A health worker administers Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Banda Aceh on February 16, 2021. (AFP / Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Misleading Facebook posts claim Covid-19 vaccine increases risk of catching the novel coronavirus

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Multiple Facebook posts share a claim that people become more prone to Covid-19 infection after they receive their first of two vaccine doses. The claim is misleading: while people who have received the Covid-19 jab can still contract the virus, getting the vaccine itself does not increase the risk of Covid-19 infection. 

The claim was posted here on March 25, 2021 in a Facebook group with more than 35,000 members.

“For those who have received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, please don’t do too much physically or mentally draining activities.. Do rest and don’t go outside,” the Indonesian-language text partly reads.

“It is because we would be more prone to catch the virus after getting the jab, as our immunity has yet to be fully built. It takes around 2 weeks after the vaccine’s second dose for our bodies to fully build immunity.”

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on April 6, 2021

Indonesia kicked off its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on January 13, 2021, under a plan to inoculate nearly 182 million people in 15 months, AFP reported here

The claim also appeared in other Indonesian-language Facebook posts, such as here, here, here and here.

The claim is, however, misleading.

While it is still possible for people who have received a Covid-19 vaccine to contract the virus, the jab does not increase the risk of infection, experts say.

Contacted by AFP, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, spokeswoman for Indonesia’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, confirmed that getting the Covid-19 jab does not increase the risk of infection, although the vaccine itself does not provide “100 percent” protection from catching the virus.

“Vaccine gives protection for the receiver so that the person would not get sick or it would prevent the person from suffering from severe Covid-19 illness, but the protection [from the vaccine] is not 100 percent, meaning that the person may still contract the virus,” she said in a WhatsApp conversation on April 5, 2021. 

Siti added that antibodies stimulated by Covid-19 vaccination would “work optimally 28 days after a person receives the second dose” of the jab.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people who receive a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should get their second shot three to four weeks after their first shot.

In March 2021, Indonesia issued a circular instructing people to get their second shot of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine within 28 days after the first, reports the country’s state-run news agency Antara here.

Covid-19 vaccination does not increase an individual’s chance of Covid-19 infection, said Ines Atmosukarto, CEO of Lipotek, an Australia-based company that researches on vaccines.

“It does not make it easier to get infected, but [it is] not guaranteed to prevent [Covid-19] infection,” she told AFP in a telephone interview on April 5, 2021.

“If you have been vaccinated, don’t think it’d give instant effects. It could take at least two weeks for the antibody to be formed. So between the first and second dose of vaccine, and two weeks after that, no wonder [one] could be exposed [to the virus],” she said.