Covid-19 Vaccines: The Facts, the Controversies and the Misconceptions

Feb 01, 2021
In the second part of our mini-series on the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines we look at the facts, controversies and misconceptions.

In recent months, the United Kingdom has approved and begun to roll-out the Coronavirus vaccine.

By September, it is hoped that the vaccine will have been offered to everybody. This would pave the way for the population as a whole to be immunised from Covid-19, offering a way out of lockdown.

Some of the details of what vaccination is, how it works, how effective it is and who can be vaccinated have been overshadowed by claims about the vaccine’s effectiveness.

We have addressed some of these themes in a previous blog, The Covid-19 Vaccines: An Overview. In this follow-up, we take a look at the controversies, the misconceptions and the facts around the Covid-19 vaccines.

We believe it is important to address this issue because of how central the roll-out of the vaccines will be to how the country responds to the pandemic in the coming months. Though the vaccines have been developed quickly they have passed through each of the rigorous steps that are required before a vaccine can be rolled out to the public – including extensive trials on volunteers.

The Vaccine: Controversies and Misconceptions

The Coronavirus vaccines (there are currently three approved for use in the UK) have been subject to a number of inaccurate or misleading claims.

In recent months, misconceptions and misleading information have spread rapidly on both social media and via some news outlets.

According to the BBC, the vaccine is the fastest to go from concept to reality, taking only ten months to proceed through the normal steps for a vaccine to be developed and approved.

In some quarters, this has led to people expressing reservations about the vaccines that aren’t based on fact.


One is the claim that the vaccine edits your DNA. According to Reuters, this claim has been shared widely on social media.


DNA vaccines do not integrate the DNA of a virus into the cells of your body. Instead, they inject part of the virus’ DNA or RNA into tissues to create an immune response from your body. None of these vaccines can change your DNA.



In April, claims that the first volunteer in a Covid-19 vaccine trial had died.


The volunteer, Dr Elisa Granato, had not died and the stories were completely untrue.



Claims about Bill Gates’ involvement with Covid-19 vaccines have spread extensively online. Claiming that he owns the patent and the vaccine for Covid-19 and that he is a ‘partner in the lab in Wuhan, China’.


Firstly, there is no patent for Covid-19. So there is no one who ‘owns’ the virus. Nor does Gates own the property rights for any of the vaccines – These are owned by companies like Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and by AstraZeneca, as tends to be the norm when it comes to vaccine development.



One thing we’ve seen on social media and heard claimed in real life is that the vaccine



It has been claimed the virus was created in a lab in Wuhan, China and was man-made. This claim has even been encouraged by United States politician Mike Pompeo when he has a member of the American cabinet.  


While the outbreak started in Wuhan, there is no evidence it began in a lab and no evidence the virus is man-made.

The World Health Organisation is currently investigating the origins of the virus. The virus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it ‘jumped’ from an animal to humans. 



Another claim about Gates, suggests that he was using the vaccine to inject microchips into people. This is categorically false. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that this misconception has gained support amongst some audiences. In America, the number of people who believe Gates is planning to use vaccines to implant microchips into people appears to be as high as 28%.


This is clearly not true. This misconception goes back years but continues to be invoked.



If you have allergies the vaccine will make you ill.


This is a misunderstanding of otherwise accurate information. Those with certain specific allergies could be at risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Your doctor will ask you about your allergies and will be able to accurately determine whether you are at risk. Most people with allergies will not be at risk.

The official advice states “Any person with a history of a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food (such as previous history of anaphylactoid reaction or those who have been advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector)”.

Therefore this does not apply to other allergies.



Vaccination causes autism.


This is a long-running myth about vaccines which long predates Covid-19, though it has resurfaced in recent months. This myth dates back to a paper which was retracted after it was found to be fraudulent.

As the online publication Quartz have argued, this myth also treats people with autism in a way that is unfair and offensive by implying autism means someone is ‘not normal’.



There is pork in the vaccine – or other meat or egg.


This claim has circulated online in recent weeks but is not accurate at all. No approved Covid-19 vaccine contains meat or any other animal products. 

 Where to find reliable information on the vaccines and the pandemic?

Though we have covered a range of common misconceptions and sought to clarify them, there are many out there. Because of this there is value in knowing where to find good research and news coverage which can help you learn about a subject like this.

Now more than eve there is a real need to be able to differentiate between evidence-based and factual news coverage and information. In the age of social media and fake news, and with the country in the midst of a pandemic, avoiding misleading or inaccurate information is crucial.

Below we have put a number of reliable official sources and media outlets for information about the pandemic:

British Medical Journal’s Covid Hub

World Health Organisation


UK Government


The Lancet’s Covid Archive

BBC News

Channel 4 News

 The Real Impact of these Misconceptions

These misconceptions are having real impacts on confidence in the vaccine. With the Covid-19 outbreak currently at a very serious level, this could have a damaging impact and reduce the number of people who get immunised from the virus.

Recent polling suggests around 19% of people were either unsure or unwilling to get the vaccine. This was for a variety of reasons including people worrying they would not be eligible or believing they would not need it having already had the virus. However, this also included worries about the virus based on misconceptions or rumours they had seen on social media.

The same polling also suggests that those from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to have reservations about taking the vaccine.

Only 55% of Asian respondents said they were willing to get the vaccine, though a high proportion of those who would not get the vaccine said they could change their mind. The same poll also found those on lower incomes tended to be more sceptical of the vaccine.

This is particularly worrying as all of these groups have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic. There is a risk that low take-up could seriously hamper efforts to immunise the population.

With the pandemic having caused so much tragedy so far, immunisation is a real priority for the country.

Our local NHS Mental Health Trust has posted an easy to read leaflet on the vaccines here. You can also watch the trust’s clinical lead, Fungai Nembaware, explain why she got the vaccine in a short video here.

We spoke to Dr Louise Miller at length on our podcast The Word on Wellbeing about the vaccine in early January, you can listen here.

We will be addressing this issue in subsequent blogs, so stay tuned!

If you’ve got any questions about the vaccine hit us up at [email protected] or on our social media:

Photo credit: Flickr/Metropolitan Transport Authority.


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