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Myths and reality: effectiveness vs side-effects of COVID-19 vaccines

There's a lot of information out there about the effectiveness and side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Some of it might be frightening. Maia Uusküla, the Head of the Bureau of Pharmacovigilance in the Estonian Agency of Medicines, and Triin Suvi, the Head of Department of Biologicals, comment on some of the most common statements. 

  • Myth: Vaccines are not effective because vaccinated people get infected and spread the virus.

    Reality: A fully vaccinated person is 4 times less likely to catch the coronavirus than a non-vaccinated person, says Krista Fischer, the member of the Science Advisory Board and the professor of mathematical statistics in the University of Tartu. Her calculations are based on the COVID-19 data from July and August.

    One of the main objectives of vaccination is to protect yourself from falling ill seriously — non-vaccinated people are 8 times more likely to fall ill seriously after catching COVID-19. Furthermore, vaccination does help to stop the spread of the virus, not just decreasing the illness period and heaviness.

    People, who've had COVID-19, and are also fully vaccinated, are 20 times less likely to catch the virus again. You need to keep in mind, that being ill with COVID-19 involves major risks. For instance, the average of people who need hospitalization because of COVID-19 is 7%. About 14% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients die, survivors often have permanent health complications.

    On the 21st of September, at least 749 256 people have had the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, so 66,2% of the adults in Estonia are vaccinated. On the same day, 154 people with COVID-19 were still in hospitals, and 110 of them were not vaccinated. So, about one-third of Estonian adult population is non-vaccinated, and three-quarter of the people in hospitals ae non-vaccinated.
  • Myth: COVID-19 vaccines clog up blood vessels.

    Reality: mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 (Pfizer and Moderna) are not related to blood clots. In Estonia, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines are used.

    All safety signals are analysed regularly in huge volumes of data. Thrombosis or thromboembolic are not more common in vaccinated people than they are in non-vaccinated people.

    It's important to keep in mind, that when falling ill with COVID-19, the risk of blood clots is 16-20 times higher than when being healthy. One of the objectives of vaccination against COVID-19 is preventing falling ill seriously, sh avoiding blood clots during illness. The selling licences of COVID-19 vaccines COVID-19 were given based on data. It's common that clinical researches continue after the medication is already in the market (it's also like this with other medications).
  • Myth: By the data of the national vaccine safety surveillance program in USA - Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System VAERS, almost 1000 people have died after the vaccination.

    Reality: VAERS database includes all reports that are sent, it's not the database of proved side effects or deaths caused by vaccines.

    The entries to the database are not proved, so it has cases that are not related with medications or vaccination.
  • Myth: The death toll in care homes has been going up since the beginning of vaccinations, and there's an increase in health problems.

    It's not confirmed that the death toll in care homes is related to COVID-vaccinations. However, there have been multiple outbreaks of COVID-19, in where many people have lost lives.
  • Myth: With particular vaccines, pathogens are transmitted into humans, and they stay there and cause health problems.

    Reality: Vaccines doesn't leave pathogens into humans.
    Vaccines that are based on mRNA and virus vector do not have pathogens in them, only the information in a form of a DNA or mRNA on the surface of the virus that is essential to produce antigens.

    DNA in the vaccine is in some other virus (usually adenovirus), but these viruses are unable to reproduce themselves. It's important to know that mRNA nor DNA packed into adenovirus don't bind with the human DNA. Some viruses may do that (like HI-virus) but adenoviruses don't do that.

Everything you should know about the COVID-19 vaccination

Vaccination is free of charge for all people living in Estonia, even without the national health insurance.
  • Vaccination is voluntary.
  • Vaccination is open to all people who are at least 5 years old.
  • Compared to COVID-19 illness, vaccination is safe, and generally, the side effects pass quickly.
  • Booster doses are available only for adults, and the time for a booster jab is 2 months after finishing the vaccination course with the Janssen vaccine, and 3 months after finishing the vaccination course with AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
  • Booster doses for people, who are recovered from COVID-19 are recommended 6 months after their recovery or their last vaccination.
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