AUCKLAND - When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic about a year ago, pharmaceutical companies all over the world set out to find a vaccine to protect us from it.
You have no doubt read about the different companies making announcements of their products and their efficacy.
I wanted to do this post and provide some facts and answers to some common misinformation doing the rounds on Papua New Guinean social media.
Misinformation #1: Vaccinations take years to make, so the Covid vaccine development has been rushed and is not safe
While it can take years to make a vaccine, Covid affected the world so quickly and at such a large scale that scientists had to develop a vaccine to offer protection to people in a timely manner.
In the case of the Covid vaccine, pharmaceutical companies had to observe industry regulations at all times during vaccine development and clinical trials.
These key steps were observed throughout the process. All the clinical data and drug development results had to be submitted to government regulatory bodies (such as the US Food and Drug Administration) to be screened before approval was given for ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’.
Under this approval, pharmaceutical companies are required to continue to provide specific information to the regulatory authorities as the vaccine is used.
People can be assured that, with the vaccine being developed under stringent regulatory processes, issues of safety are given paramount priority (and all safety issues are addressed before approval).
Misinformation #2: Some people react negatively after receiving vaccines OR All vaccines are bad and cause negative reactions in all people who receive them.
People who are familiar with drug development processes understand that there are phases involved in drug development.
Development usually starts off in laboratory research conditions prior to human clinical trials.
In clinical trials, there are different phases. I shall not go into detail but what is entailed throughout is that each process follows stringent protocols.
During this process, documentation is important. If people react negatively, this information is documented and further testing done to determine why.
In all of this, human safety is paramount. Regulatory standards require that studies are stopped if the negative reaction is severe.
This information is also made available to the regulatory authorities who make final decision on whether or not to continue the trial.
The bottom line is that even though one vaccine is shown to have caused negative effects, this does not mean all vaccines produced by different pharmaceutical teams will produce negative effects.
Each vaccine development is assessed separately.
Misinformation #3: Covid vaccines will be taken from the manufacturer and given to the general public straight away.
This is not true. Good clinical practice dictates that there are clinical trials first, with documentation of the results of the trial and only then a decision for roll-out based upon the results.
I am sure the PNG National Department of Health (research, technical and clinical branches) together with our research institutions such as Institute of Medical Research, the Medical Research Advisory Committee and the Pharmacy Board have put together a framework on how this will pan out.
Our people’s safety is important, and we have institutions in place to ensure anything medically-related is done with our people’s safety as top priority.
Misinformation #4: Everyone will be forced to take the Covid vaccine.
This is not true. An important aspect of good clinical practice is that patient consent must be obtained.
If you fall into what we consider a ‘high risk’ category, taking the vaccine should protect you.
The health workers will tell you about this but will not force you to be vaccinated.
You will most likely be made aware of the risks if you do not get vaccinated, but you will decide.
I understand that for a non-medical person, reading information about vaccine development can be overwhelming, as can the reports that come out from time to time regarding adverse reactions.
It is totally OK to ask questions and be inquisitive about things you do not understand.
However, it is not OK to spread misinformation and hype others with this misinformation and make them negative towards PNG’s vaccination program.
Keep safe and follow the simple rules for protecting yourself and others from Covid.
Remember, the virus can’t move on its own. It needs people to carry it and pass it on.
You can break its transmission by washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer); wearing a face mask properly when out and about; maintaining at least 1.5metres distance between you and others if you can; coughing into your elbow; staying home and away from the rest of your hauslain if you are not feeling well.
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have on Covid vaccine development. Write them in the Comment section below.