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Opinion - Vaccination will not make you a crocodile

2021-09-09  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Vaccination will not make you a crocodile

Howard S. Armistead


When was the last time you crossed a busy highway without looking both ways before you stepped into traffic? You might be lucky enough to make it across without a scratch, or all cars might come to a screeching halt to let you pass. 

However, there is a good chance you would be hit, injured, or killed. The same holds true with the Covid-19 pandemic. The only difference is that with the new, doubly contagious, more dangerous Delta variant, sometime in the next two years you are almost guaranteed to be hit with this potentially fatal infection. You will get sick. If you are not vaccinated, you are likely to end up in a critical-care bed in the hospital – if one is available – or dead. 

If you are vaccinated, you might not get sick at all. Alternatively, you may experience cold or flu-like symptoms and spend a few feverish, aching days in bed. Ask yourself, can you afford the medical bills for a month’s hospital stay? Are you ready to give up everything you own or have worked for your whole life - and your family – forever, to reside in a box six feet under? Or would you rather get a free life-saving vaccine jab? Now is the time to decide. Once you get sick six days, weeks, or months from now, it is too late. Get the jab now! 

Facts are facts. However, legions of people on social media are trying to confuse others with distorted information. Do not be fooled by scammers, fools or fanatics. Believing them will kill you. Some misinformation is crazy, like when the president of Brazil claimed a vaccine would turn a person into a crocodile – or a chimpanzee. President Bolsonaro caught Covid-19 after he refused to wear a mask or get vaccinated. Despite the best medical attention, he ended up hick-upping uncontrollably for ten days. Not getting vaccinated turned him into a horse’s ass.  Too many have died already. In one
week in July 2021, two people I really liked passed away. One was the car guard at the parking lot where I work. Bongani was almost 50. I shared many lunches with him, and he always waved as I entered and left the lot. 

I was shocked when he died. That same week one of my favourite pharmacists Danny passed away. When I learned he was 84 years old, I was surprised because he was lively, fit, and sharp as a tack. Somehow, he had believed the antivax junk on social media and failed to get vaccinated. He was a highly intelligent, successful man. The virus took him in two weeks. But it was really the lies and distortions on social media that killed him. He did not have to die. Neither did the American radio host or the Tanzanian president. All were victims of anti-scientific propaganda. Do not let this happen to you. 

Every mother knows that babies need their shots. In past centuries millions of children died annually of childhood diseases. Now, because of almost universal vaccination, few do. Maybe that is why women are more inclined to get vaccinated than men. Is it possible grown men fear a vaccine shot - the same thing they received when they were babies? Hard to believe. Now is the time to man-up to protect your own life, your family, friends, and co-workers. Only the smart survive. The strong, strong headed, and confused but unvaccinated may not. Which side will you be on? Pick fast. When Covid comes calling – which it will soon - it will be too late. Get vaccinated today. For some people, next month will not be soon enough. What would your family do without you? 


Saving lives

Vaccinations have saved lives for over 200 years. Chinese gave the first inoculations about 1500, for smallpox. In 1778, Englishman Edward Jenner perfected the system of using scabs from cowpox survivors to inoculate against killer smallpox. That inspired the word vaccine, from vacca, the Latin word for cow. Louie Pasteur of France developed vaccines against cholera in 1897, and anthrax in 1904. Today there are vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, rubella, rabies, measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio, hepatitis-B, influenza, and numerous other infectious and contagious diseases. They save tens of millions of lives each year including many children who in the past often died before age five. Most nations require children to be vaccinated before they start school because the classroom is a convenient place for kids to share germs and take them home, including Covid. Many childhood injections combine up to three vaccines into one shot, making them more convenient. Almost every person alive today has received one or more vaccination against disease. While many men may have forgotten their childhood shots, mothers know better.

Some diseases like HIV remain stubbornly resistant to vaccine development. Fortunately for the world, advances in technology and science allowed researchers to develop the current crop of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-2) virus in record time. The Moderna mRNA vaccine was developed in a record 43 days. That sounds fast, but that was based on over two decades of dedicated scientific work developing a new advanced methodology for creating this messenger-RNA based vaccine, and by studying previous coronaviruses – SARS and MERS. Once a new vaccine has been designed and developed, it undergoes rigorous testing.   As a precaution, phase-one vaccine trials are conducted on animals to determine if they are safe enough to try on humans. Phase-two trials enrol several hundred volunteers to see if the vaccine is generally safe in people and effective against the virus. If they are, then much larger phase-three trials including many thousands of participants determine precisely how effective the vaccine is and detail what side effects it may have. Almost every drug has side effects in some people. Vaccines do too. Large phase-three trials determine what percentage of people experience what side effects. This effort does not end with phase three. Monitoring and data collection continue for several years after vaccines are approved. 

Although all vaccines against Covid-19 cause side effects in a few people, those are generally mild. None are life threatening, and most affect only a tiny fraction of a percentage of those vaccinated. Most of those same negative health conditions are seen in people that get Covid-19. But those occur ten to a hundred times more frequently and usually more severe than in those that are vaccinated.  The worst possible result is death. While no death has been directly attributed to taking a Covid vaccine, millions who have not been vaccinated have died after getting Covid. Scaremongers have lied about and exaggerated potential vaccine side effects. They ignore the enormously greater danger of the killer disease itself. Those who fall for those false arguments endanger not only themselves but their families and communities. There is no award for the disillusioned bravery of ending up a pandemic statistic.    

No vaccine is ever 100% effective in preventing infection. What is the Covid vaccine designed to protect against? Vaccines protect against serious disease – the kind that sends one to the hospital or the grave.

A vaccine imitates viral infection and triggers immune system B-cells to produce millions of virus-suppressing antibodies. When an infection eventually occurs, those antibodies attach to viruses and reduce their chance of infecting cells. A vaccine also primes other parts of the immune system to resist if that specific germ enters the body. Vaccination never completely prevents an infection. Instead, it helps prevent an initial infection from taking hold once it does enter the body. Ideally, it clears the infection so quickly one never realises they were infected. Most Covid vaccines were initially 88% to 95% effective in stopping serious infections and even more effective in preventing hospitalisations and deaths. That was until the delta variant appeared in many countries in May 2021 and quickly became the predominant strain worldwide.    

After vaccination, it takes one month for full potency to develop. Likewise, with the second shot, protection is not instant. However, after six to eight months, antibody protection begins to wane even though other aspects of immunity may remain robust. Nevertheless, solid protection remains against severe disease. 

Like influenza, SARS-2 mutates. With tens of millions infected, it has millions of human laboratories in which to create novel mutations. It is possible variants even worse than delta may emerge in the next year or two. Vaccine developers are constantly on guard against challenging mutations and can design new vaccine editions when dangerous variants spread. As vaccine effectiveness gradually declines and new variants emerge, people will need booster shots. As SARS-2 becomes endemic and continues to circulate, people may require a fresh vaccination annually. This is the new reality. Many who refuse to get vaccinated will not be around to worry about their third and fourth annual jab. The Delta variant potentially has a mortality rate of up to 10% in places that do not provide the highest level of hospital care. When hospitals reach overcapacity, as they did in India, many will finally run out of luck. 

In the initial wave of Covid-19 it was obvious younger people were not as affected as the elderly or those with comorbidities like obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. They took the brunt of the first wave. Delta changed all that. Now younger, healthier, middle-aged, and even school students are getting seriously ill and dying. Do not fool yourself thinking you have a strong immune system. That does not fool this virus. 

Unfortunately, vaccination usually
comes with initial, short-term side effects: a few hours, or a day or two of fatigue and cold or flu-like symptoms. Some feel nothing. Some may be laid up in bed for a day. That is a meagre price to pay for survival once the viral storm eventually hits when least expected – which it will. Vaccination is a virus survival insurance policy, on the cheap.   

Originally, scientists thought herd immunity would be reached once 70% of people either had been vaccinated or had recovered from infection. Now with the more contagious Delta variant, they estimate herd immunity will be reached only once 90% of people are. Those already recovered from Covid may not be protected from the newer variants. Surprisingly, some report that people that have been infected are more likely to be re-infected. However, for those who have had Covid, just one vaccine jab provides as much protection as two shots provide most people.     

Do not bet your entire life on anti-science propaganda. You will lose. Will a vaccination turn you into a crocodile or chimpanzee? Look in the mirror and see what you see. Look again in two years. If you do not get vaccinated, in two years when you look, you might not see anything at all. 

*Howard Armstead is an AIDS, Ebola, and Covid-19 researcher. He is director of the Selenium Education and Research Centre (SERC) in Johannesburg. For more information, visit

2021-09-09  Staff Reporter

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