Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) country representative Dr Erica Wheeler has said WHO-approved covid19 vaccines are not trial vaccines.
As the vaccine hesitancy continues, Wheeler, speaking at Thursday’s THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development’s virtual news conference, said the reason behind the quick approval of the vaccine was the “unprecedented financial investment and scientific collaboration between vaccine manufacturers.”
Some people have said the vaccines were approved too quickly.
But Wheeler explained: “Covid19 vaccines are not trial or experimental vaccines. They have been evaluated through a rigorous, multi-stage testing process – including studies that included people at high risk of serious illness from contracting covid19 like those with NCDs, were designed to identify side effects or other safety concerns, (and) were reviewed by international experts and regulatory bodies before approval by WHO experts for EUL (emergency use licence).”
She said the use of the word "emergency" in the phrase "emergency use authorisation" refers to the nature of the pandemic, and not the vaccine itself.
She discredited several “fictitious claims” circulating on social media about the vaccines, specifically the claim the vaccines contained microchips and can alter one’s DNA.
“Microchips have never, ever been used in vaccines and are not part of the vaccines. Vaccines cannot change your DNA,” she stressed, adding that the vaccines also do not cause infertility.
“Infertility is not as a result of vaccination – that has never happened, there is no proof of that and in fact, some participants to the studies in those tens of thousands of people, they have actually got pregnant during the studies.”
On the delta variant being confirmed in TT, she said it is twice as infectious as the original strain of covid19, and 50 per cent more infectious than other detected variants of concern.
“The delta variant is more infectious than the UK variant and the South African variant. The delta variant was originally detected in India.
"New evidence shows that if people have been infected with delta, they can still be at increased risk of reinfection, and this is really important. Most people infected by the delta variant to date are unvaccinated people and they have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms that require hospitalisation.”
She said more variants are expected to emerge, adding that vaccination does not cause mutation, which is a naturally occurring process in viruses.
“Preventing the transmission is the only way to avoid the generation of variants.
"That is why all the control and public health measures should be maintained alongside vaccination – wearing masks, social distancing, isolation of cases, quarantine of contacts – regardless of the circulating variant.”
The good news, she said is that vaccines are effective against covid19 variants.
“People who’ve taken both doses of an approved WHO vaccine have an extra layer of protection and are less likely to face severe illness or death. The delta infection among vaccinated people is rare, but if they are infected, they are unlikely to develop severe symptoms or need hospitalisation.”
She reported that as of Wednesday, there were over two million cases of covid19 globally, and deaths have exceeded four million globally. Over four billion doses of vaccines have been administered to date.
“That says a lot about issues of quality safety and effectiveness.”
She said in the PAHO region, 32 countries have received over 35 million doses, with a further 346,560 in transit, noting that there are countries which imported vaccines from other regions.
“As of yesterday (Wednesday), PAHO has delivered vaccines to 28 of those 32 countries, totalling over 17 million doses, with a further 72,000 in transit.”
She said 33,600 vaccines has arrived in TT, the last tranche of the current round of Covax vaccines.
“This does not mean that there is no possibility of receiving more Covax vaccines, but this is a decision that the government will make, based on predictions about further sources of incoming vaccines.”
She said in addition, PAHO has now made arrangements with manufacturers and will be independently providing vaccines to the populations of TT and the Caribbean.