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Vaccine development at heart of disinformation

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YOU have heard them say the vaccines are “experimental” or that they have been “rushed” and that “corners were cut” in their development and approval and they have not been “properly studied”.

These are the sorts of narrative threads at the core of many anti-vaccine false claims and propaganda.

The point of these narratives is to fuel vaccine hesitancy and rejection by exploiting people’s ignorance and fear.

It seems to be working for the anti-vaccine propagandists because most Namibians appear to be highly suspicious of the Covid-19 vaccines and are spreading and repeating many of these claims via social media.

The aim is, of course, to spread the overarching narrative that the vaccines are sub-standard and dangerous, and that average people are being used as ‘guinea pigs’ in a vast health conspiracy being perpetrated by global elites and ‘Big Pharma’ for various nefarious reasons.

To be clear, with almost five billion doses having been administered around the world by 20 August 2021, the Covid-19 vaccines are proving to be both safe and effective, with the observed side or negative effects within the range of what was expected.

So, there really is nothing out of the ordinary with any of the vaccines, despite what the anti-vaccine crowd would have people think or believe. This is because the vaccine development methods and technologies are not new or novel.

And that is exactly why these vaccines have been developed, manufactured and approved so quickly – the methods and technologies are well-known and not in the least “experimental”.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAYS

The World Health Organization (WHO) states of the vaccines: “All Covid-19 vaccines approved by WHO for emergency use listing have been through randomised clinical trials to test their quality, safety and efficacy. To be approved, vaccines are required to have a high efficacy rate of 50% or above. After approval, they continue to be monitored for ongoing safety and effectiveness.”

This means that all the vaccines have been assessed and are being monitored by health authorities and medicines regulators around the world, as well as by thousands of medical scientists and vaccine specialists globally.

Like the WHO, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also been at pains to explain over the last year that no corners were cut in developing the Covid-19 vaccines, stating: “Vaccines for Covid-19 are being developed, evaluated and approved according to current regulatory guidelines and legal requirements.”

It continues: “Vaccine development for Covid-19 vaccines is being fast-tracked globally. Development is compressed in time, applying the extensive knowledge on vaccine production gained with existing vaccines.”

So, even though vaccine development and manufacturing have been fast-tracked, there has not been any cutting of regulatory corners or jumping of procedures. The vaccines still go through all the steps, just much faster.

The Johns Hopkins University and Medicine online vaccine information resources explain this best and clearly, pointing out that the reason why Covid-19 vaccines have been developed and produced quickly and safely is because: “Some clinical trial phases are combined; cases accumulate rapidly to assess vaccine efficacy because of the pandemic (in other words, because of the ongoing pandemic it is easier to assess the effectiveness of vaccines in the real-world); manufacturing capacity is scaled up during the clinical trials (meaning companies already went into production before regulatory approval was granted. Usually they only start production after regulatory approval).”

All the information about the development, production and approval of Covid-19 vaccines is public knowledge and accessible online, so there really is no need for people to be disinformed about any of this.

*Frederico Links is the editor of Namibia Fact Check, which is a project of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Namibia Fact Check can be viewed at www.namibiafactcheck.org.na

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