The Day – Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccination
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines were developed too quickly to be sure.
Facts: It’s understandable that people have this concern. The vaccines were deployed in record time, two of them using new technology. The government entity that spearheaded the effort was even called “Operation Warp Speed”.
But in reality, the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been in development for almost two decades, and a key feature of the technology is its ability to manufacture vaccines quickly.
In testing the vaccines for safety and efficacy, no corners were cut. The same process was followed as with any vaccine, but to speed things up, the drug companies performed different phases of the research simultaneously, rather than sequentially. Volunteers quickly signed up. And drugmakers started making the vaccine even before they knew if the vaccine would be licensed, so the doses were ready immediately.
In deciding to clear the vaccines for emergency use, the FDA had ample evidence from studies involving tens of thousands of volunteers. And in the months that followed, after millions took them, the vaccines continued to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines alter people’s DNA.
Facts: This rumor arose, most likely, because two of the vaccines use genetic methods that most of us don’t understand – messenger RNA, or mRNA. But you don’t need a course in genetics to grasp this simple fact: mRNA vaccine can’t affect your DNA because it never gets anywhere near it. It enters the cell, but does not have access to the nucleus where DNA is stored.
Instead, mRNA instructs cells to make the coronavirus ‘spike protein’, which prompts the body to make antibodies. The mRNA dissolves quickly, as does the peak, but the body’s own antibodies remain, ready to attack the real coronavirus if it appears.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility.
Facts: Not true. The rumor apparently arose from another misunderstanding in human biology. An incorrect report on social media said the spike protein on the coronavirus is the same as another spike protein involved in the growth of the placenta, incorrectly claiming that the vaccines could attack the placenta. But it’s wrong. The two spike proteins are completely different, and the vaccine does not attack the placenta or affect fertility.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines contain mysterious ingredients that could have long-term effects.
Facts: There is no mystery. The ingredients of the vaccine are listed on the CDC website. They include typical vaccine ingredients, such as a fat capsule to protect the mRNA, salts, and some sugar. They do not include fetal lung tissue or microchips to track you. These are conspiracy theories without a factual basis.
In the rare event that vaccines cause problems, they are identified within two months, usually within days.
Myth: Young and healthy people are better off trusting their own immune system than risking getting vaccinated.
Facts: It is important to weigh the risk of the vaccine against the risk of COVID-19.
Look at what’s going on in the country. COVID-19 is surging among the unvaccinated. In communities with low immunization rates, thousands of people fall ill and die, and hospitals lack intensive care beds. Previously healthy youth have been put on ventilators and some have died. Many of those who survive COVID-19 – 10 to 30% – suffer from persistent symptoms, especially fatigue and mental fog that prevent them from working.
Compare that with the side effects of the vaccine. Some people feel a little feverish or tired for a day; most have no symptoms beyond arm pain. Severe allergic reactions occur in one in 100,000 injections, but happen instantly and can be quickly reversed with medication; therefore you should be observed for 15 minutes after inoculation.
Serious illnesses associated with COVID-19 vaccines – blood clots and heart inflammation – are extremely rare after vaccination. Both of these conditions are much more likely to occur as a result of a coronavirus infection.
And yes, it is true that healthy young people often only suffer from mild symptoms of COVID-19 (although, again, some do get very sick). But you don’t live alone on a tropical island, and even if you do well, you can infect someone else who won’t do well. Do you really want to be responsible for making a loved one or even a stranger fatally ill?
Nothing in life is without risk. But the COVID-19 vaccination is a clear case where the benefits far outweigh the risks.
This article was prepared by the Boston Globe as part of its Last Best Shot campaign promoting universal vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.