In this article, Entertainment editor Sophie Alexander evaluates the concerns around the Coronavirus vaccine. 

On the 8th December 2020 at 6:31am, Margaret Keenan was the first person in the world to receive the first Coronavirus vaccine; the first of 800,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines which would be given over the next few months. But what have been the effects of the vaccine and why are some people concerned about its safety?

Usually before the release of a new vaccine or medicine, scientists conduct numerous safety tests and trials on cells and animals before advancing onto human trials. Once there doesn’t seem to be any concerning side effects, volunteers are split into two groups. One half given the vaccine and the other a ‘placebo jab’ – the volunteers are not told which one they are given to ensure the results are fair and not in anyway biased. However, despite the rapid speed in which scientists at Oxford were able to work, one of the participants sadly passed away, which meant the development was at a stand still until their death was revealed to be ‘unrelated to the vaccine’.

So, how will this new vaccine protect us? Well, the vaccine uses ‘bits of genetic code’ to trigger an ‘immune response’ (known as an mRNA vaccine); meaning it will build up our body’s immune system to fight against the virus. But how safe is it?

According to the NHS website, the vaccine had gone through numerous, vigorous ‘safety, quality and effectiveness’ checks by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). As of now, there have been no severe side effects to the vaccine, though side effects may include:

  • Sore arm
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Feeling achy
  • Feeling/being sick

It should be noted that people who have had serious allergic reactions to either:

  • a previous vaccine
  • a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine
  • some type of medicine, household products or cosmetics,

should not be given this new vaccine or at least contact a healthcare professional. Although allergic reactions may occur, these are very rare and should not cause concern. Once a first dose of the vaccine has been given, people must then wait three to four weeks to take a second dose. Two doses are said to provide the best protection against the virus but the vaccine must be given first to key workers and vulnerable people. As could be expected, there has been plentiful misinformation regarding the vaccine’s safety, with anti-vaxxers using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram for their smear campaigns. Many have come to criticise these sites about their slow response to tackling the fake news surrounding the vaccine; saying any efforts made now are ‘too little, too late’.

Anti-vaxxer’s are using these platforms to “warn” other users not to give the vaccine to their children as well as organise groups ‘against doctors who explained the medical benefits’. These accounts have gained more than 10 million new followers since 2019 despite the vaccine being more than 90% effective in preventing Coronavirus. One of America’s most prominent anti-vaxxers, Del Bigtree, talk about the Coronavirus vaccine in an online conference, stating that: “It’s dangerous. You don’t need it. And herd immunity is your friend.” This is a rather concerning comment to make for someone who had reportedly more than 15 million views on YouTube, 350,000 followers on Facebook and 212,000 Instagram followers (an account which also garnered between 30,000 and 150,000 video views).

The World Health Organization has deemed this “vaccine hesitancy” as being one of the top 10 global health threats. An example of the consequences to misinformation saw a pharmacist in Wisconsin who insisted that he needed to destroy ‘hundred of doses’ of the vaccine; believing that it would cause mutations in a persons DNA.

Unfortunately, the elimination of such fake news comes into question censorships role in media content. The deletion of an anti-vaxxer’s Facebook page could elicit more followers to defy against said censorship, despite how harmful their conspiracy theories and false claims may be to users. Regardless, as much as people may wish for the vaccine to be mandatory, we cannot force people to take something they don’t want, even if it is in their best interests. The Coronavirus vaccine is in no way meant to harm you and so I encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself; though if we’re ever going to be free from this pandemic, the vaccine may be our only hope.


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