Should I get it or not? That’s the big question many are asking right now when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of false and misleading information circulating, especially on social media, that is making the question difficult to answer. With the help of Dr. Russell Massine, SMGOR’s Chief Physician Executive, we’ve laid out some of the most common myths surrounding the existing vaccines and dispel them with facts.
MYTH: People with underlying conditions should not get the vaccine.
FACT: One serious piece of misinformation is that the vaccine could harm or kill you if you have underlying medical conditions. The vaccine trials included not only healthy people but also people with chronic conditions including those living with HIV. The vaccines were found to be highly effective in all populations included.
While data for all categories of patients is not yet available, Dr. Massine says that adult patients with immunosuppression, autoimmune diseases, and active cancers, as well as those who take anticoagulants (blood thinners), are all encouraged to take the vaccine. “It’s not only 95 percent effective at reducing the risk of getting COVID-19; it’s almost 100 percent effective at reducing the risk of getting a severe case of it,” he says. “The bottom line is that the people who are most afraid of getting the vaccine are the ones who are also the most at risk of contracting severe cases of the virus itself. So, when the vaccine is available to you, I strongly recommend you get it.”
MYTH: The vaccine cannot be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
FACT: One false theory that exists is that a spike protein of the virus and the human placenta share a tiny code in genetic material, thus causing the COVID-19 antibodies to attack the reproductive system. This theory has no scientific backing, and there is zero evidence that the antibodies created by the body to fight COVID-19 have any impact on the placenta or its development. In fact, the placental protein, syncytin-1, and the coronavirus spike protein just aren’t similar enough.
Dr. Massine notes that pregnant women are at a slightly higher risk for complications of COVID-19, which is why they should consider being inoculated against it. “We encourage women who are pregnant to discuss the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of the vaccine with their provider. Women at increased risk for infection like those who work in health care should strongly consider getting vaccinated,” he says.
“As for breastfeeding, the vaccine does not make its way into breast milk. However, protective antibodies will be passed on to the nursing infant, which is a good thing.”
For now, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you discuss the benefits and potential unknown risks of vaccination with your health care provider to determine what’s best for you and your baby.
MYTH: The vaccine cannot be taken by women who are trying to conceive.
FACT: Another big rumor circulating is that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility, but this is another baseless claim. There is no evidence that the vaccine impacts fertility. In fact, there were people participating in the clinical trials that became pregnant during the study period.
MYTH: The vaccine will change my DNA.
FACT: Another concern that has come up is that the vaccine may somehow change your DNA or genes. This rumor started because the vaccine contains a small piece of genetic material called RNA. This RNA in the vaccine is a code to help your body make the spike protein of the virus which in turn activates your immune system and helps you develop immunity. “The RNA from the vaccine is quickly broken down soon after injection and will not remain in your body for any significant time. And there’s no way it can change your DNA,” says Dr. Massine.
MYTH: The risk of possible reactions outweighs the benefits of the vaccine.
FACT: There is also a cluster of concerns that the vaccine will cause fatalities, anaphylactic shock, Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), Bell’s palsy, or COVID-19 itself. Mainstream and social media reports from across the globe contribute to these fears.
“The most serious adverse reaction to be concerned about is anaphylaxis—and it’s totally treatable,” he says. “It also has lower incidence than the serious complications of getting COVID-19, which we don’t yet know the long-term effects of.”
There have been no cases of GBS reported due to the vaccine. And in terms of Bell’s palsy, the CDC cites the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it does not consider these to be above the rate expected in the general population. They have not concluded these cases were caused by vaccination.
Dr. Massine says that for all reactions documented so far, it’s important to note that any unfortunate issues, including deaths in long-term care facilities, are largely coincidental and due to existing conditions unrelated to COVID-19. These instances are also not above the normal rate and may arise with the administration of any vaccine.
MYTH: The vaccine may give me COVID-19.
FACT: The vaccines currently available (Pfizer and Moderna) do not contain live viruses, so there is no way for someone to contract the virus from the vaccine itself. The vaccine helps your body make antibodies against the virus and during this process, you might feel ill for a day or two. But that’s not the same as getting the disease.
MYTH: The new virus strains are resistant to the vaccine.
FACT: The virus has been continually mutating since it was discovered. Several new strains of COVID-19 have recently made the news because they have been shown to spread more easily and may make people sicker. The vaccines have been tested against these new strains, and current evidence suggests that getting the vaccine will still protect you. However, it is still recommended that in addition to getting the vaccine, you should continue wearing your mask around people who are not members of your household, as well as washing your hands, and practicing proper social distancing.
Listen to the Experts.
If you’re worried about getting the vaccine, don’t rely on social media posts for information. There are plenty of facts right at your fingertips. Ask your physician or head to the CDC COVID-19 vaccine website, which has a lot of reliable information about the vaccine.