With hospitals still fighting to save waves of Covid patients facing death, the least you could do is get vaccinated. This is the view of a seasoned Western Cape general practitioner who recently took to Facebook to express his concerns over antivaccination efforts. He made a point of answering some basic vaccine-related questions.
Anti-vaccination efforts pose a great risk to the battle against the public health crisis of Covid-19, Dr Wessel Vermeulen said in a recent social media post.
Doctors and nurses are overwhelmed, stressed, and fighting to save lives.
“The current irresponsible controversy and statements by hysterical quasi-experts with the most horrific stories of mass deaths due to the vaccination are extremely dangerous and pose a greater danger to our already staggering medical care,” he said on his Facebook page.
Dr Vermeulen has been practicing in Oudtshoorn for almost three decades. He had some choice words for anti-vaxxers and addressed a few common, pressing vaccination questions. Here are some of them:
Should I get vaccinated?
Yes, yes, yes! Vaccines remain one of the most effective ways to fight diseases. Just think of childhood diseases, and that a disease such as measles that has killed millions of people for centuries due to successful herd immunity has been virtually eradicated. Dangerous diseases such as polio and whooping cough that can cause you to die and become paralysed have been stopped in their tracks.
How are vaccines made?
There are various ways and methods in which vaccines can be made, most commonly using an attenuated germ that should not be harmful to the body or cause an active disease. The body’s immune system is then activated to form antibodies and T cells specifically against the germ. Specific immune responses are then initiated by the body itself which then binds to the organism and destroys it.
Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are also made by the body that recognise, bind and destroy foreign organisms.
Mostly the antibodies and lymphocytes recognise the aliens and destroy them without the host getting sick at all.
Newer-generation vaccines are even more sophisticated and the current Covid-19 vaccines contain only the mimetic laboratory-produced genetic code of one of the stem (so-called spike) proteins that viruses use to attach to the cells or receptors. The code is then administered with fat globules as carriers by injection.
The body then forms its immune response against it and when the right virus should emerge the antibodies are already ready to prevent infection. They do this by blocking the virus’ access through the specific ACE-2 receptor into cells.
The technique of using messenger RNA and DNA is not new and untested as quasi-experts claim – it was already researched in 1990 and specifically on other corona outbreaks such as the swine and bird flu.
How safe is the vaccine?
Thousands of people die every day from Covid-19 and I do not hear of dozens of deaths due to the vaccinations. The chance that patients get embolism (clots in their veins) due to smoking, obesity, genetics, diabetes, hypertension, etc. is roughly estimated at 17 out of 10,000. There were six women, with underlying diseases and on medication, out of 7 million flu shots in the US getting non-life-threatening lumps after vaccination (NB: not necessarily because of the vaccine). So, one should not overreact but look at the whole picture.
Virtually all medications can and do have side effects that can be minimal or even life-threatening. However, scientists and physicians weigh the benefits and salvages of medications against the potential dangers.
All viral vaccines, even against childhood diseases, are not risk-free. There will always be small percentages of patients showing excessive response to some component of the vaccine.
What are the most common side effects of the vaccine?
• Swelling, pain and redness at the injection site.
• Mild headaches, muscle aches and flu complaints.
• The more or more severely the body reacts to the vaccine, can also indicate to some extent that the person’s body is responding well to the stimulation of their immunity.
• We very rarely see allergic reactions or urticaria with a skin rash, just as with any other remedy or injections (e.g. Voltaren, antibiotics, etc.).
• Embolism has still not been proven to be due to the vaccine, but as the main consequence of the Covid-19 infection itself.
How is vaccine misinformation endangering lives?
Anti-vaccination activists are a major source of concern, but even more so are the seemingly intelligent people who believe and then spread everything they see on YouTube and WhatsApp for the truth.
What worries me is the motive behind these people’s actions and how intelligent people simply believe things, even though there are thousands of scientific research articles that are done and published in the correct way.
You are not going to believe any stranger who tells you donkey balls are going to burn your car’s cylinders clean. Now how do you believe an unknown man without teeth who shows you on YouTube how to inhale peroxide?
Medical research is conducted and published worldwide according to proposed research criteria. No researcher of fame, experience and recognition publishes his results on YouTube. All research is subject to so-called “double-blind evidence-based peer review”, discussed and published in recognised medical journals. Such research is expensive, comprehensive and is not just done on your mother-in-law’s sister’s niece’s husband’s girlfriend’s fiancée’s experience in Witbank or Pofadder!
Those who do not want to vaccinate themselves not only endanger themselves, but everyone around them as well. They serve as reservoirs where viruses can remain active and even mutate and become even more deadly, even for vaccines.
Data right now shows that new variants such as Delta and Lambda are more transmissible, mutate faster and can be more lethal, and may develop increasing and varying capabilities to circumvent existing vaccines.
Vaccination is voluntary and in my opinion a privilege – and offers you and your fellow man a greater chance of survival. The benefits associated with it are simply much greater than the appalling consequences of the very dangerous and cunning virus.
Will the vaccine ensure that I do not get infected with Covid?
No, but if you get it after injection, the disease will be less severe and will not cause death. Vaccinated people rarely end up in intensive care units, and thousands of statistics worldwide prove this. At present, there are 1,200 patients in the Western Cape’s intensive care units and all of them have not been vaccinated, according to the Western Cape’s MEC for health.
Find comprehensive information on Covid-19 in Mzansi from the department of health.