Cut Through The Chatter: Addressing rumors about the COVID-19 vaccine

Apr 1, 2021

Cut Through The Chatter is a special Living Smart series for those who may be hesitant to take or have questions about the COVID vaccine - especially those in the African-American and Latino communities who have been disproportionately affected by the disease or have a mistrust of vaccines. We want to share some facts to address those common concerns.

There is a lot of inaccurate information on websites, social media and through word of mouth about the COVID-19 vaccine. Let's see how the myths stand up to the facts. 

MYTH: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.

FACT: Not true. Studies found that the two initial vaccines are both about 95% effective — and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines could be developed so quickly. Here are just a few:

  • The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic.
  • China isolated and shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
  • The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps at the same time to gather data faster.
  • Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
  • Social media helped companies find and engage study volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
  • Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
  • Companies began making vaccines early in the process —  even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred. Normally, vaccine is not produced until after authorization is obtained. 

Related Article: Cut Through The Chatter: Safety of the COVID-19 vaccine

MYTH: The vaccines weren’t tested on diverse groups of people.

FACT: Not true. The clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines included minorities (about 25% of participants for Pfizer and Moderna and 35% for Johnson & Johnson), older age groups (about 25% for Pfizer and Moderna and 34% for Johnson & Johnson) and people with conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart and respiratory conditions.

MYTH: The messenger RNA technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccine is brand new.

FACT: Not true. The mRNA technology behind the new coronavirus vaccines has been in development for almost 20 years. Vaccine makers created the technology to help them respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, such as COVID-19.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine was developed to control the general population either through microchip tracking or “nanotransducers” in our brains.

FACT: Not true. There is no vaccine microchip, and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database. This myth started after comments made in a video interview about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology that was referenced is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner and is not tied to the development, testing or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.

FACT: Not true. This question most commonly comes up related to the first two COVID-19 vaccines available which are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down — without affecting your DNA. The CDC recommends that you should be vaccinated if you’ve already had COVID-19. The vaccine offers better protection for coronavirus than natural infection. 

MYTH: Once I get the vaccine, I’m good for life.

FACT: Not sure. No one knows at this time. Experts continue to evaluate the long-term efficacy of the vaccine. The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last until more data is collected. It is possible that this vaccine will become an annual vaccination similar to the flu vaccine. But it is simply too early to tell.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s fertility.

FACT: Not true. Currently there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect fertility. Confusion arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods. During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.

Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health. St. Joseph’s/Candler encourages women to reach out to their medical providers to discuss other questions they have about COVID-19 as it relates to fertility or pregnancy.

Related Article: VIDEO: COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy

MYTH: Women who are breastfeeding should not receive the vaccine.

FACT: Not true. Preliminary research shows there is no evidence at this time that women who are breastfeeding should not receive the vaccine. If you have concerns about getting the vaccine, we recommend that you consult with your physician prior to receiving.

MYTH: I can’t receive the vaccine due to preexisting conditions.

FACT:  Not true. The CDC notes that adults of any age with the following underlying conditions are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions, obesity and severe obesity, sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes. The list also includes people with a weakened immune system from solid organ transplantation, sickle cell anemia, poorly controlled HIV or any autoimmune disorder and pregnancy. Anyone with these conditions is encouraged to get the vaccine to control the risks. However, you should always seek the advice of your primary care physician.

Related Article: Pre-existing conditions and vaccination

MYTH: If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.

FACT: Not true. While having COVID does give you some protection, the amount of time varies significantly and there is not enough information yet to know how long after the infection someone is protected.  Some people might only have immunity for a few weeks while some might have immunity longer. Unless you are regularly tested for antibodies, you have no way of knowing when you are no longer protected. 

MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19.

FACT: Not true. The vaccine does not carry any live virus or weakened virus which means you cannot contract COVID-19 from the vaccine. That also means that you are not contagious from receiving the vaccine, even when experiencing the side effects. However, if you are experiencing side effects other than soreness at the injection site after 72 hours, you should contact your physician. You may have contracted COVID-19 prior to receipt of the vaccine and may need to be tested. 

MYTH: The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are dangerous.

FACT: Not necessarily true. The COVID-19 vaccine can have side effects, but most are very short term —not serious or dangerous. Some people experience pain where they were injected; body aches; headaches or fever, lasting for a day or two. These are signs that the vaccine is working to kick your immune system into gear. If symptoms persist beyond two days, you should call your doctor. If you have allergies — especially severe ones that require you to carry an EpiPen — discuss getting the COVID-19 vaccine with your doctor first.

Related Article: Cut Through The Chatter: Side effects of the vaccine

MYTH: I won’t be able to donate blood if I get the vaccine.

FACT: Not true. The vaccine is not in the blood, only the antibodies that are produced show up in your blood as a result of being vaccinated. In fact, people are encouraged to donate blood so that their plasma can be used for the treatment of patients with active disease.

MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means I can stop wearing my mask and taking coronavirus precautions.

FACT: Not true. Getting a vaccine does not mean that you should stop wearing a mask or stop social distancing. No vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines do not stop the virus from entering your body; they only prevent you from devloping moderate to severe COVID-19. It’s not yet clear if people vaccinated for COVID-19 can still carry and transmit the virus, even when they themselves don’t get sick. Until we have reached “herd” immunity, it is important that we all continue to take precautions to keep our friends, family and community safe.

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