IMASA tackles Covid-19 Myth vs Facts

For the past almost two years, the world has suffered as the Coronavirus ravaged life as we knew it and caused strife in many of our lives. During this time, everyone living on our planet, personally knew someone who had been infected and died from the dreaded virus.

In my case, I have lost many people whom I have personally known who had passed away from Covid-19 complications.

Yet, I find it very frustrating that after everything that the world has experienced and all the losses we have sustained since the start of the Pandemic, that we are still having to publish articles such as this to dispel myths and inaccurate information which is currently circulating regarding the virus.

After reading many articles over the past few months on myths and facts about the Coronavirus, I found that the following IMASA article was best from a content and factual perspective.

1. MYTH:
COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu
FACT:
COVID-19 kills up to 10× more than flu.
Current statistics (~1.5 million confirmed South African cases and close to 50 000 deaths) suggest that COVID-19 is more fatal, impacts more people for longer (up to 30 days) and spreads faster than the flu. Claiming that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu trivializes the devastation that this virus has brought to many lives.

2. MYTH:
COVID-19 deaths are being exaggerated
FACT:
COVID-19 deaths (~50 000) are most likely under-reported rather than exaggerated. This is supported by the increased number of excess deaths recorded by the SAMRC compared to the same period in 2019.
The majority of COVID-19 declared deaths have positive swabs. A minority are recorded as COVID-19 without a swab if the radiological picture or symptoms strongly suggest COVID-19 in the absence of any other explanation and doing a post-death swab is undesirable/impractical.
This is in keeping with normal medical practice.

3. MYTH:
PCR is inaccurate and overestimating COVID-19 infections
FACT:
No test is 100% accurate but there is no evidence to suggest that the concerns regarding COVID-19 infections and the severity of this disease are misplaced. Test results are affected by a variety of factors including:
quality of the specimen, appropriate sampling site, viral load, timing of testing, etc. Whilst there are false positives and false negatives with all
diagnostic tests, data including the number of hospitalizations with symptoms of COVID-19 and number of deaths give us a good indication of how serious the situation is.

4. MYTH:
Only the really sick and elderly are dying from COVID-19
FACT:
This is untrue and unethical. The average age in ICUs is just over 60 years old. Adults with pre-existing conditions (such as asthma, diabetes,
heart disease, being overweight or hypertensive) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. All life is precious regardless of age or past medical history. To suggest otherwise is troubling and unislamic.

COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS DISEASE PREVENTION/TREATMENT
MYTHS

1. MYTH:
Long-term wearing of masks have a negative impact on your health
FACT:
Prolonged use of any face mask has not been implicated in carbon dioxide toxicity or lack of adequate oxygen in healthy people. Healthcare workers routinely wear masks for prolonged periods while performing their duties with no ill effects. Cloth masks provide an additional layer of protection by reducing the number of microorganisms that you release into the air. Mass mask wearing will ensure that fewer potential viral droplets are released into the air. By wearing a mask, you reduce the risk of exposing others to the virus.

2. MYTH:
Wearing rubber gloves while out in public is effective in preventing COVID infection
FACT:
No, regularly washing your bare hands offers more protection against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves. If you then touch your face, the contamination goes from your glove to your face and can infect you.

3. MYTH:
Eating garlic can help prevent COVID infection
FACT:
Garlic is a healthy food that has some antimicrobial properties. There is, however, no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from coronavirus infection.

4. MYTH:
Herbal tonics are the cure for COVID-19 infection
FACT:
Many low-income countries are relying on herbal medicines as a possible cure; however, it is essential that there is conclusive scientific evidence proving their efficacy. A herbal tonic derived from Artemisia annua extracts and branded “COVID-Organics” has been promoted as a cure for
COVID-19. Derivatives from A. annua have been used as a traditional medicine for the treatment of fevers, malaria, and respiratory tract infections. While the use of A. annua for COVID-19 is widely promoted
by politicians and others in low-income countries, there is no scientific data to prove its efficacy.

5. MYTH:
Hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19
FACT:
Hydroxychloroquine is used in the treatment of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and immune system conditions such as lupus. It has been under study as a possible COVID-19 treatment. Current data suggests that it does not reduce deaths among hospitalised patients, nor help patients with
mild/moderate disease. Although some clinical studies have shown the
effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, they have had some major limitations with high risk of bias, varied dosing protocols and short treatment periods. The use of hydroxychloroquine where not indicated and without medical supervision can cause serious side effects and should be avoided.

COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS DISEASE VACCINE MYTHS

1. MYTH:
Muslim Dilemma: COVID-19 vaccine is not a TREATMENT
FACT:
The Hadith: “Tie your camel and place your trust in Allah” in the context of the global Coronavirus pandemic implies that we should take the vaccine as a preventable measure to safeguard ourselves from contracting the disease while trusting in Allah to protect us from the
disease. Islamic teachings to protect the public from death and sickness from a pandemic go back to the very beginning of Islam. Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) advised his companions to value their health and life, urging people not to go to a place where there were epidemics (Sahih Bukhari).

2. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe and normal safety protocols have been ignored
FACT:
Scientists have been able to take lessons from previous vaccines and produce a COVID-19 vaccine much quicker due to the global need. Using years of previous research on related viruses and vaccines and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world have collaborated, pooling resources and technology. Enormous funding has been used to run multiple trials in parallel.

No step in the development, testing, regulation or authorization of the COVID-19 vaccines has been skipped. The unprecedented socio-economic devastation of COVID-19 has motivated vaccine manufacturers and researchers to move with urgency but without compromising on quality standards.

3. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe FACT:
COVID-19 vaccines are safe. More than 134 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 73 countries and not a single death
has directly occurred as a result of any of the authorised COVID-19 vaccines. Out of 2.1 million doses administered in the United States, 45 individuals have had a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine.

Evidence from trials and the ongoing of monitoring of COVID-19 vaccine administration show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Any potential risks from the COVID-19 vaccines are far outweighed by the risks of getting COVID-19.

4. MYTH:
We don’t know what is in the vaccines
SAHPRA would not authorize the use of vaccines if they did contain items that are deemed dangerous based on current medical knowledge.
FACT:
The ingredients of each of the authorised vaccines are available to the general public and can be accessed from a simple Google search. The materials found in the vaccines are safe, and in many cases, found within our own bodies or in the foods that we commonly eat. Vaccine manufacturers are required to declare all their ingredients to SAHPRA before the vaccine is approved for use.

SAHPRA would not authorize the use of vaccines if they did contain items that are deemed dangerous based on current medical knowledge.

5. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are HARAM
FACT:
TRUTH: The Oxford AZ and Pfizer vaccines do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. There is no gelatin in the Oxford AZ and Pfizer vaccines. Consensus of the majority of Muslim scholarly bodies worldwide is that since the Oxford AZ and Pfizer vaccines DO NOT contain any animal-derived ingredients nor gelatin, these vaccines are halal.

6. MYTH:
The COVID-19 vaccine contains Genetically Modified Organisms which are harmful to humans
FACT:
Both the Oxford AZ and J&J vaccines contain an adenovirus which is genetically modified so that it cannot multiply and cause disease in human beings.
In a Hadith, Sayyiduna Muhammad is reported to have said: “There should be neither harm nor reciprocating injury.”

Majority of Muslim scholars hold the view that since there is scientific evidence that genetically modified virus in the vaccine cannot result in harming others, then it is permissible to vaccinate with such vaccines.
GMOs are commonly found in food and agriculture and have been used in many licensed medicines for many years.

7. MYTH:
Vaccines contain aborted foetal cells
FACT:
HEK293 cells, used to grow the virus in the Oxford AZ vaccine were modified in the 1970s from foetal human embryonic kidney cells.
Aborted foetuses are NOT used in the vaccine production process. There are NO human cells in the Oxford AZ vaccine formulation.
To be noted, however, is that the majority of Islamic scholars worldwide has declared the cell lines acceptable for their use in vaccines on the basis that the cell lines undergo ISTIHALAH (transformation or conversion of their composition and properties). The final product in vaccines has NO MORE elements of unclean (haram) substances.

8. MYTH:
Vaccines contain alcohol and are therefore impermissible
FACT:
The Oxford AZ and J&J vaccines contain 0.002 mg ethanol. Many scholars have deemed the Oxford AZ and J&J vaccines to be permissible as the amount of ethanol is so NEGLIGIBLE that it does not lead to intoxication.

9. MYTH:
We should just wait for herd immunity
FACT:
The number of deaths that will occur before we possibly achieve herd immunity will be disastrous. Herd immunity works if the majority of the population has been infected with the virus. In South Africa, almost 1.5 million people have had COVID-19. Achieving herd immunity would require more infections and thus more deaths.

10. MYTH:
You can choose which COVID-19 vaccine you get
FACT:
Almost no one will be offered a choice due to availability and logistics. The global demand for the COVID-19 vaccines is challenging vaccine manufacturers and supplies are limited based on economics, supply chain
and politics. The South African governments is negotiating vaccine supplies with a variety of manufacturers. The best vaccine is, therefore, the one you are offered.

11. MYTH:
The COVID-19 vaccines can give you COVID-19
FACT:
No, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
This process can cause side effects which are usually mild in majority of people receiving vaccination with a minority experiencing severe allergic reactions.

12. MYTH:
You can test positive because of the vaccines
FACT:
You cannot test positive because of the vaccines. There is no live virus in in the vaccines, so it cannot infect you. The vaccines stimulate our immune systems to produce antibodies which fight the virus when it enters the body.

13. MYTH:
Catching COVID-19 after having the vaccine is proof that they don’t work
FACT:
The immune system can take a number of days or weeks to generate an immune response before protection from the virus begins. In some instances, people might have already been in early stages of infection before receiving the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine may reduce the chances
of suffering from the serious complications of COVID-19. No vaccine is 100% effective, so everyone should continue to take the recommended precautions to avoid infection.

14. MYTH:
Vaccines should be 100% safe before being released to the public
FACT:
Vaccines are a safe way to prevent vaccine preventable diseases, but no medicine is 100% safe. Vaccines are held to a higher standard than many other medications, but it is important to not create impossible goals for treatments. There are not many things in life that are 100% safe. All medicines have potential side effects, but these need to be weighed up against the harm of the disease they are trying to prevent.

15. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccines cause irreversible side effects
FACT:
No patient has so far suffered from irreversible side effects, in trials or populations with extensive vaccinations so far. This false belief was spread by misreading of a presentation which said that 3000 of those vaccinated suffered “temporary” and “reversible” side effects. The side effects of the vaccine include pain at the site of the injection, feeling unwell, tired, feverish and headache. These side-effects do not mean that the vaccine is not safe. Rather these side-effects are signs that the body is responding
to the vaccine by mounting an immune response. These side-effects tend to be worse one day after receiving the vaccine and resolve within 4-5 days. You can use paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory analgesic to ease symptoms.

16. MYTH:
Vaccines cause “Antibody dependent enhancement (ADE)”
FACT:
ADE has not been proven in a single human vaccine study.
1> Has only been observed in animal models.
2> Has never been observed with coronaviruses
(or similar viruses)
3> Is very unlikely with COVID-19 vaccines that specifically
target the spike protein.
4> Has not been observed in a single person of the >23 million individuals that have been vaccinated with COVID-19.

17. MYTH:
You don’t need vaccination if you already had COVID-19
FACT:
You should still be vaccinated, once your isolation period has lapsed, if you have, or have had COVID-19 previously or if you have a positive antibody test. So far, it has been found the natural immunity that you may gain
from having had COVID-19 does not last long. Vaccination will prevent you from being re- infected with COVID-19 once your natural immunity has worn off. People who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent
plasma for severe COVID are advised to delay vaccination for 90 days as these treatments may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

18. MYTH:
The COVID-19 vaccines will alter your DNA
FACT:
Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system in the same way the virus would if someone was infected. When you receive the vaccine, the body recognizes that it looks like the coronavirus and it releases defense chemicals that start a chain reaction to make immune cells that can fight off the real virus. The vaccine does not work on the DNA in our bodies. The mRNA vaccines are just messages that allow the body to make spike protein. The mRNA gets destroyed after providing the message and does not enter the nucleus or change our DNA.

19. MYTH:
People are dying from the COVID-19 vaccines
FACT:
Some people will die after having a COVID-19 vaccine. This does not mean it was the vaccine that caused the death. If 10 million people are vaccinated, and a vaccine has no side effects whatsoever, over the following two months, 14, 000 people will unfortunately die: 4,025 – heart attack, 3,975 –
stroke and 9,500 – new diagnosis of cancer. These individuals would have experienced these illnesses or death, regardless of whether they were vaccinated or not. This is even more important to appreciate considering most countries are vaccinating the elderly first. The only way to determine if vaccines have serious side effects is by looking at information from many vaccinated people and by comparing them to what would be expected in that age group by chance alone. Investigations of the extreme minority of individuals who had died following COVID-19 vaccinations has NOT demonstrated COVID-19 vaccination as their cause of death – rather these individuals died from their advanced age or their underlying health conditions.

20. MYTH:
There are health professionaIs who object to the COVID-19 vaccine
FACT:
The majority of health professionals, public health experts and scientists are promoting the COVID-19 vaccines. Scientists from around the world have come together to develop safe COVID-19 vaccines that will help to save
thousands of lives. As with any profession, there will be a fringe minority who disagree with the consensus view. The arguments are rarely based on evidence.

21. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccines can make you infertile (unable to have children)
FACT:
There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. This myth started when a German epidemiologist suggested that the COVID-19 vaccine would cause the body to make anti-Syncytin-1 antibodies. He admitted that there was no indication that this was the case. A number of women who had the vaccine in the trial have since become pregnant.

22. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccine increases the risk of developing autoimmune disease
FACT:
Autoimmune disease are not common. In the decades of many different vaccines used, reports of autoimmune reactions after vaccination are less than 0.01% of all vaccinations performed worldwide. Many of the reported reactions are mild and transient. Not a single study has consistently shown vaccinations cause autoimmune disease. This makes sense as vaccines don’t cause an immune response as strongly as natural infections do. Actually, vaccination has been shown to reduce the number of autoimmune diseases by eliminating one of its common triggers – infections.

23. MYTH:
Vaccines are unsafe – that is why no pregnant women were in trials
FACT:
Pregnant women and children are not usually included in initial trials.
The current COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended for most children at this stage. This does not mean it is unsafe in these groups. It is reflective of them not being in the main trial groups and a sign of the safety protocols taken.

24. MYTH:
There is no liability for anyone if the vaccines have problems
FACT:
The manufacturers are not exempt from all liabilities. The Health Authority (SAHPRA) is closely monitoring the quality and safety of the vaccine.
Just as with other medications, vaccines are monitored by regulatory agencies around the world. If any significant or serious side effects are noted, they will be communicated to the public immediately and steps will be taken to both treat the side effects and provide alternative, safer,
medications.

25. MYTH:
There’s no point getting vaccinated due to new COVID-19 strains
FACT:
It is normal for viruses to go through genetic changes. Scientists are studying the characteristics of all new strains and they are adapting vaccines as necessary. We have some vaccines, like measles, which you don’t need to change at all. You make the vaccine and it works pretty much
all the time. But you also have vaccines like against the influenza virus,
where you have to change the structure of the vaccine every year, based on the circulating strains and WHO coordinates this global network that actually identifies which strain should be used every year.

26. MYTH:
COVID-19 vaccines do not work
FACT:
Recent studies suggest that some vaccines, like the Oxford AZ, may have reduced efficacy against the current variant of SARS- Cov2 in South Africa. This coronavirus is changing over time, which is a common scenario with many viruses. Scientists are assessing what this means for our local vaccine
strategy. It is likely that even partial protection from a vaccine will reduce the risk of severe disease. This has already been demonstrated for the vaccine produced by J&J. It is possible that more than one type of vaccine, or repeated vaccination for different strains may be required. This can be
likened to the strategy used for influenza in the past.

27. MYTH:
I’m young & low risk so the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t for me
FACT:
Although the risk is higher with age and comorbidities, COVID can affect people of any age. COVID-19 can cause long term complications and death at all ages. The vaccine is designed to reduce the risk of these disastrous consequences and protect both the individual vaccinated and the community in which they live. The more people vaccinated, the quicker we can achieve population (or herd) immunity and protect those most vulnerable amongst us who are at risk of complications from COVID-19.

28. MYTH:
If I decide not to take the vaccine, it does not affect others
FACT:
Your decisions don’t just impact you but everyone affects everyone around you, especially the vulnerable and sick. You are more likely to suffer with long COVID-19 and severe complications if you do not have the vaccine.
This will add pressure to the health service and have an effect on people who are suffering from other illnesses. It will also impact on your close ones who have to care for you during this period.

29. MYTH:
Doctors want to force people to be vaccinated
FACT:
IMASA wants people to reach decisions based on factual information and not myths and conspiracy theories. It would be irresponsible for doctors not to identify areas where the community is being misled, often deliberately
and dangerously.

30. MYTH:
Vaccines contain a microchip for tracking individuals
FACT:
Vaccine manufacturers are required to declare their ingredients to SAHPRA before vaccine use approval. Despite the conspiracy theories, they do not contain microchips or any tracking devices. If they did contain such items SAHPRA and other authorities worldwide will not authorize their use. In reality, there are far easier ways to track the population using mobile phones, social media apps, or bank cards, etc. than biological trackers.

COVID-19 CONSPIRACY MYTHS

1. MYTH:
COVID-19 is caused by the 5G network
FACT:
COVID-19 is spreading in countries without 5G. There is no scientific connection. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks.
COVID-19 has also affected countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.

2. MYTH: Pharmaceutical companies are all evil so we can’t trust them FACT: The acceptability of a technology is not based purely on the ethical or moral track record of the individual companies involved e.g., social media, food, cars, etc. We regularly take painkillers, antibiotics, chronic medication and chemotherapy medicines from those same pharmaceutical companies.

3. MYTH: Big business is pushing vaccines to improve profits FACT: The COVID-19 crisis is a global pandemic and no nation across the globe has been spared. Vaccines represent the best hope to save lives and to restore our way of life. Governments are interacting directly with vaccine makers to ensure vaccine supply for their countries. Some companies are making the vaccine available on a non-profit basis. The most important of these is AstraZeneca who has partnered with 10 major pharmaceutical manufacturers to scale up production of their vaccine and has committed to providing the vaccine at no-profit for the duration of the pandemic.

4. MYTH:
Government is complicit with big business in pushing vaccines despite the risks
FACT:
THE South African Government is committed to saving lives and livelihoods. The fastest way to return to our way of life is by ensuring that majority of the population is protected from the virus. Vaccines are the simplest and most effective way of doing this.

5. MYTH:
Bill Gates is pushing vaccines to control the world
FACT:
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have joined thousands of other philanthropic organizations worldwide to help combat COVID-19. There is no hidden agenda to target Africans with unsafe vaccines. In fact, African countries have a lower chance of accessing Vaccines which are being stockpiled by wealthier nations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the development of a novel way of dying skin as a means of tracking whether people have been vaccinated (as a form of medical record), however, this technology is still under development and will not be used with the COVID-19 vaccine.

This article was taken from the IMASA website which can be found through the following link.

COVID-19 – MYTHS VS FACTS

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