Jewish doctors have warned the community against conspiracy theories claiming the Covid-19 vaccine causes infertility or contains products derived from pork.
The open letter, signed by more then 70 British Jewish doctors and published on Tuesday, warns against believing “rumours” and states there is “absolutely no evidence” the Pfizer vaccine causes problems for women wanting to fall pregnant.
They also confirmed that the vaccine does not contain anything that is not kosher.
The letter was initiated by Dr Sam Freeman, from University College London Hospital. Dr Freeman, who described the issue as one of “great importance”, said he hoped at least 100 medical doctors would sign the letter by the end of the year.
It reads: “We, Jewish medical doctors working in the UK, feel obliged to address some of the rumours surrounding the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid (Coronavirus) mRNA vaccine circulating in the Jewish community.
“We do this as a public service in an attempt to prevent illness, and potentially to save lives.
“This information is related specifically to the Pfizer mRNA vaccine and relates to people aged 16 years old and above.”
Addressing concerns that the vaccine causes infertility, the letter reads: “A rumour that the vaccine causes infertility is particularly prevalent in Jewish circles. There is absolutely no evidence behind this rumour.
“mRNA vaccines cannot alter your DNA. They simply act as messengers teaching your body how to create antibodies in case you encounter the infection at a later date.
“There is no logical reason to assume that the mRNA vaccine would affect fertility, however there is no long-term data yet due to the immediate necessity for a vaccine.”
It adds: “We live in a time where misinformation is increasingly common. Rumours spread quickly, and social media has played a significant contribution in this.
“We urge people to stop spreading rumours and instead, consult those working in healthcare with an ability to appraise scientific evidence.
“All signatories to this article are happy to be contacted by anyone with any concerns.
“We believe the widespread uptake of the vaccine will prevent illness and lead to lives saved by protecting people from catching Covid-19, by reducing the burden of ‘long Covid’ in younger patients, and by preventing hospitals becoming overburdened.”
It goes on to advise that some people may not be suitable for the vaccine as a result of other conditions – while others may later be eligible to have the UK-led vaccine jointly developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which was approved on Wednesday.
It continues: “We urge people to weigh up the benefits of having the vaccine against the risks. In those aged over 80 years old, for every 20 people who get Covid-19, at least one person will die.”
In written evidence submitted to a parliamentary community, UCL’s Professor Kriszta Eszter Szendrői – who has translated public health information into Yiddish for the Stamford Hill community – called for more credible information about the virus to be widely shared.
Addressing the issue of cases in the north London borough of Barnet, where the majority of UK Jews live, as well as the ultra-Orthodox community living in Hackney, she said: “I recommend that action should be taken to provide and disseminate transparent information about Covid-19 and to specifically discredit existing conspiracy theories, especially if they are entertained by highly visible public figures.”
The vaccine against Covid-19, developed by US company Pfizer, is in the process of being rolled out in the UK.
Israeli citizens – including British-born Jews who live in Israel with dual citizenship – have also taken the Pfizer vaccine this month.
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