GP dispels common COVID-19 vaccine myths

GP dispels common COVID-19 vaccine myths

There is plenty of information out there about the COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors say the only person you should be taking advice from is your GP.

Sydney GP Dr Ken McCroary spoke with the Leader about common vaccine myths and misinformation.

His message was simple: "You wouldn't come to me and ask for advice on your plumbing or electricity, you'd talk to your plumber or electrician and the same rule applies for medicine."

Macarthur General Practice GP Dr Ken McCroary and his team. Pictures: Supplied

Macarthur General Practice GP Dr Ken McCroary and his team. Pictures: Supplied

There are some common misconceptions/rumours floating around social media about the available COVID-19 vaccines, including that the vaccine is not effective against the current Delta strain of the virus. What would you say to dispel this misconception?

"I agree, there are a lot of misconceptions and misrepresentations spreading out there and I think this comes from our leaders' shifting opinions, as well as 24-hour media coverage putting so many different opinions out there. I think we need to stick to the facts.

There is mounting evidence, particularly from the UK that AstraZeneca (AZ), in particular, is reducing hospitalisation and death.

In the UK they are still getting 25,000 cases a day, however, back then (before the vaccine) there were 800 deaths a day.

They are still getting 25,000 cases a day but it is down to 18 deaths which is about a 98 per cent reduction."

Does the vaccine cure COVID-19? Or is it more of a prevention tool?

"It is actually not a cure or prevention. What it does is minimise the severe effects of the virus.

So with AstraZeneca you cut 50 per cent of the risk of severe side effects seven days after receiving it, and by 12 weeks you cut 90 per cent of the risk.

The issue that we currently have in the south-west outbreak is that we have a significantly under-vaccinated population.

You cannot protect an under-vaccinated population without isolation, social distancing and good hygiene rules."

Macarthur General Practice GP Dr Ken McCroary.

Macarthur General Practice GP Dr Ken McCroary.

Another worry for some is that the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots. Is this true?

"There is mass confusion out there about this. The vaccine does not cause typical blood clots, however it can cause a very rare condition that reduces platelets in our blood.

This can cause the body to think it might bleed out resulting in clotting. But this is very rare and it has nothing to with the pill, DVT or any of those common clotting concerns.

People with a history of clotting are safe from the effects of the vaccine.

The take home message here is that the vaccine does not cause typical blood clots, but can lead to a rare platelet condition.

I am getting my second dose of AZ this week with absolutely no hesitation and I am 51. One of my practice nurses is 31 and she is getting her second dose next week, as is the 32-year-old doctor in the room next door to me.

We decided to get AZ as we knew it would be what most of our patients would be getting, and that they were anxious about it. So we wanted to show them that we would get it too."

Some more extreme theories include that the virus alters DNA or causes infertility. What would you say to dispel these misconceptions?

"There is no concern for fertility or our DNA. The vaccine basically puts a piece of protein into our body to create an antibody. It's basically just a missing jigsaw piece.

There is no scientific evidence that the vaccines alter DNA or cause infertility."

People are expressing fear of extreme side effects related to the vaccines. How common are the more severe side effects?

"The severe side effects may affect 1.6 per 100000 people over 50 and 2.6 per 100000 people under 50.

It is incredibly rare. And now for that 1 in 100000 that might be affected we can actually treat the clots without sending them to hospital with the use of a drug called Doac.

They can be treated in the community without the need for hospitalisation."

Some young people believe that if they get COVID the symptoms will be mild. What would you say to encourage young people to remain vigilant?

"Right now I would be telling them to stay at home.

There is a greater chance of young people having less severe symptoms and older people having more severe symptoms, but vaccination reduces the risks across all age groups.

As a vaccinated 20-year-old, you would have less chance of passing the virus onto your older loved ones as well."

Who should people be listening to when it comes to which vaccine is right for them, and when they should receive it?

"Your most trusted medical professional - usually that would be your family doctor.

Talk to them about protection and prevention so you don't get mixed messages.

Get the information from your GP.

You wouldn't come to me and ask for advice on your plumbing or electricity, you'd talk to your plumber or electrician and the same rule applies for medicine.

Talk to the person who will be giving you the vaccine."

Is there anything else you would like to add?

"I know it is confusing, I understand the mass amount of hesitancy out there.

Seek out your GP and get the factual information, not information based on bias or agenda."