Article of the week: Vaccine: Yes or no?
20 February 2021
Lieut-Colonel (Dr) Eirwen Pallant assesses the pros and cons of the Covid-19 vaccines
EVERY day we make choices. We constantly assess situations to decide whether the benefit is worth taking the risk – from simple things like crossing the road to major life events like starting a family. If we think the risks are low and the benefits are high, then we go ahead. But if the risks are high and the benefits are low, we might seek an alternative course of action.
Around the world people are currently making a choice about whether to have a Covid-19 vaccine. So what are the risks and the benefits?
The risks of vaccines are not always clear. Mild reactions to a Covid-19 vaccine are common, but they are short-lasting. Headaches or a flu-like feeling have been reported but are usually gone the next day.
The risk of a major allergic reaction is minimal for most people and those who are susceptible are recommended not to have a vaccine. Even if one happens, medical staff will treat it immediately and there should be no lasting effects.
The producers of the vaccines cannot guarantee there will be no side effects. All they can say is that, so far, there have not been any major side effects. The number of people vaccinated in trials is key; the larger the trial the higher the possibility of recording any side effects.
We have all heard stories where drug companies have hidden results to make their medicine look safer than it is. Some bad researchers have falsified results to make a reputation for themselves. This is why peer reviewing of studies is important to identify any weaknesses or signs of making the results look better than they are.
Vaccines are not new. Millions of lives have been saved across the world because of vaccines for diseases such as smallpox, polio and measles. Illnesses and disabilities have been prevented and smallpox has been eradicated – what was once a highly infectious killer is no longer even thought about.
The most important benefit of the Covid-19 vaccines is immunity from infection from a virus that can kill you.
The vaccines also mean that coronavirus symptoms, if there are any, are mild, which means you are less likely to develop long Covid, where symptoms last for weeks or months.
Vaccination reduces the need to isolate from others for personal safety and may mean a reduction in the spread of the disease, especially to other members of your family, friends and loved ones.
It is reassuring to know that the Covid-19 vaccines have been funded outside normal research funding and that drug companies will not be able to make vast amounts of profit from it, reducing any temptation to be less than transparent in their reporting.
The Covid-19 vaccines have also been carefully tested and thoroughly reviewed.
When assessing risks and benefits, it is always dependent on how much we trust the information that we have been given. If the information is trustworthy, then we are likely to make a good decision.
Vaccines: yes or no? My choice is yes. I have had all the vaccinations recommended for me in the past and I will queue up for my Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available.
LIEUT-COLONEL PALLANT IS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PERSONNEL (DEVELOPMENT AND HEALTH), THQ