A day after Kenya took delivery of a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19, a group of Catholic doctors weighed in.

The vaccine was “unnecessary” and “it should not be given”, the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association said in a 3 March 2021 “advisory”, suggesting alternative treatments.

The advice by the group, which says it works to “expose falsehoods in medical practice”, was quickly criticised by other doctors for being misleading.

And in a 9 March statement, Catholic church leaders said the doctors were speaking “in their own capacity”. All Covid-19 vaccines vetted by the health ministry were “licit and ethically acceptable” and Kenyans should be encouraged to take them, even if on a voluntary basis.

Estimates vary, but data firm Statista says that as of 2019 some 20% of Kenya’s 47.5 million people were Catholics.

Earlier senior Catholic archbishop Anthony Muheria said Pope Francis, the global head of the church, had taken a vaccine, as had his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also issued a statement on “the falsehoods and uncertainties being circulated about this vaccine as unnecessary, questionable or unsafe”.

The 10-page advisory from the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association is in places rambling, and makes some sweeping statements. For example, it works out a global crude mortality rate of 0.03%, more accurately a case fatality ratio, and says this “means your chances of survival in the midst of this disease in this world is 99.97%”.

The group also made other claims that have since been debunked by other fact-checkers, such as comparing long-standing diseases with an emerging one – Covid-19.

We isolated three other significant claims in the advisory and asked experts about their accuracy.

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