Comparing suicide statistics

During the pandemic, there have been claims that the number of deaths by suicide has increased, reflecting the acknowledged mental strain experienced by many. FactCheckNI has published several fact checks, citing the lack of recent data to substantiate such claims. Recent data have been published, but analysing statistics on suicide remains complicated, due to registration delays and how the definition of suicide is applied. Continue reading Comparing suicide statistics

COVID-19 vaccinations: fertility and pregnancy

The issue of how COVID-19 vaccines may impact fertility and/or pregnancy continues to be live. Health Minister Robin Swann told the Stormont health committee on 14 January 2021, that an anti-vaccination group targeted young female healthcare staff outside vaccination centres, saying COVID-19 vaccination would affect their fertility. He added that this message was “quite negative, quite wrong, potentially quite damaging”. This was also reported in the local media.

These particular anti-vaccination campaigners are not alone in this view. Theories are being spread across social media, particularly about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, about how a protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus which causes COVID-19), called a “spike protein” works. 

This is where it gets a little complicated.  Continue reading COVID-19 vaccinations: fertility and pregnancy

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

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