WITH NAMIBIA'S COVID-19 vaccination drive going on for three months by mid-June it appears many people still don't know how vaccines protect against Covid-19.
This has become evident as the online discussions and conversations around vaccines have become elevated since the country entered what already appears to be a devastating 'third wave' of Covid-19 infections in May.
Much of the information people are sharing or comments being made show many people are largely engaging on the topic from a position of ignorance about Covid-19 vaccines, and this appears to be contributing to widespread mutual misinforming on social media and messaging apps, such as WhatsApp.
For instance, a recent post on a social media platform stated: "Yaa. But Tate, your appeal is that those fully vaccinated ngeno be allowed to roam freely if it's to happen that way. Nothing special that separated them from the general public. They can still be carriers, can contract, transmit to the next innocent negative one and even die as well."
This was in response to a post that urged the government to allow only fully vaccinated people to travel around the country a day before president Hage Geingob announced new Covid-19 restrictions earlier this week.
A response to the post by another social media user reads: "My thought as well, nothing is special about the vaccine."
What these comments illustrate is that these posters probably do not know what the reported benefits of Covid-19 vaccines are.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
The available and growing evidence indicates that if people do catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the current emergency use-approved vaccines prevent the development of Covid-19, especially severe illness that leads to hospitalisation, in fully vaccinated people.
In a joint statement to healthcare workers globally on 11 June, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities stated: "Vaccine clinical trials for a new candidate vaccine showed that vaccines very significantly reduced Covid-19 in people who were vaccinated, compared to a control group of people who did not receive a vaccine, through a reduction in numbers of laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections."
In an earlier online statement on 10 May, the WHO states: "We cannot compare the vaccines head-to-head due to the different approaches taken in designing the respective studies, but overall, all of the vaccines that have achieved WHO emergency use listing are highly effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid-19."
This point was also emphasised by Namibian minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula at the end of his daily update of the Covid-19 situation in the country on 16 June, when he stated: "The benefit of vaccination is that it protects you from contracting the infection. In the event that one contracts the infection, it will hardly lead to hospitalisation and death. We once again invite the public to get vaccinated."
Concerning the actual vaccines available in Namibia, the WHO states about the effectiveness of the Sinopharm vaccine the following: "A large multi-country phase-three trial has shown that two doses, administered at an interval of 21 days, have an efficacy of 79% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection 14 or more days after the second dose. Vaccine efficacy against hospitalisation was 79%."
As for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield), the WHO states: "As of 19 April 2021, the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective at protecting people from the extremely serious risks of Covid-19, including death, hospitalisation and severe disease."
To be clear, Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering your body, but rather prevent it from causing infection, symptomatic Covid-19 disease, severe illness requiring hospitalisation and oxygen treatment, and ultimately death.
To what extent the vaccines play a role in slowing down or stopping transmission of the coronavirus from one person to the next is still under investigation.
So, as with all vaccines for other diseases, there actually appears to be something "special about the vaccine".
- Frederico Links is the editor of Namibia Fact Check, a project of the Institute for Public Policy Research. Namibia Fact Check can be viewed at www.namibiafactcheck.org.na.