At the brink of an unprecedented Covid-19 vaccination campaign, some may still not be sure whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Here Professor Martin Michaelis and Dr Mark Wass of the School of Biosciences give the ten reasons why you should get vaccinated:
1) Its rapid development does not mean it is less safe
Vaccine development often takes a long time but this is not the case for the Covid-19 vaccination. This is because it was not hindered by the typical issues vaccine development encounters; the first being little commercial interest for them and thus less funding, and the second being that trial participants and infections are hard to come by.
There was no shortage of money, trial participants or infections for COVID-19 vaccines, but we have also been lucky and the vaccines work.
The current COVID-19 vaccines have been tested in more patients than most previously approved vaccines. Though experience with the current COVID-19 vaccines only covers about six months, the method of the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine have been found safe in clinical trials for more than ten years and mRNA vaccines such as the BioNTech/ Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for more than three years. Hence, the vaccines are as safe as they can be, having been tested in more patients than would normally be possible.
2) The vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 because they do not contain the coronavirus
The vaccines do not contain the complete virus and are not infectious, so they simply cannot cause COVID-19. In patients with immune defects or a weakened immune system, they may be less effective, but will still be safe.
3) The vaccines do not interact with DNA
None of the vaccines interacts with our DNA. Hence, a manipulation of DNA is technically impossible.
4) Most side effects are caused by the desired immune response
Most of the reported side effects to the vaccine in trials are caused by the immune system response. Many infectious disease symptoms are caused by the immune system, not pathogens. This is why it is often difficult to tell apart infectious diseases because they cause overlapping symptoms (e.g. runny nose, sinus congestion, cough, body aches). Such post-vaccination symptoms do not indicate a disease but the immune response that will eventually provide protection.
5) Most alleged side effects are probably not caused by vaccines
Unfortunately, people get sick all the time, also independently of COVID-19. Given the size of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, it is inevitable that some people will develop health conditions shortly after vaccination, the causes of which have nothing to do with the vaccine.
6) The ‘natural’ infection may kill you, instead of providing better immune protection
Though we do not know what level of protection is provided by a natural COVID-19 infection, we do know that the vaccines are very effective and protect 9/10 individuals.
Since the disease and their vaccines are still very new, we cannot know how long immune protection, either after natural infection or vaccination, may last. The vaccines may provide more effective protection than natural disease, particularly for very mild or asymptomatic COVID-19. Even if natural infection provided better protection than vaccines, it is still dangerous. In simple contrast to a vaccine, COVID-19 can kill you.
7) You protect yourself and others
This is not only about you. Many in our society have conditions preventing them from developing an effective immune response to vaccination, which makes them highly vulnerable to COVID-19. We do not know the extent to which the COVID-19 vaccines will prevent individuals from being able to transmit the virus. However, since they protect individuals from disease, we can be reasonably sure they reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. Therefore, you will protect others by getting the vaccine.
8) Be realistic on the level of safety expected from a vaccine and the danger Covid-19 poses
Some people expect vaccines to be 100% safe, which is unrealistic. If we put the same restrictions on our lunch, removing food that was not 100% safe, we would remove all food from our diets. You must consider the vaccine in the context of the disease. COVID-19 has already killed one in a 1,000 UK people. Without a vaccine, eventually we all will become infected, probably more than once. No serious side-effects have been found in the tens of thousands of people that have received the COVID-19 vaccines. Therefore, the COVID-19 world is a safer place with a vaccine than without.
9) The more people getting vaccinated means the greater a success it will be
Vaccinations are show to have a greater effect on a population if the majority of people have undergone it. The more people don’t have the vaccine, the more flare-ups of the disease there will be over time.
10) Lastly, if still debating, be as critical with both arguments against and in favour and you’ll see the evidence is clear
Still not convinced? Then do your own research, but do so in an objective and unbiased way. You will find the scientific evidence in support of the vaccine is overwhelming. If this still does not convince you that a vaccine is the right choice, ask yourself what would change your mind? If the answer is nothing, it probably means that you reject the vaccines for ideological rather than rational reasons.
Vaccines will not resolve all of our COVID-19 problems, but they will enable us to progress to a new normal without the current strict restrictions in 2021.
Professor Michaelis and Dr Wass run a joint computational/ wet laboratory. Dr Wass is a computational biologist with expertise in structural biology and big data analysis. Prof Michaelis’ research is focused on the identification and investigation of drugs and their mechanisms of action, with a focus on cancer and viruses. With regard to viruses, Prof Michaelis and Dr Wass work on virus-host cell interactions and antiviral drug targets. In the cancer field, they investigate drug resistance in cancer. In collaboration with Professor Jindrich Cinatl (Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main), they manage and develop the Resistant Cancer Cell Line (RCCL) Collection, a unique collection of 2,000 cancer cell lines with acquired resistance to anti-cancer drugs. They are also interested in meta-research that investigates research practices in the life sciences.
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