of the vaccines under clinical trial for Covid-19 on a regular basis. Pfizer and BioNTech have claimed a 94% success rate, Moderna at 94.5%, Oxford-AstraZeneca at 90%, and so on. The recovery rate in India is quite high, suggesting that the disease may not be fatal for a vast majority of people. Several netizens, including ex-cricketer Harbhajan Singh, have raised the question if we really need the vaccine.

The claim started making rounds around November 26. It is possible that Harbhajan Singh fell for a WhatsApp forward of the said claim.

Screenshot of tweets with same claims that were made around November 26

The fact: The vaccine is not a medicine that you will take after you get infected. it helps in developing immunity against the disease thus prevents you from getting the infection in the first place. Also, even 6% of India’s population means over 70 million people. The vaccine will ensure that they do not get infected in the first place, improving their chance to survive the pandemic. Claiming that we do not need a vaccine because we have a higher recovery rate is technically incorrect because there will be many people who cannot recover and will succumb to the disease.

The vaccine will alter the DNA of humans

The claim: The said claim that the vaccine will alter the DNA of humans has been making rounds since May 2020. The claim was first made by Dr Andrew Kaufman, a self-proclaimed “natural healing consultant,” in an interview. He said the vaccine would provide a vessel to ‘inject genes into humans’ and make them “genetically modified organisms”. Osteopath Carrie Madej further supported the claim.

The fact: A DNA vaccine involves the direct introduction into appropriate tissues of a plasmid containing the DNA sequence encoding the antigen(s) against which an immune response is sought and relies on the in situ production of the target antigen. That means a small part of the DNA or RNA of the virus will be injected into the patient to trigger an immune response without causing any infection. CDC has provided details about mRNA vaccines for Covid-19.

Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Alliance for Science group, had said, “Genetic modification would involve the deliberate insertion of foreign DNA into the nucleus of a human cell, and vaccines simply don’t do that. Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize a pathogen when it attempts to infect the body – this is mostly done by the injection of viral antigens or weakened live viruses that stimulate an immune response through the production of antibodies.”

Vaccines are coming too fast, something is wrong

The claim: The people who are taking the vaccine will become guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical companies. No one knows the side effects of the vaccine as the development of the vaccine takes decades to complete.

The fact: One of the most genuine-sounding concerns are about the pace at which the vaccine is being developed. It is generally believed that the development, trials and production of a vaccine will take several years to complete. In the case of Covid-19, the vaccines being developed by several pharmaceutical companies have already entered the third phase of trials. Some companies are claiming they will introduce their vaccine in the market in the first quarter of 2021.

In July 2020, Prof Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said several factors helped in the quick development of the vaccine. He said the previous research on the vaccine, faster approval for the funds, and volunteers’ availability helped in pacing up the development. Many scientists working on vaccine development have assured on several occasions that all the required protocols for developing a safe vaccine are in place. Apart from that, most governments have also been aiding the vaccine development process by speeding up regulatory processes and cutting unnecessary delays.

Bill Gates wants to inject everyone with a microchip

The claim: Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is planning to inject everyone with a traceable microchip on the pretext of the Covid-19 vaccine. Several “experts” made videos and claimed that Bill Gates said the same in March 2020. According to BBC, in May, a YouGov poll of 1,640 people suggested 28% of Americans believed Gates wanted to use vaccines to implant microchips in people.

The Fact: In March 2020, Bill Gates said in an interview that the recovery, testing, and vaccination would be traced using a digital certificate. There was no mention of the microchip. The claim referred to a study by The Gates Foundation-funded organization that suggested developing a technology that can store vaccine records in a special ink administered at the time of the vaccination. It did not take about the microchip but about the invisible ink tattoo. Gates’ foundation works with the United Nations and helps many poor countries to procure vaccines.

Fetus tissue used in the development of the vaccine

The claim: The scientists are using fetus tissue for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine. The claim was posted by one of the largest anti-vaccine groups on its Facebook page that the scientists are using fetus tissue in the Covid-19 vaccine. The video showed the cover of AstraZeneca-developed COVID-19 vaccine ChAdOx1-S, also known as AZD1222. It was mentioned in its details that it uses “direct RNA sequencing to analyse transcript expression from the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 genome in human MRC-5 and A549 cell lines that are non-permissive for vector replication alongside the replication permissive cell line, HEK293.”

The fact: Reuters debunked the misinformation. AstraZeneca said that AZD1222 was not developed using MRC-5 cell lines. The study video mentioned was not by AstraZeneca, but scientists at the University of Bristol did it to tests the vaccine’s efficiency. The report further suggested that “AZD1222 (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) is a weakened and non-replicating version of the common cold virus (adenovirus) taken from chimpanzees, which has been engineered to contain instructions for creating the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Dr. David Matthews, a reader of virology at Bristol University and co-author on the vaccine study, said, “Many virus vaccines are made in embryonic/foetal derived cell lines and then the vaccine is purified away from these cells to exceptionally high standards. Most of these cell lines (including MRC-5 cells and 293 cells) were derived from tissue samples taken from foetuses aborted in the 1960s and 1970s and the cells have been grown in laboratories all over the world since then.”

There are hundreds of misconceptions and misinformation about Covid-19, its treatment, and vaccine. Before forwarding any message, it is suggested to check the claim and verify it from an authentic source such as the World Health Organization, MoFHW, and others.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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