Pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccines

On 16 April 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised that all pregnant people should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, in line with the age group roll out. 

Prior to this, they had recommended a risk-based approach and said that pregnant people with high risk medical conditions — and met the definition of being “clinically extremely vulnerable” — should consider having a COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy. This was because they viewed that their underlying condition may put them at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications of COVID-19.

However, the guidance regarding vaccination against COVID-10 during pregnancy has changed as new research and evidence has emerged. 

It has been indicated that it is preferable for pregnant people in the UK to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available, as there is more safety data available on these vaccines in pregnancy. Continue reading Pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines and aborted fetuses

UPDATE: This article was updated on 27 July 2021, in response to a query about whether an mRNA vaccine by CureVac uses fetal cell lines in any stage of its development. It does not. This article was previously updated on 2 February 2021 to explain about the use of MRC-5 and HEK 293 cell lines in the design and testing of some vaccines.

By December 2020, there were 78 COVID-19 vaccines in development. Thirteen were in third stage trials, and seven already had limited approval for use. The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine was the first to be approved for use in the UK on 2 December 2020.

Concerns have been expressed on social media that COVID-19 vaccines are made from aborted fetuses, and some people object to the vaccines on religious and ethical grounds.

Most of the COVID-19 vaccines in development do not use human cell lines in their production. For example, Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology.  Continue reading COVID-19 vaccines and aborted fetuses

A British Army veteran who served in NI during the Troubles is 54x more likely to be prosecuted?

CLAIM: A British Army veteran who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles is 54 times more likely than a Republican or Loyalist paramilitary to be prosecuted for alleged offences pre-dating the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

CONCLUSION: INACCURATE. Prosecutions to date suggest that ex-British Army personnel have been the subject of cases five times more than Republican and Loyalist suspects. The cited ratio of 54 times “more likely” was based on a snapshot of live prosecutions and takes no account of previous cases. Continue reading A British Army veteran who served in NI during the Troubles is 54x more likely to be prosecuted?

Checking online images in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, where political, social and economic debate is often delineated along lines of perceived communal affiliation, false information and rumours have the potential to increase communal division and tensions, especially at particular times of the year. 

Images play a big part in the types of information shared online here, and it is sometimes difficult to figure out whether an image on the internet is genuinely what it claims to be. There’s a “stickiness” to images, and they can communicate and infer so much more than a 280 character tweet. To paraphrase the old saying — a fake/misleading image can make its way halfway around Northern Ireland, while the accurate information is still putting on its shoes! 

So what can we do? Many of us feel we are not tech savvy or simply do not have the time to check every image we see online or receive via WhatsApp. Continue reading Checking online images in Northern Ireland

Lateral flow device tests for COVID-19

Two biological tests are being used in the UK to control the spread of COVID-19: (1) the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR, or PCR) test; and (2) the lateral flow device (LFD) test. 

PCR tests tend to be used for people showing symptoms associated with COVID-19, while LFD tests are used for more widespread testing, including identifying asymptomatic people (who do not show symptoms but may be carrying the virus).

This article explains current understanding around LFD tests for COVID-19. FactCheckNI has previously published an article that looked in detail at PCR tests. Continue reading Lateral flow device tests for COVID-19

Pets and the Northern Ireland Protocol

Background: worries about Brexit and pets

Before the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, FactCheckNI published a fact check on the claim that pet owners travelling from Northern Ireland to Ireland already required “EU pet passports”. We found this claim to be accurate.

Now that the UK has withdrawn from the EU, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (“the Northern Ireland Protocol”) is in operation. The Protocol affects the movement of goods and services between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This article sets out to explain the current understanding in regards to the transport of pets between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Continue reading Pets and the Northern Ireland Protocol