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Multiple YouTube videos falsely claim Covid-19 vaccination as ‘ineffective’

Published on Mon 21 Jun 2021 at 06:13

Decoding the common narrative that leads to misinformation about vaccines and often causes vaccine hesitancy.

By Tej Kumar

There are viral YouTube videos in the Telugu language widely spoken in south-eastern India on vaccine misinformation. The speaker claims himself to be a chemical engineer, and most of his videos are against vaccines. So we analysed some of the videos, and the common narrative in these videos is misrepresentation of vaccines, which often leads to vaccine hesitancy.

Below are some of his widely watched videos that have false claims and have the potential to influence the conversation around vaccines.

Claim 1:- This video claims that Covidshield and Covaxin vaccines are just water, they don’t develop any antibodies.

The archived version can be seen here.

Fact: A recent peer-reviewed paper published in MedrXiv states that Covidshield is developing 97.8% of antibodies, whereas Covaxin is developing 78.1% of antibodies after two doses. So, these vaccines are not water; they are lifesaving vaccines to eradicate this pandemic.

Claim 2: This video says vaccine efficacy was reduced to 60 % against the delta variant, which means only 60 people out of 100 are safe, and the remaining 40 people will surely get coronavirus.

The archived version can be seen here.

Fact: The speaker has misinterpreted the definition of vaccine efficacy. According to Lancet, vaccine efficacy is not efficiency. Assuming that 60 out of every 100 people vaccinated will be protected from Covid-19 is incorrect because that’s not how the math behind the measurement works. Vaccine efficacy tells us about how well a vaccine works under the conditions of the clinical trial and efficacy is the degree to which a vaccine prevents disease and possibly also the transmission under ideal and controlled circumstances.

Responding to this misleading claim, Dr Pallavali Roja Rani, a virologist and specialist in microbiology, VRDL lab, Kurnool Government Medical College, said, “If vaccine efficacy is dropped to 60%, that doesn’t mean it is not working. If the vaccine has an efficacy of 60%, then you have 60% chances that you are less likely to get an infection than a non-vaccinated person, who has 0% chances.”

Claim 3:– A video says that vaccines don’t work against new variants.

The archived version can be seen here.

Fact: Studies say that AstraZeneca (Covidshield) and Pfizer vaccines work against new dangerous variants, i.e. Delta. A recent study in England states that after two doses, the effectiveness figure rises to 60 per cent for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 88 per cent for BioNTech/Pfizer.

The efficacy may drop because of the dangerous Delta variant, but it doesn’t mean they are not working. Any vaccine above 60% efficacy is considered to be safe.

“All these claims are false and may lead to a rise in vaccine hesitancy and lead to panic among the public”, told Dr. Pallavali Roja Rani.

“Vaccines may not give you 100% protection against the infection, but they can reduce the severity of the infection, which will help end this pandemic. Moreover, vaccines are the main route to attain herd immunity,” she added.

A virus may lead to more severe cases and hospitalisation in an unvaccinated population as compared to an unvaccinated population. No matter what, vaccines still protect people from getting very ill and remain effective against new variants while producing antibodies. Moreover, experts believe existing vaccines can be redesigned to better tackle mutations.

Update: Sub-heading amended.