Facts and myths surrounding Covid-19 disease, vaccination program

Out of 100 people infected with Covid-19, about fifteen are likely to get very sick and two are likely to die.

Out of 100 people infected with Covid-19, about fifteen are likely to get very sick and two are likely to die.

What you need to know:

  • Vaccine apathy is not only being witnessed in Kenya. Across the world, many populations have been reluctant to get vaccinated.
  • According to the World Health Organization, as of the end of the first week of October 2021, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 236,599,025.
  • The total number of administered Covid-19 vaccine doses stood at 6,364,021,792.

Myths, disinformation, and misinformation have been the leading cause of Covid-19 vaccine apathy. In their face, more people have been infected with Covid-19, more have succumbed to the disease, and many more continue to keep away from vaccination centres. All this raises the big question, what is the truth, and what is the lie when it comes to Covid-19 disease and vaccines? To separate the wheat from the chaff, Nation Health sat down with Dr. Moses Masika, a virologist with the Department of Medical Microbiology and Kavi Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Nairobi.

Will most people who get COVID-19 get very sick or die?

Fact: No. Out of 100 people infected with Covid-19, about fifteen are likely to get very sick and two are likely to die. The risk is higher in people with underlying conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. About a third of people who test positive for Covid-19 do not develop any symptoms at all and the majority have mild to moderate symptoms.

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Can you always tell if someone has COVID-19?

Fact: No. Some people may be infected but show no symptoms at all. Additionally, covid-19 symptoms are similar to other diseases. The only way to know for sure is to do a lab test. Since it’s not practical to test everyone, it is safer to assume everyone could be infected and take precautions.

Does COVID-19 only affect rich people?

Fact: No. The amount of money in your pocket won’t stop or attract Covid-19. Only a mask or vaccine can stop it. For instance, a study done in Nairobi in November 2020 showed that out of ten people in Embakasi West, six had been infected with Covid-19 as compared to 2 out ten persons in Westlands.

Is Covid-19 a biological weapon manufactured by China?

Fact: No. This claim keeps coming up often but there’s no evidence to support it. We still do not know how Covid-19 emerged. As scientists do more research, we may find the answer. Hopefully, the evidence will be sufficient to confirm the source unequivocally and put this claim to rest once and for all.

Are Covid-19 vaccines safe?

Fact: Yes. All vaccines are taken through a rigorous research process before they are authorized for use in the general population. So far, over six billion doses have been administered globally with an acceptable safety record.

Are vaccines from China (Sinopharm) safe?

Fact: Yes. Sinopharm is authorized for use by the World Health Organization (WHO). It has also been authorized for use by at least 65 countries across the globe. It has been tested in several clinical trials in several countries and was found safe and effective against Covid-19. Sinopharm is not the only vaccine developed by China. The country has developed several Covid-19 vaccines such as Sinovac. Multiple other Chinese vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials.

Why aren’t Africans dying as much as white people?

Fact: This is not entirely true. We know that persons of African (and Asian) ethnicity are more likely to die from Covid-19 than their white counterparts. We also know that the impact of Covid-19 has been less in Africa than in other parts of the world. This indicates that being of African ethnicity in itself does not reduce the risk for infection with or death from Covid-19. There has been concern that we are not testing enough so we have understated the number of infections in Africa. Whereas that may be true, deaths due to Covid-19 which are easier to estimate have certainly been much lower in Africa than in the rest of the world. The reasons why, so far, Africa has not been as hard hit as other parts of the world are not fully understood. The proposed reasons include:

1). African countries took very strict measures early in the pandemic and despite the pressure of the measures on economic and social life, the measures have worked to control the spread of Covid-19.

2). The fact that Africa has the youngest population in the world. Covid-19 deaths have been much higher in older persons than in the young. (Only 5 percent of the population in Africa is aged 65 years and above as compared to 30 percent in Europe and the US).

3). Urbanisation. The majority of Africa’s population lives in rural areas which are less crowded and less connected by transport networks making it harder for Covid-19 to spread. (Four out of ten people in Africa live in urban centres as compared to eight out of ten people in North America).

4). The warm tropical climate has also been suggested to help though there’s no hard evidence for this. Countries with similar tropical weather in other continents have been hit hard by Covid-19.

Are vaccines causing infertility and erectile dysfunction?

Fact: No. This claim has no basis. There is no mechanism through which Covid-19 vaccines can cause infertility or erectile dysfunction. In fact, a recent study reported that there was no decrease in sperm count in men who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Thousands of women have also become pregnant after receiving the vaccine.

Are vaccines being bought to Africa to control the African population?

Fact: No. Vaccines that have been authorised for use are safe and have no means to control the population. If anything, they should prevent deaths from Covid-19. Thousands of women have gotten pregnant after receiving the vaccine. Actually, our problem in Africa is that we are not accessing enough doses of the vaccine. More than 6 billion doses have been administered across the globe, only a very small proportion of that has reached Africa. Developed countries have vaccinated more than two-thirds of their population but in Africa, less than 5 percent have received the vaccine.

Are anti-malaria drugs effective against Covid-19?

Fact: No. We have very good antimalarial drugs but no anti-malaria drugs are effective against Covid-19. Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium while Covid-19 is caused by a virus, the two are quite different and so far no drug has been clearly shown to be effective for both malaria and Covid-19.

Can drinking lemon water and ginger stop Covid?

Fact: No. Drinking enough water and having a balanced diet with various fruits and vegetables is good for our bodies but is not enough to prevent Covid-19 infection. For prevention against Covid-19 infection, we have to keep our masks on, maintain physical distancing as much as possible and take the vaccine.

Why are vaccinated people still dying?

Fact: Individuals who have been vaccinated with Covid-19 may still get infected and a very small number of those vaccinated and infected may die. This may be because the vaccine did not induce immunity in a few of them or that a new variant that is able to escape the vaccine caused infection. Nonetheless, the number of people who are likely to die after vaccination is much smaller than in unvaccinated individuals. This is because the vaccine prevents severe disease and death in most people.

Why is there talk of booster shots if the vaccines work?

Fact: Booster doses may be required if we confirm that protection induced by the vaccine becomes weak over time or if new variants make it necessary to modify the current vaccines to cover the new variants. Boosting strategy is not new and is currently used for vaccines against other conditions such as influenza and Hepatitis B. Booster shots are used for influenza because the virus that causes influenza mutates frequently and in Hepatitis B, booster shots are administered because protection becomes weaker over time.

Was Covid-19 manufactured and spread by Bill Gates?

Fact: No. Bill Gates through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has actually been funding research activities to cushion the world against such outbreaks.

Is Covid-19 a ploy by Big Pharma to make billions in profit?

Fact: No. Covid-19 is not a ploy by Big Pharma or anyone else including governments. It is a real disease that is affecting real people every day, everywhere in the world.

Can drinking hard liquor stop or prevent Covid-19?

Fact: No. Whereas cleaning our hands with alcohol-based sanitisers reduces the risk of getting Covid-19, drinking alcohol does NOT prevent infection with Covid-19. Theoretically, even if we were to try using alcohol to kill the virus inside the body, we would not be able to reach the virus since it is in places such as behind the nose and in the airways and lungs where we do not want alcohol to go in to. And even in these places, the virus is found inside cells and one would have to kill those infected cells to clear the virus.


World Health Organization’s takeaway

Can pneumonia vaccine prevent Covid-19?

Fact: The virus that causes Covid-19 is new and different from other strains. This means that the pneumonia vaccine was not designed for Covid-19 and may not work. Only vaccines designed and approved for Covid-19 should be administered.

Can rinsing your nose with saline solution prevent Covid-19?

Fact: Scientific evidence has indicated that rinsing your nose regularly with saline solution can help recover from a common cold faster. However, this cannot prevent infectious respiratory diseases such or the Covid-19 disease.

Is there any drug that can treat Covid-19?

Fact: At present, there is no drug that can treat Covid-19. Patients are required to receive proper and supportive medical care to alleviate the symptoms.

Are digital thermometers 100 percent effective in detecting Covid-19?

Fact: Digital thermometers are a good precautionary measure. But they are not 100 percent effective. It may take the virus that causes Covid-19 between 1 to 14 days to incubate and cause Covid-19 symptoms such as fever. This means that using a digital thermometer will not identify patients who are asymptomatic.

Takeaway research on vaccine apathy

Vaccine apathy is not only being witnessed in Kenya. Across the world, many populations have been reluctant to get vaccinated. According to the 2019 Gallup World Poll, globally, France has the lowest levels of trust in vaccines. It is followed by Gabon, Togo, Russia, Switzerland, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Burkina Faso, and Haiti. This poll identified reasons why people shun vaccines such as lack of confidence, complacency, and inconvenience in accessing vaccines.

Takeaway Covid-19 stats

According to the World Health Organization, as of the end of the first week of October 2021, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 236,599,025. The total number of confirmed deaths reported to the WHO stood at 4,831,486. The total number of administered Covid-19 vaccine doses stood at 6,364,021,792.

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