The United States has long been one of the world’s leading nations in COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. In fact, many states are reporting that over half of their adult populations have received at least one dose of an approved vaccine, which is a reason for many to believe that the pandemic might soon be a thing of the past. However, as cases in countries like India skyrocket to record global levels, some vaccination sites back in the states are struggling to fill seats due to COVID-19 Vaccine Myths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily average for vaccinations has dropped by almost 20% since the start of April. In Riverside County, California’s fourth most populous county, nearly a third of all COVID-19 vaccine appointments are going unfilled. Nationwide, polls have put vaccine hesitancy at almost 50%, with an equal number of people saying they are unsure as to whether they will get vaccinated (24%) and those who say they will definitely not be getting vaccinated (25%).
Even in the months before the first emergency use authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine—the Pfizer-BioNTech on December 11, 2020—there has been widespread hesitancy amongst a large percentage of the population to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. The same poll, conducted jointly by CBS News and YouGov Polls, showed that of those hesitant to get the vaccine, about 23% say they are concerned about potential side effects.
Experts around the world agree that a ‘herd immunity’ or as some scientists call it ‘community immunity’ can only be reached if between 70% and 90% of the population gets vaccinated.
With so much hesitancy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, and with instances of rare side effects such as those observed in the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine, it’s understandable that many may have doubts about the efficacy and safety of a vaccine. It is for these reasons that it’s important to understand what’s true about these vaccines, and what are flat out myths.
Below is a list of some of the most common myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, and what we know about them.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myths: The Vaccine Was Rushed
True and False
The simple answer to this is yes; the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was rushed. However, the myth here pertains to the vaccine’s safety being compromised due to that rush, and this is false. In just nine months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic, clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were, in fact, fast-tracked in order to get the vaccine out to the public.
The myth that the vaccine is not safe due to the rush stems from the timeframe in which vaccines are typically produced, which in some cases can take up to ten years. Due to global demand, this is not the case in regards to the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The fast-track part[s] were regulatory approvals, funding, data analysis and submission to the FDA… Those are all paperwork items”
Dr. Andrew Badley, an infectious diseases physician at Mayo Clinic and head of Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Research Task Force, explains how this fast-tracking was possible in the first place, and why it is important to understand what fast-tracking actually means.
In a recent interview, Bradley explained that “The fast-track part[s] were regulatory approvals, funding, data analysis and submission to the FDA […] Those are all paperwork items”. Bradley went on to explain that these items were intentionally fast-tracked in order to help get a vaccine out to the public very quickly; no parts of the study that involved real scientific study and data recovery were sped up.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myths: mRNA Vaccines Change the Recipients DNA
This myth is one that has its roots in the fear of a new type of vaccine, like Pfizer and Moderna, that uses Messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA vaccines, as the CDC has stated, are new to the general public; however, they are not unknown to the scientific world. These vaccines teach cells how to create a protein that triggers an immune response inside the recipients’ bodies, and have been rigorously studied for decades.
Claims that a vaccine containing mRNA can change one’s DNA have been circulated throughout social media long before any vaccine had begun testing in large-scale clinical trials. It is important to understand how an mRNA vaccine works, and why changing a person’s DNA through one is impossible.
In a recent article written by GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, multiple false claims about the use of mRNA in a vaccine were debunked, including its lasting effects on human biology. When explaining how the vaccine works, GAVI stated that “Once inside the cell, the mRNA comes into contact with protein making-machinery, which is located in the jelly-like cytoplasm filling the cell. It doesn’t enter the nucleus, which is where our chromosomes are stored”. In other words, an mRNA vaccine cannot damage one’s DNA.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myths: It Only Requires One Shot
While there are vaccines that can be administered in one dose, namely Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine which is still in testing, the majority of vaccines being administered in the United States require two doses. While there is strong evidence to support that individuals who receive the first round of vaccinations are significantly less likely to contract COVID-19, experts still recommend receiving both rounds of immunization.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myths: It Causes Infertility in Women
In the months leading up to the EUA of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, there were, and still are, growing concerns about the effects it could have on pregnancy, or those hoping to get pregnant. The basis for this rumor is founded in a false article that circulated around social media, which pertained to the spike protein that is used by the virus to attach itself to the cells.
The article claimed that this spike protein, called syncytin-1, is also found in the formation of placenta in women, and said that, “If the vaccine works so that we form an immune response against the spike protein, we are also training the female body to attack syncytin-1, which could lead to infertility for an unspecified duration”.
“There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that’s ever demonstrated [infertility]… That’s just an unfortunate statement.”
In a recent interview with TODAY, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said in regards to such claims, “There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that’s ever demonstrated [infertility] […] That’s just an unfortunate statement.”
While it is true that many of the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, mainly the Pfizer-BioNTech, excluded pregnant women or women who were breastfeeding, about two dozen women who received the vaccine became pregnant while participating in the study without any complications. This being the case, those who are pregnant or plan to get pregnant are urged to speak with their healthcare providers in order to make a more informed decision.
In such unprecedented times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information about COVID-19, which makes it all the more important to understand fact from fiction, especially when it pertains to the health and well-being of those around us. When presented with unclear information on COVID-19 related issues, utilize resources such as the CDC’s website and The WHO, or contact your primary care physician to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.
TLDR; COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Video
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