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Five things a scientist wants anti-vaxxers to know about coronavirus vaccines

The most common myths debunked

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U.S. Secretary of Defense/Flickr & DrRosena/Twitter

A medicine cell biologist has cleared up some of the popular vaccination myths. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are being vaccinated daily across the UK with a plan for 13.9 million people to have their first dose by mid-February.

This accounts for 21% of the population, currently (figures are from January 18th, 2021), 6.1% of the population have had their first dose, according to Public Health England.

However, there are a number of people not convinced about the safety of the vaccination. In the UK, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate suggests 5.4 million people believe in the ‘anti-vaccination movement’.

The anti-vaccination movement is based upon three major claims – all of which remain unsupported by facts: ‘Covid is not dangerous’, ‘vaccines are dangerous’ and ‘experts cannot be trusted’.

HuffPost UK spoke to UCL medicine cell biologist Dr Jennifer Rohn to debunk vaccination myths that are currently circulating.

United Nations

MYTH: ‘Vaccines alter your DNA’

Some rumours have circulated that the vaccine can modify your DNA, this is not only not physically possible but also not backed by a single piece of evidence, like many of the anti-vaccination myths.

Jim Corr, guitarist of Irish group The Corrs, wrote on Twitter: “The vaccine is a novel experimental RNA vaccine which will alter the very DNA of the recipient.”

The key problem with this statement is that it not only represents a complete misunderstanding of how vaccines work, but it is being Tweeted by a ’90s pop star who has no scientific or medical qualifications.

Firstly, DNA and RNA are different things. DNA is a long molecule containing unique genetic code – what we call genes – that are responsible for development, function, growth and reproduction of proteins in each cell of the body.

RNA is of a similar structure however it essentially tells the proteins how to behave. It does this in three ways, including acting as a messenger between DNA and proteins. Here it is called ‘messenger RNA’, known as ‘mRNA’.

Dr Rohn explains that those made by Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines that use a part of Covid-19’s RNA to tell our cells to produce antigens. The antigens are then recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

RNA cannot physically change the coding of DNA, Dr Rohn confirms.

Instead, she thinks people are confusing vaccines with gene therapy, an experimental technique that can be used against cystic fibrosis and some cancers but – crucially – has nothing to do with vaccines, how they are developed or how they work.

MYTH: ‘You don’t need the vaccine if others have one’

Back to unqualified musicians on Twitter for such rumours, like Ian Brown, who tweeted: “So if you want a vax and you believe it works and you’ll be protected then you wont mind if i dont have one because you will already be protected. [sic]”

Firstly, the former Stone Roses singer has no scientific or medical qualifications.

Secondly, not everyone can be vaccinated, some have compromised immune systems and others are undergoing certain medical treatments and cannot safely take the vaccine. These people will be relying on the wider population to take the vaccine and therefore indirectly protect them.

Herd immunity, however, is typically only achieved when 70-90% of the population is vaccinated.

Dr Rohn says: “It’s quite a shocking thing to say: ‘I’m going to sit back and reap the benefits of vaccination without actually getting the vaccine myself.

“I think that’s completely selfish because not everyone can get vaccinated. There are people who are too vulnerable and they’re immunocompromised and they’re relying on everyone else to do the right thing.”

United Nations

MYTH: ‘Vaccines contain tissue from aborted foetuses’

This rather horrifying myth is completely untrue. Dr Rohn explains: “You would never put human tissue into a vaccine because it might cause an immune reaction that you don’t want.”

Where the confusion lies, she believes, is with the fetal cells that were used in the early 1960s from legally and electively aborted fetuses for research purposes.

These cells have been reproduced over the years to provide a consistent genetic make-up for conducting vaccine research.

Dr Rohn says: “There are cell lines that we use in the lab all the time that are derived from stem cells.

“Some of them are 50 years old and they’re an essential part of the research arsenal. It’s not like we’re going out and aborting foetuses to do research on them.”

The mRNA vaccine is synthetic and made from a DNA template in a lab, such as the Moderna vaccine – a synthetic vaccine sequenced in a lab. The AstraZeneca vaccine, however, used the cell line from an aborted fetus to develop the vaccine.

Even the seriously anti-abortion Catholic Church said ‘one is morally free’ to use the vaccine if it has been developed using the cell line, despite its historical association with abortion. They add: “This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

To be clear though – none of the Covid-19 vaccines contain cells from aborted fetuses.

Daniel Schludi / Unsplash

MYTH: ‘Vaccines cause autism’

There is zero scientific evidence to back up this anti-vaccine and ableist conspiracy theory.

This myth is believed to be based upon a fraudulent paper from 1998 that has now been retracted due to clear evidence of falsification of data.

Simply put – vaccines absolutely, scientifically do not cause autism. Anti-vaxxers should also consider why they think so negatively of autism.

MYTH: ‘The vaccine isn’t safe because it’s been developed so quickly’

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine smashed the previous record for vaccine development from four years to under one. ‘Understandably, there is concern’, Dr Rohn explains.

Adding: “Usually it takes 10 years and this time it’s taken 10 months, so of course people are going to wonder if any shortcuts have been taken.”

However, the speed at which the vaccine has been developed is simply due to the amount of money and effort put in – the UK alone spent £6 billion to develop and procure the vaccine.

Additionally, vaccine development did not start from scratch. Dr Rohn says: “There’s been an enormous amount of groundwork on these prototypes so we were quick off the mark from a research point of view.

“The actual trials are taking a long time and that’s where nothing is being compromised.

“No reputable regulatory body will approve this without a completed and successful series of clinical trials.”*

*This interview was done before any vaccine was rolled out in the UK.

On vaccine misinformation, a government spokesperson said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.”

They added: “We continue to work closely with social media firms to promote authoritative sources of information so people have access to vaccine facts not fiction.”

See the government’s Covid-19 vaccination guidance here

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Feature

Supermarket workers share the worst thing they’ve seen customers do in-store

Turns out customers aren’t that sneaky…

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SchuminWeb

Many supermarket workers have caught shoppers using underhand tactics, and they’ve now revealed the worst things they’ve witnessed.

Employees from Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have shared the numerous things they have noticed customers do to grab an unfair bargain.

They’ve also listed all the ways shoppers are really annoying at breaking rules, from trying to sneak in early, shopping after hours or weird queuing tactics.

A report last year revealed that a quarter of supermarket staff have experienced abuse during the coronavirus pandemic. 

See below for some of the things supermarket employees have witnessed.

Philafrenzy

“The worst are the ones who graze as they shop” 

I think we can all admit we can’t resist picking at the French stick as we shop, but the employees, rightfully, aren’t a fan of touching grubby half-eaten food to scan. 

“Customers are messy – and it’s annoying”

Just pick up the things you drop, ok?! Also – stop putting dog food down with the shampoo because you don’t want it anymore.

“You’re not actually allowed to swap the stickers, you know” 

This one is lost on me, I didn’t realise anyone actually peeled a reduced sticker off and slapped it on another product. Might seem dead clever, but it’s technically stealing. 

“We can spot a ‘savvy’ shopper a mile off”

We all love a good bargain but apparently it’s dead obvious when you swarm around the poor sod who’s got the reduced price gun. Who would’ve thought? 

ASDA

“I see you have your evening planned”

Around Valentine’s day, hundreds of men go shopping with the exact same shopping list; cheapest flowers possible (preferably red), card, chocolate, cheap bottle of Prosecco and some condoms. 

“Clocking onto loyal customers’ routines”

If you’re one of those on a tight schedule doing your weekly shop every Thursday at 7pm, they know all about it. 

“If you mess up my display I’ll be furious”

Pretty self-explanatory this one. Imagine working hard to get all the tins facing the right way and some little terrors come along and put their grubby little paws all over them, messing the display up. 

Keith Williamson/Tesco /CC BY-SA 2.0

“We know you know what 10 items or less means” 

So no, don’t bring your entire monthly shop into the basket-only till. You aren’t special. 

“I can’t just unlock the doors because you’re standing there” 

If the shop opens at 7am, it opens at 7am. It doesn’t matter that you’re early or stood in the rain. Look up trading laws folks.

“We see you trying to get to the store at 3:59pm on a Sunday” 

Honestly, anyone who goes anywhere minutes before it closes is so annoying and immediately on the naughty list. And don’t do a naive ‘oh sorry, are you closing?’ when the shutters – which you just ducked under – are halfway down. OBVIOUSLY we are closing! 

“Huffing and puffing in the queue won’t make me go any quicker on the checkouts” 

It’s just busy, ok!? Actually, in the past, it’s made me go slower if people are rude – oops, sorry!

Don’t be rude to people who work in the service industry folks! 

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Feature

The most brutal reviews of Greater Manchester’s towns

These are ruthless…

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Bill Boaden / Geograph

While we definitely think Greater Manchester is the greatest place on earth, we can’t help but have a laugh at these terrible reviews of areas of our region.

ILiveHere.co.uk is a website specialising in providing terrible and brutally honest reviews of areas across the country, and each year it releases a list of the top ten worst places to live in the UK – here’s the list for 2021, if you’re interested.

We’ve hand-picked some of the best insults the site has dished out to areas across Greater Manchester – take it all with a pinch of salt and remember it’s just a laugh!

Credit: G-Man

Mossley

In an article titled ‘Mossley, home of ‘Who’s got the most toes competition’ you can imagine what the rest of the review was like.

In a small section that’s without profanities, the review describes the town with a nod to evolution: “Darwin clearly left Mossley out when he wrote origin of species.” Not exactly something you’ll see on a poster board for the town…

Credit: Martin Clark / Saddleworth Church / CC BY-SA 2.0

Saddleworth

The reviews of Saddleworth are all pretty similar in their incredibly derogatory comments.

This one sums it up: “Saddleworthians are easily spotted in a crowd amongst their fellower Oldhamer’s. They’re the ones who have fake accents, no wit and a false sense of superiority. Yes if you like a bit of bullsh*t and self congratulations you’re in for a treat.”

Credit: Andrew Stopford / Flickr

Rochdale

Unfortunately, Rochdale has made the site’s top 10 worst places to live in the entire country list two years running.

Most of the reviews see some pretty catty comments about the inhabitants of Rochdale, with one stating: “Majority of the residents disdain this town. The sole act of living here, and even being associated with Rochdale is a disgrace. Not for trivial, but rather major reasons. In fact, the (not so) respectful residents may just happen to be the contributory factor!

“Possessors of low IQ, users of unknown speech codes, devoted to ‘grime’ and overly fond of drugs, in particular marijuana- are few of the admirable traits and practices common among the youth.”

Ouch…

Credit: Keith Williamson

Harpurhey

All I know of this place is to avoid it, and this review seems to agree: “When me mam told me we were moving to Harpurhey in 2002, I was devastated.

“When she showed me the estate we were going to move on to I tried to throw myself under the 52 bus. Unfortunately it never turned up on time, I don’t think it ever has since. Here lies the problems with Harpurhey.”

Credit: Andrew Stopford / Flickr

Bolton

One of my few experiences of Bolton involves venturing to a nightclub called J2. I got attacked by a girl for looking at her in a takeaway, after being served triangle shapes of buttered toast in J2 a few hours earlier. Great times.

This reviewer really isn’t a fan of the place either: “Superficially at first the greenery, rivers Croal and Irwell seem appealing… unfortunately, soon you have a suspicion that all is not as it appears-in fact the whole place gives the impression of nature reclaiming post-holocaust man-made destruction, the greenery taking from direct sight the utter ruination wrought by hundreds of years of poisoning the land, and utter despoliation of the environment.

“The place has a sort of chemical stink…a miasma…even on the freshest of days.”

Credit: Eugene Regis / Flickr

Salford

Salford has come a long way in recent years so I’m going to guess this review was left a while back, probably by someone from Walkden: “Charles Darwin would have had a field day here, as Salford not merely proves the theory of evolution but actually allows a casual observer to witness the process in reverse.”

Credit: Andrew Stopford / Flickr

Stockport

This one really paints a picture of the home town of Blossoms, maybe it was left before the Plaza had a revamp: “The average Stopfordian seems to roll out of his bed around eleven, take a 192 – or better still a deathtrap Corsa with a stolen stereo more powerful than it’s engine – down to sign on and then simply hangs around in the town.

“They aren’t even entertaining like the drunks in Manchester they’re just, well… ****!”

Credit: Rept0n1x

Bury

I’ve never ventured to Bury so I can’t vouch for how true this one might be: “Bury has its own perfume – Eau de Weed which is particularly noticeable between the Spotted Cow and the Old Crow on Bell Lane.”

Credit: Parrot of Doom

Stretford

Widely recognised as the next victim of gentrification, here’s a cracking and detailed review of the south Manchester suburb: “The local park is full of teenagers who have broken the children’s climbing frames. These teens are usually swearing their heads of pissed off white ace and that’s just on a Monday afternoon.

“The local council then put a murder tape round it for nearly two years. The people who cant escape have taken to impaling themselves just to end it all.”

What you waiting for, get on the property ladder here and cash in?!

Credit: Gerald England / 28-32 Wallgate, Wigan / CC BY-SA 2.0

Wigan

Honestly, I’ve only ever been to Wigan once and I went to Spoons, so my view of it wasn’t too dissimilar to this review: “The hub of the pissed-up activity at the weekend is King Street, a place where (to nobody’s surprise) there seems to be a murder once every couple of years.

“The road is closed to traffic every Friday and Saturday night, giving the drunken oafs the freedom to lurch around trying to find the taxis that aren’t allowed to drive down that road, or the takeaways that apparently aren’t allowed to serve anything that won’t make you ill for a couple of days.”

Credit: Rept0n1x

Droylsden

This is my hometown so I can say what I want about this shithole. Enjoy this considerably kind review: “Let us begin with the very heart of Droylsden – the precinct. Dominated by the vast grey concrete tumour that is the Concord Suite.

“A building so hideous that to gaze upon it leaves a stain on the scorched retinas of the observer. Imagine if you will, a building so hideous it makes the newly built Tameside Council Pension offices look like Cologne Cathedral.”

The square has got a little better since the Silly Country opened, still…

Credit: Rept0n1x

Wythenshawe

This one makes you do that deep breath in you do through your teeth when someone says something a bit risque: “It actually has some decent shops here to be honest, well catered for the masses of ball bags, moaning about paying 5p for a JD bag they’ll use for the rest of their lives until the black paint has come off and it looks like a dandruff encrusted version of it’s former self, sleeveless bubble coats to match.”

So there you have it some of the most brutal and degrading reviews of Greater Manchester we could find – we still love it though.

You can read more ruthless reviews here. If you’re offended, please please please, don’t let us know in the Facebook comments.

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Feature

One of the UK’s most haunted places is a pub in Greater Manchester

The scariest pint you’ll ever have…

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Credit: Eccles.Express / Flickr

The Ring o’ Bells pub in Middleton is actually one of the most haunted places in the whole of the UK and it’s bustling with paranormal activity.

The land that lends itself to the pub was once the site of an ancient Druid temple in the Bronze Age, where dark rituals and human sacrifices often took place.

From the off, this little patch of land has been home to spirits. The pub itself goes back to the 12th century and has been a hot-bed of eerie happenings ever since.

Credit: whatpub.com

Ring O’ Bells resident ghost is nicknamed Edward, also known as the ‘Sad Cavalier’. He’s often found moving glasses along the bar, stomping with heavy footsteps upstairs, moaning and groaning and even throwing the occasional rock at the landlord and regulars.

It is thought that Edward is the son of Lord Stannycliffe and he died during the Civil War in a brutal massacre.

At this time, Middleton was a strong Parliamentarian camp and a group of Royalists, including Edward, were using the pub as a secret base.

Credit: Eccles.Express/ Flickr

There have been tales of a tunnel that ran directly from the pub to the local parish church as a means of escaping the Roundheads if they were ever caught plotting against Cromwell.

Many people have speculated that the sitting room on the upper floor is where Edward did his secret plotting. It’s not uncommon to experience sudden, spine-tingling temperature drops in this room.

One dark wintry night, Edward and his Royalists were going along as they normally did, plotting their revenge – but the Roundheads were waiting for them. What followed was a brutal massacre where they were not only killed but dismembered and buried in the cellar of the Ring O’ Bells pub.

The only remains of this night were helmets, spears and other historical artifacts. There have yet to be any bodies found and the tunnel to this day remains undiscovered.

Credit: Budby/Flickr

That’s not the only haunting murder that has happened at the Ring O’ Bells though, no no no.

A pair of serial killer landlords lived in the pub in the 17th century. The legend goes that over 60 murders were committed by the landlord and his wife.

Their targets were the wealthy guests, disposing of the bodies in a specially hinged bed of boiling liquid. They made a fair bob or two from the victims’ valuables too. Creeps.

It’s safe to say, ever since there have been ghostly figures wandering the walls of the Ring O’ Bells pubs.

Credit: Broady/Flickr

Some of the scariest encounters include a cold invisible hand pulling at the pockets of punters, could it be that the serial killing couple are still after your valuables?

There’s also plenty of cold spots, sightings of figures and generally a feeling of ‘not being alone’ in this pub, even after the doors close.

If you think you can handle one of the scariest pints you might ever have, put the Ring O’ Bells pub top of your places to visit after lockdown. While you’re there, say hello to Edward from us. 

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