Some doctors, who are known for their anti-vaccination viewpoints, have shared an advisory stating that unmarried women, children, people with breathing issues, people who smoke or drink alcohol, people with neurological issues, and those who have diabetes should not take the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, we found that some of the claims were misleading. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and vaccine manufacturers have already issued guidelines on who should and should not take the vaccine. The guidelines don’t mention the points that the viral claim carried.
The claim was shared in the form of an advisory which was titled, “Who should ‘not’ the vaccine?”.
The advisory went on to list six categories of people who should not take the vaccine. Those are:
- Unmarried women should stay away from the vaccine as it can lead to infertility
- Children should not take it as it can cause diseases in the future
- Anybody who has ever suffered from respiratory disorders like pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis as the vaccine can lead to death due to the side effects
- Those who smoke or consume alcohol, as it can cause cancer
- People with neurological issues, as the vaccine can further aggravate the symptoms
- Diabetics should not take the vaccine as the vaccine’s side effects could lead to death
The advisory was signed off by a few doctors, some of whom - Dr Tarun Kothari, Dr Biswaroop Roy Choudhary - have been known to spread medical misinformation and conspiracy theories.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
Dr Kothari and Dr Choudhary have questioned the existence of novel coronavirus and have dismissed it as the flu and continue to do so despite being fact-checked several times. Some of their claims have been debunked by FIT previously.
CLAIM 1: Unmarried women may become infertile
The safety and efficacy data for the vaccines approved in India -Covaxin and Covishield - have been studied and infertility was not one of the side effects mentioned.
The fact-sheets released by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech also do not mention that unmarried women should avoid the vaccine.
Speaking to ANI, VG Somani, director of the Drug Controller General of India, said that “there may be minor side effects such as mild fever, pain and allergies after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but the claim that it affects fertility is absolute rubbish”.
A similar claim was also made about the vaccine produced by Pfizer which was debunked by FIT.
CLAIM 2: Children should not take it as it can cause diseases in the future
Until now, the MoHFW has only permitted vaccines to be administered to people over the age of 18. The age cap comes from the fact that people under the age of 18 were not part of the trials conducted to test the safety ad efficacy of the vaccines.
This point in the advisory, therefore, is absurd as one can not claim that vaccines will cause diseases in future when it hasn’t even been tested.
Moreover, studies and tests are being conducted to make an intranasal vaccine for easy administration. AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said in a recent interview, “Vaccines for children may come later...Bharat Biotech is trying to get approved a nasal vaccine. Such a vaccine will be very easy to be given to children as it is a spray and not a jab and hence compliance is more.”
CLAIM 3: Anybody who has ever suffered from respiratory disorders
Neither the MoHFW nor the manufacturers have specifically mentioned these or diseases people with respiratory disorders to not take the vaccine. We also found a report published on the British Lung Foundation’s website that said that people with lungs disorder can take the vaccine.
However, the guidelines issued by the MoHFW have mentioned that anyone who is acutely ill or hospitalised with any disease should not take the vaccine. It is also advisable to consult one’s regular physician in case of any severe comorbidities.
CLAIM 4: Those who smoke or consume alcohol, as it can cause cancer
Like the previous claims, this contraindication has not been mentioned in the guidelines released by the government and manufacturers.
On the contrary, smokers are being given the first preference in the United States of America as they are more at-risk from the novel coronavirus.
CLAIM 5: People with neurological issues should not take the vaccine
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had to stop its clinical trial after a patient displayed neurological symptoms during the study. It was later reported that the patient was supposedly suffering from a rare but serious spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.
It is also advised that people should consult with their regular physician before taking the vaccine if they are seriously ill.
CLAIM 6: Diabetics should not take the vaccine
As per the guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, people, between the ages of 45-59, who have been suffering from diabetes for more than 10 years or have complications induced by diabetes and have a problem of hypertension as well will also be allowed to take the vaccine along with people over the age of 60.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that diabetics take the vaccine soon to avoid getting the virus.
The government has clearly stated that a certain group of people - people who are pregnant/lactating, people with a history of anaphylactic or allergic reactions, people with an allergy to injectable therapies, pharma products - should not take the vaccine.
Additionally, those exhibiting symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 should also wait for 2-4 weeks before taking the vaccine.
The knowledge about the disease and its vaccine is rapidly developing, but the claims made in the advisory are unscientific and misleading.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women. It was flagged to us by our partner organisation Video Volunteers.)
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