Even a single source of false news is enough to hurt our ability to respond to the health needs of our people
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:00 AM March 08, 2022
Written By: V.N. Campos
Ten years of worsening attitudes towards vaccines, exacerbated by an influx of online misinformation, is putting many of our children and most vulnerable friends and family members at risk from entirely preventable diseases.
Until now, we continue to hear misconceptions about the dengue vaccine, causing many to doubt the benefits of all vaccines despite years of studies and monitoring to ensure that vaccines are safe and effective. With our current health crisis, even a single source of false news is enough to hurt our ability to respond to the health needs of our people.
It’s critical that we understand where these pieces of misinformation and disinformation stem from. Here are some of the common statements we often hear, and the science that answers them.
“The side effects of the vaccine can be worse than the disease.” FALSE.
There are expected side effects with all vaccines, but they can’t be compared to the effects of the diseases they protect us from. Commonly, vaccine recipients may experience slight fevers and body aches that go away on their own after a few days. Compare this to having COVID, which can lead to more serious effects such as low oxygen levels, and may even require hospitalization in the ICU.
For those wondering about possible long-term side effects, we can note that scientists always find the most serious side effects of vaccines within the first few weeks. Health authorities are continuously monitoring for side effects while the vaccine is in the market, showing just how seriously they care about safety, but no vaccine has been linked to long-term side effects.
“There’s a chance of getting the disease from the vaccine.” FALSE.
There is no chance of becoming infected with the disease through a vaccine. Many mistakenly believe vaccines can give the disease because some have been naturally exposed to the wild virus shortly before or after their vaccination date.
We must remember that it takes at least two weeks for the body to develop protective immunity after vaccination, so these cases are not actually linked to the vaccine.
In the Philippines, this continues to be a dangerous piece of misinformation, with non-experts claiming links between the dengue vaccines and positive cases of dengue. No causality link has ever been established between a vaccine and any subsequent episode of the disease, whether COVID or dengue. In fact, the dengue vaccine has been included in the WHO List of Essential Medicines 2019 and approved by the US FDA and the EMA.
“Vaccines are not effective against diseases.” FALSE.
Vaccines are not magical force fields that provide 100-percent protection, but once fully vaccinated, chances of getting seriously ill or dying are greatly lowered. Vaccines that we have been using for decades, such as the ones for measles and polio, are 90-95-percent effective, and this is much better than the no protection we had before the invention of vaccines.
Some “breakthrough infections” occur, but these are cases where even after vaccination, one’s immune system was still not be strong enough to resist infection. Still, these cases of infections post-immunization are seen to have milder symptoms compared to unprotected individuals.
“We can achieve herd immunity without vaccines.” FALSE.
There are two ways to achieve herd immunity—one, through the safe and effective vaccines approved by our Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and the other one, through harming our community by allowing most of our friends and loved ones to get sick.
There are many diseases without an easy cure, such as COVID, and we know how difficult it is for our healthcare workers to make sure everyone is able to recover from such deadly diseases. Getting vaccinated is not just a personal choice, but a public responsibility that will help us protect our community.
“We shouldn’t get vaccinated because of the political issues linked to the vaccine.” FALSE.
It’s important to remove politics from how we feel about getting vaccinated, especially during a health crisis. In the past few years alone, our country saw outbreaks of both polio and measles after a decrease in parents’ vaccine confidence mainly due to the politicization of the dengue vaccine. Even with over 20 other countries continuing to use the vaccine, many Filipinos are still struggling to regain confidence in its safety, and in the safety of all vaccines. When we politicize health, nobody wins.
We should get vaccinated because we care about our own health, as well as the health of our families, neighbors, community, and country. Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do, not just to protect yourself but to protect the most vulnerable in our society.