Society 14/08/2021

Eight arguments to counter anti-vaccine campaigners

Social media has been filled with false information about vaccines over the past few months

G.G.G.
3 min
A woman getting vaccinated yesterday in Vic

Vaccines are one of the greatest success stories in history, but the fact that they are a tool of preventive medicine and are administered before there is a disease in order to avoid it (the individual is healthy) becomes an argument for the most reluctant population and, above all, for antivaccinationists. Moreover, as with all drugs, there is the possibility that those vaccinated may suffer some adverse effects, and these risk figures, which are anecdotal compared to the benefits, are often taken out of context and used as a deterrent to vaccination. In fact, in recent months a multitude of false anti-vaccine messages have been circulating on social media to discourage covid-19 vaccination. 

ARA provides you with eight arguments to help you make an informed decision if you are still hesitant to get vaccinated, or to use with those around you who are still hesitant. 

"Vaccines infect us"

RNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not contain the virus, but a fragment of the genetic code of the very fragile and totally innocuous virus that is transported encapsulated in a degradable lipid nanoparticle. In the case of AstraZeneca, an attenuated virus, which cannot replicate, is used. In both cases, the aim is to familiarise the immune system with the virus so that, in the event of infection, it will recognise and attack it. When a person is vaccinated, some of their cells read the instructions and produce the S protein, but in no case do they develop covid.

"We don't know what they inject us with, they keep it secret"

The ingredients of the vaccines are public and can be easily found in the technical guides of each one. The document is posted on the website of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps).

"They hide the side effects from us"

Vaccines can generate side effects, but they are mostly mild and transitory, such as headache, muscle discomfort or fever. All side effects are listed in vaccine package inserts. As with all medicines and drug treatments, some people may suffer severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) or, as has been demonstrated with AstraZeneca, very specific thromboses. In any case, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks - serious cases are anecdotal compared to the vaccinated population - and offer very good results, such as a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths.

"Messenger RNA vaccines modify our genetic code"

Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines do not modify the genetic code. They do not even interact with it because they do not use DNA (the molecules that contain our genetic information) but RNA (the molecules that allow proteins to be synthesised). In fact, RNA cannot access the nucleus of cells, which is where the DNA is. 

"Vaccines have been made too quickly, they are experimental"

Covid vaccines have been developed so quickly because scientists had been accumulating research and evidence for prototypes for years, governments invested a lot of money and, because it was a pandemic, drug regulatory agencies prioritised the study over other less urgent drugs. Millions of volunteers were also available, which allowed data to be collected very quickly. None of the vaccines are experimental: all have met the rigid requirements of safety - they are non-toxic - and efficacy - they work - and have been tested in humans and shown to be protective. They now continue to be monitored, as is done for all approved drugs.

"Pharmaceutical companies use us as guinea pigs"

All drugs and medicines have to be tested in humans before they are marketed. They are first tested in cell cultures and animals to prove that they are safe and effective. Once on the market, they continue to collect as much data as possible and study the effect on a large scale (this is called pharmacovigilance). In addition, not being vaccinated right now is also a way to be part of scientific experiments: for example, to show that vaccinated people are less sick than unvaccinated people.

"Vaccines cause infertility"

There is no evidence that the vaccine (or covid infection) may affect semen and ovarian quality: no studies have found viral RNA in ejaculations, testicles, ovaries or follicular fluid. On the other hand, it has been shown that pregnant women are 23 times more likely to be hospitalised if they are not vaccinated if they catch covid.

"Vaccines contain heavy metals and materials such as graphene"

We have all seen images of people "demonstrating" that spoons or telephones got stuck to the arm where they had received the vaccine. But the vaccine has nothing to do with this: it does not contain heavy metals (none of the vaccines administered in Catalonia even have adjuvants) or microchips. Whether you are vaccinated or not, the skin is oily and secretes sweat, and any metal or plastic element can get stuck. Nor do vaccines have graphene, a highly resistant material of carbon atoms that has a multitude of applications in technology and industry and which some people have led people to believe could be activated inside the body and interact with 5G "electromagnetic fields".

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