SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF), even though Covid-free at the moment, is still at risk of infections of the Covid-19 virus. The clients of the WYCCF are amongst the highest risk groups. So, considering that for this group an infection could be lethal, the Covid-19 prevention protocol is followed very strictly.
Rapid testing of clients and staff is done frequently and with all new admissions. Even though this is going very well, and there haven't been any cases since November, this is not a long-term solution to this pandemic. Also, because the social interaction of our clients has been severely impacted with no visitors in our buildings and no family outings and events.
We see daily how this affects the quality of life of our clients. The WYCCF is therefore looking forward to receiving Covid-19 vaccines, that the Netherlands is planning to share with Sint Maarten. The Netherlands plans to administer the first vaccines at the start of January 2021, and the WYCCF hopes that the vaccines will reach Sint Maarten that same month.
As there are currently a lot of different stories going around about vaccines, the WYCCF decided to do an internal exploratory survey, to see how its staff, clients, and family members of our clients think about this vaccine. The results of this survey were clear: a lot of uncertainties and doubts, and many persons were still not sure if they would take the vaccine or not, simply because they do not know enough about it.
The speed of development and long-term side effects were most often indicated as the sources for doubt. More information was requested, so the WYCCF commenced its information campaign. This started last week with the goal to inform its staff, clients, and family members about vaccination in general, and specifically, the Covid-19 vaccine.
In three infographic videos, the basics of vaccines were covered. The first one explains how a vaccine works, and the second touches on all the mandatory steps and rules around the development of a vaccine. In the last video, it was explained how this Covid-19 vaccine was produced within a year, while this process normally takes 10 to 15 years. It only makes sense to be cautious when hearing these numbers, but there are actually very logical explanations why it could be produced so fast.
For starters, the type of virus (which is similar to the SARS virus in 2003) was already under research. So, since they are so similar, they didn’t have to start from scratch with this new Covid-19 virus. Adding to that, China shared the genetic code of the virus in January of this year, after which scientists from all over the world could start working on it.
The second big reason that explains why this was possible so fast, is that it normally takes years to gather enough funding and to recruit enough volunteers. But because of the global pandemic, this was no problem at all. Volunteers were lining up, and money was not an issue. All over the world, governments and scientists worked together towards one common goal.
Lastly, because of the high need for a solution to this pandemic, different steps in the developmental process could be executed at the same time, where they normally happen one after another. For example, stages 2 and 3 in the clinical phase happened simultaneously. They have also started producing the vaccines, even before it was officially approved, which saved a lot of time.
It is very important, however, to realize that no steps in the development process can be skipped and that the rules for a vaccine to be approved are always the same. Even if the global need for it is sky high, safety always comes first. The Covid-19 vaccines that are officially approved, can therefore be considered just as safe as any other vaccine that we have all been using for decades like the flu-shot, hepatitis, or polio (which was also developed very fast).
Something else that came out of the survey is that it is not that easy to get informed on the matter because of the overload of information on the internet and on social media. The problem, however, is that scientific research is often oversimplified or misinterpreted to create a sensation in the media. On the other end, the scientific articles themselves are often too complicated to read.
Unfortunately, there is also too much fake information purposely shared which can overshadow facts, so you don’t know what to believe anymore. For this reason, the WYCCF debunked the most common myths about the Covid-19 vaccine in a series of 3 infographics, which were shared amongst its staff and on social media.
Among those myths was that ''the vaccine would cause severe side effects''. While it is true that a small portion of people experienced mild side effects, this is only the immune system responding to the vaccine. So, this is a good thing, because that means the vaccine works (and the body will start to produce antibodies).
Only a handful of people experienced more serious side effects, within minutes after receiving their first dose. It is suspected that these persons had underlying allergies because no direct link could be found between these incidents and the vaccine. Another interesting one was the claim that ''the vaccine would change your DNA''. Rest assured; the Pfizer vaccine uses a RNA messenger that does not do anything to your DNA.
Also, a common one is that ''the vaccine contains toxic ingredients and preservatives''. With this one, it is important to understand that dosage is everything. Even water becomes toxic when the dosage is too high. All the doses of the ingredients in a single vaccine are so low, that they are NOT considered toxic. Lastly: ''If everybody else gets vaccinated, I don’t have to''.
It is important to realize that you’re not only doing it for yourself but also for others around you who can’t get the vaccine. For example, people who have HIV or who are going through chemotherapy can’t get vaccinated and are therefore at risk. All the debunked myths and infographic videos, as well as a detailed elaboration about the topic and links, can be found on the WYCCF Facebook page: facebook.com/whiteandyellowcrosscarefoundation
With this info campaign, the WYCCF aims to inform its staff, clients, and client’s family members properly so they can make an informed decision when the vaccine arrives in Sint Maarten. For now, we hope that this will be around the end of January, and since the clients of the WYCCF are considered amongst the highest risk groups, it is expected that they would be among the first ones to receive the vaccine.
It remains unsure still, how many vaccines will arrive in Sint Maarten, but the WYCCF already started its preparations to make sure everything can go as smooth and safe as possible. It should be noted that taking the vaccine will not be mandatory. However, we hope that with the provided information, a lot of the initial worries and uncertainties about the vaccine have been taken away. For the safety of our clients, it is very important that as many people as possible take the vaccine so we can eradicate the virus and go back to our normal way of living.
White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation – Protected Together