LERATO MONETHI: Don't consume information blindly without testing its validity

OPINION

The low uptake rates for COVID-19 vaccines for those in the age bracket of 35 to 60, especially among males, is disconcerting in the face of a pandemic destroying lives and livelihoods. The deputy director-general of health, Nicholas Crisp, said they were simply not managing to reach that many men over 50 and was pleading that they come forward to be vaccinated.

The apathy shown towards these life-saving vaccines is evidently driven by groupthink, also referred to as "cult mentalism" in political speak, which borders on ignorance. This is due to the unrelenting fear-mongering misinformation and outright lies disseminated through social media platforms that have resulted in their lethargic uptake.

A question we ought to ask ourselves is what benefit the peddlers of misinformation derive from pushing so many people towards long-term disability or their deaths.

Could it be that they want the government to incur a surplus of vaccines to the extent that it affords them an opportunity to denigrate our leaders? Could it be that the objective is to sow mistrust of the government? It would be illogical otherwise to continuously spew this anti-vaccine narrative without a covert benefit.
We should never blindly consume information without internalising it and applying our analytic minds to test its validity.
Let’s dispel some of the misinformation as others are just laughable.

Some of the propaganda advanced relates to a huge number of deaths following vaccinations. This is not true. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority investigated 29 deaths that occurred shortly after the people were vaccinated and could not find any link to the COVID-19 vaccines.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contends that of the 357-million vaccines administered in that country, only 6,789 adverse reactions were reported, which equates to 0.0019% as of 16 August 2021. However, it is important to state that there is no causal link yet identified globally between Covid-19 immunisation and death, as some of the patients may have had existent comorbidities that might have resulted in their death without being vaccinated.

The anti-vaxxers also argue without providing evidence that vaccines alter the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which refers to an individual’s genetic material. This is yet again false. Pfizer used the mRNA technology while Johnson & Johnson uses viral vector technology, none of them access the cell nucleus wherein a person’s genetic material resides. Furthermore both these are shed by the body thereafter.

According to the CDC and medical research in Australia, the Pfizer vaccine has been found to be related to inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and inflammation of the heart membrane (pericarditis) with symptoms presenting as swelling of the leg and stomach as well as shortness of breath, particularly in women below the age of 50. The J&J vaccine has been shown to result in blood clots in the arteries and veins as well as bleeding in tissues due to deficient platelets that are responsible for blood clotting following any blood injury (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia). Furthermore, the CDC contends that in about 8-million vaccines administered, there were only 17 individuals who experienced these serious side effects. We ought to note that these side effects only occur in a minuscule of individuals by numbers versus numbers of the vaccinated to the extent that it is negligible compared to the benefits gained.

The benefits to be gained by getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks associated with infection of COVID-19. It is up to each individual whether to gullibly consume misinformation from people who possibly binge on alcohol albeit aware that it could lead to liver cancer by weighing their options. Would you honestly say that you have weighed your risk of serious complications and long-term effects of contracting COVID-19 or even death through being swayed by unscientific misinformation and lies compared to getting vaccinated? Families have shared harrowing stories of regret from those who shared the same unfounded rejection of the vaccines on their deathbeds. I hope you don’t get to be one of them when life-saving vaccines are available.

Let us all go in numbers to get vaccinated for the public health of our country and the noble quest to achieve 70% herd immunity. This is not just about you as an individual as it has the propensity to affect your family, friends and community. We need to do this for normalcy to return, resulting in economic growth and thus job creation.

We need to applaud our government for accelerating the registration of 18- to 35-year-olds rather than waiting for 1 September to get them vaccinated while sites were empty.

Whether to get vaccinated or not against COVID-19 is a case of known risks and benefits versus death, make an informed choice.

Lerato Monethi is an ANC member and concerned citizen. She writes in her personal capacity.

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