Some common COVID vaccination questions include:

Benefits of vaccines:
Vaccines work. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide of all ages and races have now been well protected against serious COVID infection illness, hospitalisations and death. Most serious illnesses, hospitalisations or deaths are in those smaller numbers of people, families and friends who chose not to get vaccinated – this is devastating for them. Serious COVID infections mainly occur in unvaccinated people

How do we know the COVID vaccine is safe?:
The safety of any vaccine including the COVID vaccine is carefully checked before it is licensed and it is monitored on an ongoing basis after licensing, in NZ and worldwide. If any serious unexpected side effects are found, the vaccine is pulled from the market. The risk of serious infection, hospitalisation and death by catching COVID is far, far greater than any risk posed by the vaccine itself

Yes, there is a risk with vaccination, just as with everything we do in life, like driving a car, riding a bike, flying or taking a bus – but the risk is tiny compared to the safety and freedom it gives us and our family and friends. The risk of anaphylaxis, major severe allergic reaction, after vaccination is approximately 1 in a million, the same as the yearly risk of being struck by lightning

How do we know vaccines do not cause long-term health problems?
Based on more than 50 years of experience with vaccines, it is very unlikely that vaccines cause unexpected long-term problems. Studies have found no relationship between vaccination and development of any chronic diseases

Can I catch infection from the vaccine itself?
There is no live virus in the vaccine at all. Similarly there are no preservatives, iron filings, nano particles, circuit boards, robots, bitcoins, etc. Some local injection site soreness and less commonly ‘flu like’ symptoms can occur 1-3 days after a vaccine dose – this is not infection but actually means that the vaccine is working because our immune system initially falsely thinks it is infection, makes antibodies against it, then realises it is not infection – but those antibodies now made by our immune system can significantly help reduce the chances and seriousness of infection if at a later time we do become exposed to COVID virus

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?
Yes it is. Pregnant women were not included in the initial vaccination trials for safety and ethical caution reasons. But since then large numbers of women have been vaccinated who were pregnant at the time of vaccination but did not know it – and they have been shown not to have any increase in adverse reactions to them or their baby compared to those not vaccinated when pregnant –we now know it is safe when pregnant and breast feeding. However, as with other infections including influenza, an unvaccinated pregnant woman who catches COVID infection is 20 times more likely to have serious adverse outcomes!

Was mRNA vaccine introduced too soon?
Initial concerns about the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development were often based on the mistaken belief that Pfizer mRNA was entirely new. But the first successful use of mRNA technology in animals was reported more than 30 years ago, and tremendous mRNA advances have been made over the past decade. There have been no unexpected causes for concern since its introduction, and it has saved millions of lives now. In practice, our bodies have, and have always had, lots of mRNA inside us as part of our normal protein synthesis process

Would we be better to just catch infection and build up community ‘herd immunity’?
‘Herd immunity’ can be achieved through vaccination or via previous infections, which eventually lead to natural immunity. Some people have expressed a preference for natural immunity, rather than obtaining immunity via vaccination. Individuals who believe the seriousness of COVID-19 has been exaggerated are concerned in case the risk of vaccination is greater than the risk of infection.

The difference in consequences between these two approaches to reaching herd immunity must be clearly understood. Achieving herd immunity through previous infection would take significantly longer, incurring an immense cost in health care resources, preventing overloaded hospitals from treating patients for COVID or any other disease, as well as millions more lives lost.
There is evidence of greater vaccine acceptance among those who have seen or cared for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, including knowing friends or family that have died of COVID, presumably because of an accurate perception of the actual severity of COVID infection. But that is then too late to save or help that person

How do we know who to trust?
A key factor in gaining acceptance of a new vaccine is trust. Media misinformation can cause public doubts about disease spread, prevention, death rates and vaccine safety, and can promote mistrust of the government, policymakers, health authorities, and pharmaceutical companies. Many members of the public, including some health care workers, have been exposed to conspiracy theories (especially on social media) such as the claims that novel coronavirus was intentionally created by the government or that health organisations have exaggerated COVID-19’s seriousness, or even existence. Some distrust pharmaceutical companies due to some bad histories e.g. USA opioid crisis. This misinformation can call into question authorities’ integrity and undermines efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake. We must obtain good information, not just from ‘Facebook and friends we trust’ but also from totally independent Universities worldwide who continually challenge and develop new ideas and treatments – these thousands of academic and testing, challenging science institutions are over 95% in agreement on COVID causes, vaccinations, and risk behaviours like social distancing and mask wearing. In any professional group, there will always be a few doubters – that is partially good and healthy, but can cause their own outside views to be thought of as ‘the only view’ – this can endanger your health.

Remember, the best and safest way to protect yourselves, your friends, family and community is to have the full free vaccination course with
• Two doses at least 3 weeks apart
• Then later a booster dose at least 4 months after the last dose

Make it Happen, Vaccinate
Be Thoughtful, Be Kind to Yourself and Other Loved Ones