Stockport Council’s Director of Public Health, Jennifer Connolly, has used her weekly statement on the coronavirus to this week dispel a number of commonly-believed myths about the Covid-19 vaccine.
She also welcomed the decline in the rate of new Covid-19 cases in the borough, citing the good weather, end of the school term and continued strong uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Stockport. Infection rates, however, remain high, currently at 324.1 cases per 100,000 (as of 30.7.21), with 136 new cases being reported daily. Jennifer Connolly said:
It’s been really pleasing to see a decline in cases across Stockport over the last week. It is likely that there are multiple reasons behind this decline, probably including the contribution of protection from vaccination; people spending more time outside in the good weather; some schools finishing for the summer break; and others. We know that this is a time to be cautious, as we may well see a slowdown in the rate of decline or even another rise, when we see the impact of the changes in guidance that happened on 19 July.”
Speaking on the vaccine rollout in the borough, the Director of Public Health added:
Thankfully, due to the vaccine the link between rising cases and hospitalisations and death has been weakened but we must remember the link has not been severed entirely and more cases put continued pressure on the NHS and may lead to more deaths.
“We urgently need to reach those people who have not yet had their first dose or are now overdue (over 8 weeks) their second. Everyone over 18 is eligible, as are those aged 16 and 17 with underlying health conditions (you will have been contacted by your GP if this applies to you) and young people who are within three months of turning 18.
“84.3% of Stockport’s adult population have received their first dose and 69.9% both doses. However, gaps are widening in uptake in some of our population – with lower rates in some ethnic minority populations, those living in more deprived areas and among the younger cohort, especially young men.
“We know there has been misinformation and myths spreading fear about the vaccines and that this can cause anxiety, but the vaccines are safe, effective and give you the best protection against the virus. So, I want to address some of the common myths and give you the facts to make an informed decision.”
Myth: The vaccine was approved too quickly.
Truth: The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the official UK regulator, has said these vaccines are safe and highly effective. They are highly regulated, with checks at every stage of development and manufacturing, and are continually monitoring once authorised and being used. Any vaccine must go through clinical trials and safety checks like all other licensed medicines. The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world and, due to the emergency situation, a global effort has meant scientists have been able to work at record speed by conducting steps in parallel rather than sequentially. Vaccine safety has not been compromised.
Myth: The vaccine could give you COVID-19.
Truth: Vaccines don’t give you the disease. Instead, they provide your body with the ability to recognise and fight off the infection they are designed to protect against. Some vaccines contain germs that cause the disease they are immunising against, but they have been killed or weakened so don’t make you sick. The coronavirus vaccine doesn’t contain a live coronavirus, and, therefore, can’t give you a coronavirus infection.
Myth: We don’t know what’s in these vaccines.
Truth: Both Pfixer, AstraZeneca and Moderna have published ingredient lists for their vaccines. In addition to the COVID-19 mRNA, a small molecule that acts as chemical negotiators within the body to teach it how to develop an immune response against COVID-19, for the spike protein, both vaccines contain lipids (fats) that help deliver the mRNA into your cells and a few other common ingredients that help maintain the pH and stability of the vaccine. Despite theories circulated on social media, they do not contain microchips or any form of tracking device. The MHRA, Council of Mosques and British Board of Imams and Scholars have also said vaccines are suitable for the Muslim community as none contain any animal derivative or any other substance such as pork, placental cells, eggs or alcohol that would contravene halal guidance.
Myth: The vaccine affects your DNA.
Truth: Vaccines don’t interact with or alter your DNA in any way because the mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell (which is where our DNA is kept). To genetically modify your DNA, you’d need to insert a foreign DNA into the nucleus of a human cell and vaccines can’t do that.
Myth: The vaccine won’t work against the new variants.
Truth: All viruses, including COVID-19, mutate, that’s how they survive. When we discuss variants, we’re talking about mutated versions of COVID-19. Vaccine effectiveness is always being assessed. Currently, scientists say the vaccines to protect against the existing known variants. Research in vaccine development and efficacy will lead the way in how we manage ongoing immunity against existing and new strains. Vaccination cuts virus spread and reduce the presence of the original strain and any new variants.
Myth: The vaccine causes severe side effects.
Truth: If you’ve had a vaccine in the past, you might have experienced some side effects. All vaccines have the potential to cause side effects as they’re engineering an immune response within your body. For most, side effects are mild such as sore arm, fatigue, feeling achy or feeling sick and you will feel better within a few days. If you have a history of allergic reactions, tell healthcare staff before getting the vaccine. Serious reactions are rare. Current data tells us that 11 people in every million (or 0.0011%) will have a moderate to severe reaction. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with serious reactions and most vaccination sites ask recipients to wait to monitor any reactions. Currently the MHRA recommends anyone with a history of significant allergic reactions shouldn’t have the Pfizer vaccine and you will be offered an alternative. More information on possible side effects can be found on the NHS website.
Myth: The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine is dangerous.
Truth: There is a small risk of developing an extremely rare form of blood clot in the cerebral veins soon after vaccination called sinus vein thrombosis. They can also occur in people who haven’t been vaccinated. Other common medications and activities can also cause blood clots – 5 per 10,000 of people will get a one with the oral contraceptive pill and risk of developing one from a long-haul flight is about one per 1,000. The risk of getting a blood clot after having the vaccine is just four per million, so is comparatively small. Researchers also found that someone who’s been vaccinated is no more likely to have one of these blood clots than the general population. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised anyone under the age of 40 should be offered an alternative vaccine. COVID-19 can cause blood clots and the risk is far higher than getting one following the vaccine.
Myth: The vaccine can cause issues with fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Truth: There’s no evidence to suggest this or we would have seen a trend of infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth in people who’ve had it, but this hasn’t happened. Although pregnant people were not included in the first round of trials and participants were asked to avoid becoming pregnant, a number did fall pregnant by accident. Accidental pregnancies occurred equally across vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups, which tells us that vaccines did not prevent pregnancy. Those who became pregnant have been followed closely and had/are having normal pregnancies. In IVF patients, vaccination has not affected ovarian function, egg quality, fertilisation or clinical pregnancy rate. Vaccine trials (as with most medication and vaccine trials) didn’t contain any children or pregnant subjects, but post-trial data suggests after you’re vaccinated you can still breastfeed, with no risk to your baby and antibodies may be passed on to your baby.
However, there are risks associated with catching COVID-19, particularly in the second half of pregnancy. Pregnant patients with the virus are more likely to need intensive care than patients who are not pregnant. Preterm birth and stillbirth are more common than normal in pregnant COVID-19 patients and their babies more likely to be admitted to the neonatal unit.
There is also evidence that COVID-19 can cause erectile disfunction, both in the long-term and short term, with an Italian study finding the risk increases by nearly six times when you have COVID-19.
Myth: I don’t need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19.
Truth: It is possible for you to catch it again, so it’s important to protect yourself. It’s not yet clear how strong natural immunity is, or how long after infection it may last. Current evidence appears to suggest contracting COVID-19 again isn’t common but could happen. It’s still recommended, irrespective of your previous immunity response, to have the vaccine when offered.
Myth: Since COVID-19’s survival rate is so high, I don’t need a vaccine.
Truth: While most people who get COVID-19 recover, some people develop severe complications. So far, millions around the world have died and that doesn’t account for people who survived but needed to be hospitalised. As the disease can damage the lungs, heart and brain, it may also cause long-term health problems that experts are still working to understand. There is also the risk of Long COVID, symptoms that linger for weeks or months beyond infections (between 10% and 30% of people who catch the virus) including those with mild or asymptomatic infections. The vaccine also protects those around you. Even if it doesn’t make you very sick, you could pass it on to someone else who might be more severely affected. Widespread vaccination protects populations, including those who are most at risk and those who can’t be vaccinated. It will be important for ending the pandemic.
Could you help us address vaccine hesitancy in your community?
Stockport Council is recruiting Stockport Community Champions, volunteers who help their communities disseminate information from Public Health and other partners about COVID-19 and the vaccination by ensuring everyone has the correct information to safeguard their health and wellbeing and make informed choices. Visit the Stockport Volunteer Hub to find out more and to sign up.
You can take up the vaccination offer by attending a pop-up clinic visiting various locations across Stockport in the next few weeks. You can also book your vaccine online, or call 119 to arrange an appointment.
Remember, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or your lateral flow test comes back positive, you will need to take a PCR test and self-isolate. You can order your PCR test online or book a test by calling 119.
Also, continue to carry out regular lateral flow testing. Free home kits can be picked up from pharmacies, libraries, Fred Perry House Test Centre, and the car park on Chadwick Street in Marple. Visit our website to find your nearest test centre or collection point.
If you test positive, or been informed by NHS Test and Trace you have been a contact of someone who has, it is essential to self-isolate for 10 days – this is
still law until 16 August and helps break the chain of transmission. Visit our website to find information on support during self-isolation.
If you need to self-isolate and are finding this difficult, please call our COVID-19 helpline on 0161 217 6046. You can also visit our website for more information on where to find help if you’re a vulnerable person.