24 August 2021 
Article released by Western Cape Government

Over the last few weeks, we have seen how misinformation leads to low uptake of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. Here, Infectious Disease and Vaccine experts from Tygerberg and Groote Schuur Hospital debunks those myths. 

The purpose of this continuous transparent information sharing is to provide citizens with accurate information so they can make an informed decision in being vaccinated. 

Myth – “The vaccine will impact negatively on a person with comorbidities (diabetes, cancer, hypertension, lupus, lung disease, TB, HIV etc.) 

Expert opinion – “People with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart failure, asthma, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, for example, are often uncertain whether they should go for their COVID-19 jab. They fear that it may worsen their underlying condition. I can ensure you today that this is not the case. People with a chronic medical condition are at increased risk of contracting severe COVID-19 and then land up in hospital, ICU or even die from COVID-19 infection. The main benefit of the COVID-19 vaccination is it prevents severe COVID-19, hospitalization and death, specifically in these people with increased risk of severe disease”.  – Dr Jantjie Taljaard – Infectious Diseases Physician at Tygerberg Hospital 

Myth – We don’t know what the long-term effects of the vaccine. 

Expert opinion – “Many people are afraid of going for their COVID-19 vaccination because they are told by friends, family members and through social media that it might cause severe long term side effects. That is completely untrue. Over 4 billion people across the world has been vaccinated in the last eight months, and in South Africa in the last five months. And we have not seen any long-term side effects. In fact, what we have seen is that COVID-19 vaccines, saves lives. In Tygerberg Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit during the third wave, all the people admitted, was not vaccinated. Please save your own life and get the jab, I did!” – Dr Jantjie Taljaard – Infectious Diseases Physician at Tygerberg Hospital 

Myth – the side-effects are severe and the vaccine will kill you 

Expert opinion – “I want to make it clear that COVID vaccinations do have side effects like any vaccination. The common side effects include pain or redness at the injection site, headache, muscle pains and fever or chills. These are usually mild or moderate and get better after a day or two. There are also severe and sometimes life-threatening side effects of the vaccine, but these are exceedingly rare – we know that if 1 million people are vaccinated with a COVID vaccine fewer than 5 people among them will develop life-threatening complications. These very rare side effects include anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), blood clots and inflammation of the heart. There are treatments for these side effects and that’s one of the reasons why it is important that the medical profession and public are aware of these extremely rare side effects. It is, however, very clear that the risk of dying of a severe COVID-19 disease far outweighs these exceedingly rare side-effects, and that the vaccine offers great protection against severe illness and even greater protection against death due to the virus.”– Professor Graeme Meintjes – Infectious Diseases doctor and Deputy Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital 

Myth – Vaccines can harm your body 

Expert opinion – “I want to stress is that with any medical intervention (treatment or prevention) there are benefits and potential harms. It is only justified for the medical profession to recommend and provide an intervention if the benefits far outweigh the potential harms. That is the case with COVID vaccinations. The benefits in terms of preventing death and hospitalization due to COVID far outweigh the risks of these exceedingly rare side effects.  

To put it in perspective, it is estimated from Medical Research Council’s excess death statistics that over 20,000 people have died to COVID in the Western Cape. We know that vaccinating a large percentage of the adult population of the Western Cape would very effectively prevent many deaths going forward – saving thousands of lives. There is a risk of life-threatening side effects from the COVID vaccines, but the data suggests that these would affect fewer than 20 people if we vaccinated all adults in the Western Cape.  The benefits of vaccination in terms of thousands of lives saved far outweighs the risks of these exceedingly rare side effects. 

I have worked in the COVID wards at Groote Schuur for the last 18 months. I have seen hundreds of people die as a result of COVID. I have not seen a single death due to the vaccination yet. I know that we now have the means to prevent most deaths from COVID going forward – through COVID vaccination. I appeal to every single adult in our country to get vaccinated – to protect our hospitals from another wave of COVID, but more importantly to protect your own life. Please get vaccinated and don’t delay!”-Professor Graeme Meintjes Infectious Diseases doctor and Deputy Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital 

Wrong assumption – You can still get COVID-19, so no point in getting the vaccine  

Expert opinion “The point of being vaccinated is that your chances of getting severe disease, ending up in hospital or even dying, are severely decreased if you get the vaccine. So the current variant that is circulating in the Western Cape is the Delta variant, and recent research shows that the J & J vaccine that all the health care workers received (over 480 000 health care workers received the J & J vaccine)and it has shown to be 96% effective death and 66% effective against severe illness requiring hospitalisation. So, that is why you should be vaccinated. Ideally, we would like a vaccine that also stop us from getting infected with the Corona virus but until then, the benefits of reducing severe disease, and not dying, decreasing the burden on hospitals, is why you should be vaccinated.” – Dr Lisa Frigati – Paediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Tygerberg Hospital  

Myth – The COVID-19 vaccines were developed too fast to be safe 

Expert opinion “The reason that we have a vaccine so quickly is because of the massive political will and huge amount of funding that went into the development of the vaccine. Just because it was developed quickly does not mean it NOT is safe. Billions and billions of people all over the world have now received the vaccine over the last eight months. And they are only very rare side effects.” Dr Lisa Frigati – Paediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Tygerberg Hospital 

For accurate information, please visit our official provincial government website: https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/ 

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20 years ago Herman and his wife Carina, with their 2 daughters moved to George in the beautiful Garden Route region of South Africa. He has a passion for the people of the region and is involved in many humanitarian projects. He is co-owner of the popular Facebook group called Georgiete Staan Saam with a membership of 71 000. He is a connector and an activist for unity and works tirelessly to help all communities in George and the Garden Route to realise that the answer for the political, business and socio-economical problems of the area is to stand together, plan together and working together at a common sustainable goal of alleviating poverty. Herman is the CEO of the Love Garden Route NPC and is one of the founders of the Love George movement. He is the owner and founder of the LoveGeorge News platform and the online radio stations RadioCSA. For 30 years Herman specializes in web development and web design and through his business also offer web-hosting, email-hosting and domain-hosting. As a Pastor he has presented over 40 men's and women's camps where the main focus is to assist and guide Christians in discovering their true calling and then activate them into their true Prophetic and Apostolic calling.