A health worker administers the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac firm, at a makeshift clinic in Bang Khae Market, after hundreds of residents in the district tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Bangkok on March 17, 2021. (AFP / Lillian Suwanrumpha)

Facebook posts give false advice on how to prepare for Covid-19 vaccination

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Facebook posts shared thousands of times have listed purported tips for how people should prepare to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The claims are misleading: many of the purported tips have not been proven to prevent Covid-19 vaccine side effects, according to health experts.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on May 14, 2021. It has been shared more than 2,000 times.

“6 things you should do before getting vaccinated,” the Thai-language claim reads.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on May 27, 2021

The lengthy post includes purported tips to prevent the side effects of Covid-19 vaccination. 

“You should not drink coffee before getting vaccinated with Sinovac,” it says.

“If you get AstraZeneca, you should take fish oil supplements for 1-2 weeks before vaccination because the side effects of AstraZeneca are blood clots, and fish oil can help.”

The post also recommends: avoiding migraine medications; getting a good night’s sleep; and drinking lots of water ahead of your appointment. It also suggests people should receive their jab in the morning, not the afternoon. 

It says that pregnant women and people suffering from fever should not get vaccinated, while cancer patients should “eat flaxseed, and take chelated magnesium 1-2 weeks before vaccination 200mg per day.”

“You should eat one cup of natto (Japanese beans) before vaccination. Because it has Nattokinase, the enzyme to dissolves blood clots.”

As of May 25, Thailand has administered more than 3.1million doses of AstraZeneca and Sinovac Covid-19 jabs. 

A string of countries, including Thailand, briefly suspended the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over fears of rare cases of blood clotting. Scientists say the benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh the risks. 

Identical claims have been shared on Facebook here, here, here and here.

The claims, however, are misleading.

Drinking coffee

This claim appears to originate from cases of heart palpitations in people who received the Sinovac coronavirus jab in Thailand.

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health reported 150 cases of palpitations in people who received the vaccine, but said that they “recovered on the same day”.

Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha, an infectious disease specialist at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said there was no reason people cannot drink coffee before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine.

“Side effects of Sinovac may include palpitations, however, you can drink coffee as long as you know the amount of coffee you should drink without feeling heart palpitations," he said. “Coffee drinkers know their right amount".

For most people, drinking four to five cups of coffee per day does not lead to abnormal heart rhythms, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Fish oil supplements

Dr. Thiravat said it was “untrue” that people should take fish oil supplements before receiving the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. 

“Although fish oil can help protect blood vessels, it is only for the long-term. It is not proven to prevent blood clots,” he said.

Dr. Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, said “there is no academic evidence that fish oil can minimise side effects of Covid-19 vaccines.”

Pregnant woman

Health experts recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UK health body Public Health England, pregnant women are “more likely to get severely ill with Covid-19 compared with non-pregnant people.”

AFP has previously debunked a claim about Covid-19 vaccines pose danger to pregnancies here.

Fever claim

The CDC does not advise against getting the vaccine if you have a “mild illness” as stated in this pre-vaccination checklist for Covid-19 vaccines. 

Part of the document states: “Mild illnesses are NOT contraindications to vaccination”.

However, the current recommendation is to delay vaccination in cases of “moderate or severe acute illness” until the symptoms are improved.

Dr. Thiravat said: “It is recommended to postpone your appointment if you have fever and identify the causes of your fever as soon as possible.”

Cancer patients

Experts recommend cancer patients as a high priority group for vaccination, according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a US-based non profit network for cancer centres.

However, those who have just had a stem cell transplant or received CAR T-cell therapy, or those who typically receive immunosuppressive therapy, are advised to delay Covid-19 vaccination until at least three months after they have completed treatment. The advice is published here on the American National Cancer Institute’s website.

Due to the varying levels of severity of cancer, patients should talk to their doctors whether they should get Covid-19 vaccination or not. 

Natto and magnesium

Dr. Thira said "there is no scientific proof" that taking magnesium can prevent vaccine side effects.

There is also no evidence that taking Japanese soy-based food natto can prevent the side effects of receiving a coronavirus jab.

Although there are studies showing the benefits of nattokinase -- the enzyme which is produced during natto’s fermentation process -- in dissolving blood clots, scientists have not recommended it for people receiving Covid-19 vaccines.

Side effects vary

According to health experts, the possible side effects of vaccines vary from person to person. 

Dr. Thiravat said: “Vaccines are like an unknown matter to our body, that’s why our bodies respond to it by making the inflammatory process to resist it. This reaction differs from person to person.” 

The most common side effects from the jab include a sore arm, fever and fatigue, according to the World Health Organization.