With over a quarter of the UK population receiving the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, we find ourselves encountering myths and rumours regarding its safety on a regular basis. In such a critical time, remaining informed on the subject could not be any more important. It’s easy to fall for the ploys seen on social media, but supporting pseudoscientific arguments has the potential to lead to fatal real world consequences.
“Vaccines cause autism.”
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a research paper supposedly showing a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The media quickly jumped on the story before thorough checks could be made to expose its lack of validity. After a four month investigation, Brian Deer wrote a damning report of the paper, helping to reassure the public regarding the safety of the vaccine. He showed that Wakefield had recently been paid £55,000 by lawyers attempting to gain evidence for a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers. As such, there was clearly a conflict of interest. He went on to show how Wakefield had purposefully manipulated evidence in favour of his desired outcome and that there was no evidence to support a correlation between vaccines and autism. Indeed, Lancet (the medical journal in which the research paper was published) would go on to provide a full retraction, with the editor-in-chief describing it as “utterly false.” Wakefield’s deception was so evident that he was found guilty of serious medical misconduct and struck from the UK medical register, losing any remaining shreds of credibility. To this day, the unanimous scientific consensus is that a connection between vaccines and autism does not exist.
“Vaccines contain harmful chemicals.”
Unknown to many, there is a strict process all forms of medicine must go through before distribution. Clinical trials are required to be completely airtight, as not only is there potential for a public health scare should a dangerous drug get out, but companies are also liable for the safety of their products. If indeed a vaccine was rolled out containing dangerous chemicals, it would spell disaster for the manufacturer, potentially bringing it to bankruptcy. The process is so thorough that only 10% of drugs brought into clinical trials are cleared for approval.
You may have heard that mercury is used in vaccines. This was true for a time as it proved to be an effective preservative, however, before you jump to any conclusion there is one important concept to consider: dosage. Too much of any substance is harmful, but a tiny amount can be perfectly safe. With mercury, the dosage was so small, the only known side effect was an occasional redness or swelling after the injection. Mercury has been replaced with more effective ingredients today, but even if it remained vaccines would be perfectly safe.
“If you don’t want to take a vaccine, you’re only putting yourself at risk.”
This is far from the truth. There are many people within the population who are medically unable to receive certain vaccinations. Whether it is due to severe allergies or immunodeficiency, medical exemptions are rare but do exist. This is where the importance of herd immunity comes in. Herd immunity can be defined as a state in which unvaccinated people are protected from the disease by an overwhelming proportion of the population with immunity. Many diseases for which a vaccine exists now struggle to infect others as they are unable to pass from person to person, and are therefore less likely to come into contact with someone who is not able to get the jab. This is why healthy people getting the vaccine is so important; it helps others.
There are many other false claims against vaccines perpetuated on the internet, but I will not insult your intelligence by assuming you believe Bill Gates created the virus to inject microchips into the population. If you learn anything from this article, I hope it is that vaccinating is almost always safer than not vaccinating. They are the medical equivalent of seatbelts and the greatest weapon humanity has in the fight against diseases.