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The true information about Covid vaccine

| Duresi's Odyssey

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.


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Bernard Corden

Badpharma by Dr Ben Goldacre is well worth reading:

Corporate social responsibility amongst the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing conglomerates rivals the performance of Rio Tinto and BHP in the resources sector.

Another interesting book, which was co-authored by the late Phillip Knightley exposes the thalidomide scandal involving United Distillers with Distaval

JK Domyal

Thanks you Bee for this guided commentary on Covid, it is very useful.

Whilst agreeing with you on the stringent process taken for the drug regulatory bodies to approve like the Covid vaccines, I have the following doubts, which I believe others would also have.

1. For vaccine trials on human beings; the age groups and the topographical climate and temperature of the places we live in should also be taken on board.

Vaccines that may work well for colder climate may not work well for warmer tropical climate and older people versus younger population is a cause for concern.

2. The effects from human trials would-be for shorter-term effects, medium term effects and longer-term effects.

Given Covid vaccines alone, trials may fall into the short and medium term but absolutely not the longer term trials – I understand it will take 2-3 years and this is the missing element, people may fear about the longer term effect which we never know.

3. Something interesting about PNG is this; many commentators in PNG and abroad expressed the fear that in PNG; given the social cultural context people would die like dogs on the streets from Covid when the pandemic swept across the globe.

4. Since January/February 2020, PNG was not ready and tried its best to control the pandemic; preventive measures like hand wash, face mask, social distancing are not all going down well in the family unit and social cultural style of living.

For example, Gordons market and bus stop areas; many use the same lime bottle for betel nut, or a dish of cooked greens and chicken, easy path for CovidD to spread.

Despite this, nothing happens, to be honest no one in PNG died from Covid alone. The eight or so reported deaths are suspected Covid but died due to other health issues. PNG IMR, UPNG Medical School and other research institution need to do a research and find out why PNG can naturally become immune to Covid?

5. Now the PNG government and NDoH quickly talked about bringing Covid vaccines into PNG; do PNG desperately need the vaccines or whose interest and benefit – not to mention safety, are they trying to serve.

PNG do not need the vaccines, all we need is resources to build facilities and strengthen the system to detect, test and prevent diseases and provide surveillance for PNG health system. Just look at other countries, Covid is seriously a big problem, people dying in thousands and they really need the Covid vaccines, PNG may not need it at this stage!

6. The PNG government and NDoH should not be misled to take temporary measure like procurement of Covid vaccines, there are seriously major health risks that needs immediate support.

For Covid, it should be a wake-up call for the government to take appropriate and sustainable approach to build systems and institutions to prevent future pandemic. Someone need to advise the PNG government and NDoH.

I'll leave the medical stuff to doctors and scientists like Bee, but the statistics are plain. As of yesterday, PNG had a confirmed 955 cases of Covid and 10 deaths from Covid. It is wrong to say Papua New Guineans may have some natural immunity to Covid. John, what you have written is the disinformation scientists warn us about - KJ

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