Disinformation: Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine Would be Mandatory and Forcible

Verdict: FAKE NEWS

On 29 January 2021, Facebook user and archpriest Basil Akhvlediani promoted the coronavirus vaccine-related disinformation on social network. Mr Akhvlediani wrote: “Vaccination policy should be based only on the free will of humans. Do not force us to get the vaccine!” At the same time, the aforementioned Facebook user stated that he would not refuse getting vaccinated if the vaccine would be 100% effective and vaccinated people were fully protected. However, he added, nobody would be able to present such data to him. This publication was also posted in the Facebook group, Joint Popular Movement for Rescuing the Georgian Nation. In fact, vaccination in Georgia is voluntary and Mr Akhvlediani’s claim that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would be mandatory and forcible is not true.

As of February 2021, there are three COVID-19 vaccines approved in Europe and the USA (from highly trusted regulatory bodies). These vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Generally, vaccines are approved after year-long trials and testing. However, given the emergency it is also possible to conduct trials and tests in a limited period of time and accelerate a vaccine’s creation. Initially at the pre-clinical stage, vaccines were tested on animals to determine their impact and toxicity. After sparking immune response among animals, clinical trials were launched into major phases. In the first phase, the coronavirus vaccines were tested on a group of healthy volunteers. In the second phase, a wider group of volunteers were vaccinated. In the third phase, thousands of people got vaccine shots and emphasis was made on studying vaccine safety. After the end of the clinical trials, the vaccines were reviewed and approved by the respective regulatory bodies.

FDA and EMA COVID-19 Vaccine Authorisation Timeline

On 2 December 2020, the United Kingdom approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) for emergency use. According to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the vaccine successfully completed all three stages of clinical trials and demonstrated 95% efficacy. Afterwards, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) together with the EU’s European Medicines Agency approved the efficacy and the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to use against the coronavirus on 11 December and 21 December 2020, respectively. On top of the Pfizer-BioNTech product, a coronavirus vaccine produced by the US pharmaceutical company Moderna also showed strong efficacy (94%) during the clinical trials, obtaining authorisation from the FDA on 18 December 2020 and from the EMA on 6 January 2021. In regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the MHRA issued authorisation for its emergency use on 30 December 2020 whilst the EMA followed suit on 29 January 2021. These coronavirus vaccines demonstrate 90-95% efficacy.

None of the currently available vaccines are 100% effective. For instance, flu vaccines demonstrate 40-60% efficacy, diphtheria vaccines up to 97%, polio vaccines around 99% and vaccines for hepatitis A and B are 95-95% effective. Therefore, none of the previously existing vaccines demonstrate 100% efficacy, although they still saved millions of lives.

Vaccine is one of medicine’s biggest accomplishments. Thanks to the vaccines, the circulation of the aforementioned diseases has significantly reduced and millions of lives have been saved. For instance, the diphtheria and polio viruses were fully eradicated whilst the spread of the hepatitis A and B viruses declined by 91% and 83%, respectively. Stopping the coronavirus pandemic and saving millions of lives is possible only with vaccination.

Certainly, similar to any other vaccine, medication or food, coronavirus vaccines also have side effects. However, anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) is the most severe of the identified side effects. This why people have to stay under medical supervision for a certain period of time after receiving the vaccine. According to the CDC, the vaccine-related risk is lower as compared to risks associated with severe forms of COVID-19. Of additional note is that an allergic reaction, including anaphylactic shock, is not a unique side effect for the coronavirus vaccine. The similar allergic reaction may be sparked as a result of getting different medications or from ingesting certain foods. According to the health professionals, the full course of the vaccine; that is, two injections are necessary for the maximum efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine. The CDC recommends those who have shown an allergic reaction after getting the first dose of the vaccine to refrain from getting the second dose.

According to Bloomberg’s tracker, 138 million doses have been administered across 73 countries as of 10 February 2021. The American Broadcasting Company, ABC News, reported: “The CDC has not identified any cases in which a vaccine caused a person's death.” The CDC recommends people getting a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible.

The only way to stop the coronavirus pandemic is by achieving herd immunity and mass vaccination is the most effective means to this end. In order to achieve a herd immunity vis-à-vis different types of infections, the majority of the population needs to have a natural (acquired after being infected) and artificial (after vaccination) immunity against a specific infection. Without vaccination, it is impossible to achieve herd immunity, especially in a short period of time. Natural immunity (part of the population which recovered from the disease) determines the immunization coverage figure among the population. According to Georgia’s National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, this figure constitutes not everyone but 60% of Georgia’s adult population (1,691,214 people). Vaccination in Georgia is voluntary and the claim that getting the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory and forcible is a LIE.

FactCheck has already written about this issue.


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