Debunking COVID-19 vaccine myths

A tidal wave of information has circulated social media for the last few months regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

But what parcels of information can be trusted?

Hillcrest HealthCare System Chief Medical Officer Guy Sneed, M.D., and Utica Park Clinic Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Galles, D.O., addressed 10 common concerns surrounding the vaccine.

Here are their answers to those concerns:

Concern: The vaccines are unsafe because their development was rushed.

Sneed: While the current COVID-19 vaccines available were developed over a very tight timeline, their safety has been well-established. Thousands of patients were evaluated in clinical trials last year and the COVID-19 vaccines were found to have an excellent safety profile.

Concern: The vaccine won’t be covered by insurance or people without insurance cannot get the vaccine.

Galles: The federal government is currently supplying all COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to the states. Although the vaccine is provided at no cost, your insurance may be billed a nominal amount for the vaccine administration.  

Concern: The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials did not include people of color or older individuals, so the vaccine won’t be as effective for these populations.

Sneed: Both vaccine trials randomized the vaccine to individuals regardless of demographics of any kind including race, age or socioeconomic status to name a few.

Concern: There’s a microchip in the vaccines.

Galles: This is one of the conspiracy theories, which has been circulated on social media over the past few months. This is clearly not true. There are no microchips or tracking devices being administered with the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, there no amount of evidence or facts will persuade those committed to the conspiracy that this is untrue. The FDA regulates all vaccines and would not allow this to occur. Plus, if the government want to track you, there are plenty of other ways like cell phone and social media data that would be much more effective!

Concern: The vaccines are not safe for children.

Sneed: Children were not studied in the initial clinical trials last year so there is no safety data to consider. However, because of this limitation in the clinical trials, the COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended for persons under 18 years of age.

After being vaccinated twice, you won’t get COVID-19.

Galles: The fact is that no vaccine is 100% effective. Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines were around 95% effective at preventing moderate to severe illness. Both vaccines have been extremely effective at reducing hospitalizations and death. That is outstanding efficacy for any vaccine. Even after you receive both doses of either vaccine, you may still become infected with COVID-19 but remain asymptomatic or just have mild symptoms.

People who already had COVID-19 don’t need to be vaccinated.

Sneed: While the recommendations are that a person wait 90 days after having COVID-19, they should also consider taking the COVID-19 vaccine at a later date to ensure optimum immunity from COVID-19.

I won't need to wear a mask after I get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Galles: As we have witnessed, masking can be an effective way to limit the transmission of viral and bacterial illness. Influenza rates have dropped dramatically this flu season, which has been universally attributed to masking, hand washing and social distancing. If you do become infected with COVID-19, despite being vaccinated, you may still transmit the infection to others for a week or two. Masking reduces the likelihood of you infecting others. 

The COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

Sneed: After thousands of doses administered in clinical trials, there is no evidence to suggest they cause infertility. There is also no evidence that these COVID-19 vaccines would reduce one’s natural fertility or harm the placenta or fetus once pregnancy is achieved. While they are new, the mechanism of action of these mRNA vaccines, along with existing safety data, provide reassurance that they do not affect fertility.

The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.

Galles: This is another misconception that has been falsely spread on social media. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are referred to as messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA). We all make millions of mRNAs every day. These two mRNA vaccines work by instructing our cells to make copies of the spike protein see on the COVID-19 virus. Once these spike proteins are produced, our immune system then creates antibodies that will eventually protect us from COVID-19. These vaccine-produced mRNAs are typically broken down in our bodies within a few days. In short, our bodies have no way to incorporate these mRNAs into our DNA.