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How to navigate that casual vaccine chat at your next gathering

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It’s safe to say social events are a little different these days. You might be more likely to chat about COVID-19 or vaccines than the footy or what’s new on Netflix.

Do you feel armed with the facts when these hot topics come up at dinner? What about the group chat? Do you know what’s in a vaccine? What does a vaccine even do? Let’s look at some common questions and statements so you can talk all things vaccine with a little more ease and confidence.

What does a vaccine even do?

Vaccines help your body’s immune system fight diseases.

We’ve been using them for the better part of a century, and they are to thank for the world being (mostly) rid of diseases like polio.

They don't treat the disease once you have caught it, but rather prevent it or reduce its severity.

Why do we need them, especially if we’re already wearing masks and practising social distancing?

The COVID-19 vaccine is our best asset for fighting this virus - they have been proven to reduce the serious effects of COVID-19 in people who become infected with the virus.

True - we do have safety measures in place like washing hands, mask wearing, social distancing and testing to help stop the spread of the virus, and we should keep practicing them until told otherwise.

But do we want to live this way forever? And is it good for our mental health? What about travel for work, holidays or to visit family and friends?

The COVID-19 vaccine is still the best way to protect people long-term against severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The vaccine was developed too quickly - there’s no way I am having it

The COVID-19 vaccines have been through the same processes as all other vaccines, the path just looked a little different.

While it may appear the COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, like every other vaccine before, they went through the same rigorous testing. No testing phase was skipped but for these important vaccines researchers and international governments worked together to streamline some of the processes that often slow down the approvals process, making it available to the public faster to save lives earlier.

Everyone is against the vaccine - it’s all over the news about how bad it is

That is not correct. Most people in Queensland are supportive of receiving the vaccine and most Queenslanders understand its importance.

Every day we are bombarded with information (and misinformation) about COVID-19 and it’s tricky to sort out what’s true and what’s not. There are ways to navigate yourself through the wave of information using the tips in our blog A dose of common sense.

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Who even knows what they put in vaccines these days?

It’s no secret, the full list of ingredients is publicly available to anyone who wants to know.

The bulk of the ingredients in the two key COVID-19 vaccines - Pfizer and AstraZeneca - can be found in your kitchen pantry. These include water, sugar and salt.

The active ingredients, the parts that make the vaccine work, are a little different for each vaccine.

Check out our blog for more detail on the ingredients and how they work in your body.

Many people have died from the vaccine already

Deaths are much more likely to be coincidental, rather than directly caused by the vaccine, even in vulnerable, frail and elderly people.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that there are no deaths attributed to COVID-19 vaccines, with over 92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through to March 8, 2021.

All medicines and vaccines can cause side effects and most of these are minor. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of side effects.

I heard someone got COVID from the vaccine

This is not possible, as neither vaccine contains live virus. Each vaccine is made so you can’t get the disease you are being protected against.

I heard the vaccine can change your DNA

It is not possible for the vaccine to change your DNA.

The Pfizer vaccine use Messenger RNA (mRNA), which is very different from DNA. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines contain genetic material that gives instructions for your cells to make a piece of protein, the same "spike protein" that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Your immune system recognises this protein does not belong there and begins to produce antibodies, training your body to respond if you get the real virus.

When your body responds to the vaccine, it can sometimes cause a mild fever, headache or chills. This is normal and a sign that the vaccine is working.

The cell breaks down and your body gets rid of the mRNA soon after it has used the instructions to train your immune system.

It does not affect or interact with your DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.

I heard the vaccine causes severe side effects

Common side effects are mild to very mild for most people. In fact, seeing the mild side effects can show that the vaccine is stimulating your immune system and it is responding, learning and adapting.

A very small number of people experience anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) from vaccines – this is a rare response, and usually occurs where people have a history of severe allergy or anaphylaxis. The health professionals administering the vaccines are prepared for this.

We have procedures in place at all our vaccination locations, like waiting a minimum period of time under supervision after having your vaccination, to ensure no one has any unexpected or unsupervised reaction.

When you hear some media outlets reporting about severe reactions, you need to remember that we are vaccinating very large numbers of people over a short period of time. A certain number of unexpected and unusual reactions are going to happen in the period following vaccination by chance.A group of friends eating at a restaurant

I heard the vaccine affects people’s fertility if they’re trying to have a baby

There is no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility.

The mechanism that allows the vaccine to work doesn’t utilise the reproductive (physical or hormonal) system of either men or women, so it doesn’t make sense for the vaccine to impact anyone in this way.

If you are planning to have a baby, or pregnant, you can find out more by reading our COVID-19 vaccine pregnancy blog here.

I heard that you can’t get the vaccine if you’re breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine at any time. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination.

Breastfeeding women can safely receive almost all other vaccines. For more information, have a read of the Australian Government’s decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy.

How can I help my friends and family get better educated about the COVID-19 vaccines?

We have a helpful blog, A dose of common sense, that provides useful tips on how to source truthful and reliable vaccine information.

Here are some other reliable sites to help you, your friends and family stay informed:

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Last updated: 7 April 2021