On the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities continue to fight myths and misinformation online on vaccines, the delivery of which have become more urgent to ride out new variants like omicron and delta emerge and stall the much-awaited return to normal.
The government aims to fully inoculate 90 million Filipinos by end of June to build a "wall of immunity", protecting the population from coronavirus variants, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said. Some of the misinformation claim vaccines are experimental and harmful even if they are scientifically proven to protect against severe symptoms and hospitalizations, even death.
Dr. Beverly Ho, head of the DOH Health Promotions Bureau, likened vaccination to training soldiers in the body. When the vaccine enters the body, it will help train the body detect the virus if a vaccinated person gets infected, she said.
Vaccines are made with whole, parts, or just the genetic material found in the virus but it wouldn't make you sick, Ho said during FYT's fact-checking initiative on Jan. 26.
"Isipin ninyo 'yung pagbabakuna ay parang practice o rehearsal... dahil 'yung laman po ng botilya ng bakuna ay parte ng COVID virus. 'Pag pinasok siya sa katawan natin, alam ng katawan natin 'eto pala ang itsura ng COVID-19' so makakapag-practice siya para sa panahon na dumating 'yung totoong virus sa iyo, handa ka na."
Here are some of the vaccines myths debunked by experts:
COVID vaccines are experimental drugs and we are the guinea pigs.
Vaccines go through extensive testing before they is administered to the general public, Ho said. Reminder: Vaccines cannot be given forcibly.
The World Health Organization said vaccines go through clinical trials in three phases before they are assessed for efficacy and whether they meet standards for broader use.
"Hindi natin masasabi na tayo'y pinag-experimentuhan kasi natapos 'yung pag-aaral at patuloy ang pagkuha ng datos para mas marami pa tayong malaman pero parte tayo ng napakaraming tao sa mundo na nabakunahan," said Ho.
Vaccines are dangerous for kids because they were made hastily.
COVID-19 vaccines were formulated in record time thanks to the knowledge gained by scientists from developing vaccines for other coronaviruses, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Ho said vaccines were rolled out first to senior citizens, which the WHO said are at the highest risk of deaths due to COVID-19. They were later given to the general adult population, then to children, first those aged 12-17. Starting Feb. 4, kids aged five to 11 can start getting their reformulated Pfizer jabs.
"Rest assured kapag in-approve natin 'yung bakuna at in-approve natin 'yung rollout sa Pilipinas, meron tayong pinanghahawakang datos para sabihing may benepisyo ito sa mga bata at hindi ito eksperimento," Ho said.
Vaccines are useless because vaccinated individuals can still get COVID-19.
Vaccines makers never promised that getting jabbed would shield you completely from COVID-19, however it could help avoid severe symptoms and lowers the risk of hospitalization, said Ho.
It's like polio, she said. "Dati kapag magkaka-polio ka, lumpo ka na for the rest of your life pero dahil nagkaroon ng bakuna, may mga batang nagkakaroon pa rin ng polio pero parang trangkaso na lang siya, very mild ang symptoms."
She cited how the post-Christmas omicron surge caused little to no symptoms to majority of infected individuals. Those brought to the hospital due to COVID-19 were mostly unvaccinated people, Ho said.
"Dati nung 2020, takot na takot tayo kasi kung nagka-COVID ka parang death certificate mo na naka-sign, parang puwede ka na talaga mamatay... Promise ng COVID vaccines ay hindi tayo magkakaroon ng severe COVID kung saan ikaw ay matutubuhan, mapupunta sa ICU, gagastos nang napakalaki, at puwede mo siyang ikamatay."
Vaccinated individuals don't need to wear face masks anymore.
Vaccines won't give anyone complete immunity from the coronavirus that's why it's important to wear face masks, Ho said.
Wearing masks is for the person's personal protection and to protect others who could be at risk of catching the coronavirus like senior citizens and children.
"Mahalaga na puwede ngang may mild symptoms ka o minsan wala kang sintomas pero may COVID ka at hindi mo alam nakakapanghawa ka sa ibang tao," said Ho.
Vaccines will make you infertile.
There is no data to support this claim for both men and women, Ho said.
"Hindi ito totoo dahil ginawa nila, nag-count sila ng sperm ng mga kalalakihang nabakunahan. May nagbago ba sa hindi bakunado? Wala po," she said.
The CDC said COVID-19 vaccination is highly recommended for people who may consider getting pregnant in the future because of the protection it offers. A study also said it found no differences in pregnancy success rates among women who had antibodies from the vaccines or from recent infection, and women who had no antibodies.
Vaccines are dangerous for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe COVID, and the benefits of vaccination outweighs the risk, the WHO said. Mothers should not stop breastfeeding because of COVID-19 vaccination, it said.
"Sa mga pag-aaral kapag si mommy po ay bakunado, puwede n'ya ma-pass on ang antibodies, itong mga soldiers na protection, through the breast milk para kay baby so we really, really recommend the breastfeeding mothers to get vaccinated," said Ho.
Vaccines kill people.
It's important to know if there is causality, Ho said. Usually, those who die after getting vaccinated have underlying conditions not linked to the vaccine itself.
"Ang pagkamatay ba ay dahil sa bakuna o nabakunahan tapos after a while inatake sa puso dahil talagang may sakit sa puso?" she said.
You'll become a zombie after vaccination.
Some social media users were commenting how the characters in the fictional film "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith turned into zombies because of a vaccine. It is false, and here's a Reuters fact check on it.
There could be side effects from the vaccine, like chills. But out of more than 126 million vaccine doses administered in the country as of Jan. 26, of which more than 58 million are fully vaccinated, Ho said: "Zero. Wala talaga tayong kaso na naging zombie."
Ho asked the public to be cautious before sharing dubious information on COVID-19 vaccines.
"Let's act with utmost concern o malasakit... kasi it can really mean life and death."