A Whatsapp message with a number of assumptions and questions about the efficacy of covid vaccines is circulating in India. The claims in the message are misleading.
By Abeen Bilal
A Whatsapp message questioning the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines is being widely shared in India. This Whatsapp message claims that the Covid-19 vaccine does not prevent or eliminate the virus and does not guarantee you complete protection or eliminate the use of masks, lockdowns, or travel bans. This message was shared soon after India started rolling out its vaccination drive against coronavirus and the message is gaining wide popularity in India.
First check team members received it from various Whatsapp groups and the message is labelled forwarded multiple times with two arrows to show that a message has been repeatedly forwarded.
The intent and tone of the message is an attempt to question the efficacy of vaccination and the message claims that there is no benefit from getting vaccinated and that vaccines against Covid-19 are not going to work.
This elaborate message asserts a number of assumptions regarding the Covid-19 vaccine’s efficacy and its use. It says that the vaccine,
“Does not eliminate the virus.
Does not prevent death.
Does not guarantee you won’t get it.
Does not prevent you from getting it.
Does not stop you passing it on
Does not eliminate the need for travel bans.
Does not eliminate the need for business closures.
Does not eliminate the need for lockdowns.
Does not eliminate the need for masking.
So...what the hell is it actually doing? 🤷♂️🤦🏻♂️”
The claims made in the Whatsapp message are misleading.
The questions in the viral message can be broadly categorised into three ideas:
How normal will life be after getting vaccinated, in terms of usage of masks, the opening of schools, and other social places?
What will be the immunity level and whether the vaccine will prevent the infection and transmission
What are the absolute and sure benefits of vaccination?
In order to get clarity on these ideas, we contacted one of India’s top virologists, Dr. Shahid Jameel. Presently, Director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, who has served as the CEO of Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance for over seven years.
Dr. Jameel explained that the vaccine controls the disease. He said, “all Covid19 vaccines have been tested for prevention of disease. It’s a possibility that vaccinated people would still get an infection but it would be controlled before it progresses to disease. This is also the case with many other vaccines, including seasonal flu.”
And therefore the pre-covid normalcy that people are expecting will not resume as quickly. One has to take a number of precautions even after getting vaccine shots. Dr. Jameel further explained, “though viral load would be considerably reduced, vaccinated people would still be able to shed the virus. Therefore, those vaccinated should still wear masks. Schools can reopen with masks and other precautions as transmission potential would reduce considerably but would not be zero. The same goes for social interactions.”
All these restrictions do not mean that one should let go of vaccinations. To gradually reduce the pandemic, vaccines are of utmost importance.
“Vaccine benefits both the individual and the community by considerably reducing the chance of disease and almost eliminating the chance of severe disease by reducing transmission. Over time, this will control the pandemic” he added.