What We Treat

Ten myths about the COVID vaccines

By Dr Mazen Sawaf (Dr Max)

Myth #1. COVID vaccines are not safe since they were developed under time pressure.

Most current vaccines were developed fifty years ago when we had slow computers and small budgets. Today, vaccines are developed much faster because they benefit from fast supercomputers, pooled research and zoom meetings with experts across the world, billions of dollars in government funds, artificial intelligence applied in bioinformatics to guide genetic research, streamlined electronic government applications, reviews and approvals, and hence faster development but without cutting any safety requirements.

Myths #2. The Pfizer vaccine is more effective than the Chinese vaccine.

The recent data from Brazil claimed that the Sinovac Biotech vaccine is only 53% effective against COVID whereas the UAE data shows a success rate of 87%. This is probably a new vaccine and is different than Sinopharm vaccine. Moreover, Brazil is about 100 times larger in surface area than UAE, and the rural area has very little access to roads and storage facilities (cool transport kits that maintain the required temperature) to handle the Chinese vaccine. Moreover, Brazil has five times more people above the age of 65 than UAE. It is well known that older people have a weaker immune response and may need a third booster jab.

The Chinese vaccine that was manufactured in Wuhan where the virus probably originated had some embarrassing quality control issues and the PCR kits sent to Europe were recalled. However, it should be noted that the UAE has only the Sinopharm effective and safe vaccine from Beijing.

There are still no studies to-date to prove the safety of mixing the Chinese vaccines with the Pfizer vaccines.

Myths #3. The Chinese vaccine is safer than the Pfizer vaccine (Does not change your genes).

Both vaccines are safe. The messenger RNA used in the Pfizer vaccine is encapsulated and does not enter the nucleus of the cell where the genetic material is located and hence cannot change your genes. The technology is proven to be safe as it has been used for targeted cancer therapy for the last ten years.

Both vaccines share the same temporary side effects in the first 2-3 days after injection namely soreness at the site of the injection, some diarrhea, fatigue or insomnia. The Pfizer vaccines carries and additional risk of temporary paralysis of the facial nerve (Bell’s palsy) that gives you an asymmetrical droopiness of the corner of the mouth that resolves completely in 2-4 weeks.

Myths #4. There is no need to check with your doctor first before getting vaccinated.

It is a good idea to check with your doctor first to evaluate if you are a good candidate, which vaccine is better for you. For example, you should wait three months from the last COVID infection, two months after the Flu vaccine, should not take the vaccine if you have seizure causing disorder, immune deficiency, cancer, bleeding disorder, uncontrolled hypertension, or uncontrolled diabetes and if you are younger than 18.

Older people may need an intramuscular injection of the vitamin D as their absorption could be low and hence the vaccine may not be as effective. Moreover, it is important to check your vitamin D blood level, which is commonly low, and try to boost it to the ideal range (not an average range). It should be noted that vitamin D is important for bone health, good memory, and prevention of depression and suicide.

Myths #5. It is safer to wait for herd immunity.

The World Health Organization and the NHS in the UK predict that herd immunity is not effective until 70% of the population has been fully immunized (twenty- eight days after the second jab). Once fully immunized, your risk of getting COVID is much less and if you do get it, the infection would usually be much milder with a full recovery. Most anti-bodies do not start forming till two weeks after the second dose and peak at 28 days after the second dose. Vaccinated people can get reinfected if exposed earlier than the full 28 days after the second jab.

Myths #6. The vaccines are not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and they affect fertility

Due to product liability claims that can affect manufacturers and cost them billions, these companies do not recommend taking the vaccines during pregnancy or breastfeeding. That applies to most if not all vaccines like Mumps or diphtheria as it is impossible to prove that a physical or mental disability that appears years after birth was not caused by the vaccination. However, there is no effect on fertility and the ability to have children in the future.

Myths #7. COVID vaccines are not safe if you had fillers for cosmetic reasons.

Fillers for cosmetic reasons in the face or body are one of the most popular cosmetic procedure in the world. After hundreds of thousands of COVID injections in the USA on patients who previously received fillers for cosmetic reasons, there were a handful of allergic reactions that required an anti-allergy shot at the clinic. No lasting side effects were ever reported, and none needed to go to a hospital.

Myths #8. If I am young, I do not have to worry.

True, the mortality rate is low, but you can still be very sick especially with the new mutations. Furthermore, some patients may suffer a permanent reduction in their physical and mental stamina and long-term sleep disturbances.

Myths #9. The applications for tracking your vaccines are designed to spy on you.

Apple and Google have been doing that for years and are actively selling your data and there is nothing much you can do about it. Furthermore, I predict that vaccinations shall be made mandatory for boarding international flights or going to work or schools. So, you might as well take the vaccine now and benefit from the protection instead of taking it later.

It is important to note that the Chinese vaccine is still not approved by many international carriers whereas Pfizer vaccine is. If you took the Chinese vaccine, you are still required to date to undergo a PCR test prior to international travel.

Myths #10. The government statistics affect political careers and are not to be trusted.

That is true for many countries around the world. However, the UAE has been a model of transparency, and its leaders the most generous in the world. While the UAE ranks second globally in the race for vaccination, it has announced today that it has registered the highest daily count to date with more than 3000 new cases. The vaccine is accessible for free in more than 171 locations in the UAE, even though it is a relatively small country. Moreover, if you are old, sick, or physically challenged, the Ministry of Health and Prevention sends a team to your home to get vaccinated free of charge.

Dr Mazen Sawaf (Dr Max)

Anesthesia and Intensive care

Boston University

Founder and CEO, Novomed Centers and Hospitals

Copyrighted material for Dr Max. Jan 15, 2021