The rapid development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines for use in the United States has been truly remarkable. Millions of Americans have already received at least one dose of Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna vaccines (two doses are needed for both). And public health experts are working hard to improve distribution in the United States
One obstacle has been reluctance and mistrust of vaccines. Polls suggest that between 50% and 70% of Americans plan to get a full COVID-19 vaccine. This means that many Americans are still on the fence.
HuffPost spoke to several experts about some of the biggest myths still circulating about vaccinations:
Myth # 1: COVID-19 vaccines were ‘rushed’ so they could still be dangerous.
The speed of vaccine creation was unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean the researchers skipped big steps.
“These vaccines were do not “Rushed” through development, ”said Linda Yancey, infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas.
Instead, the drug makers and the government have simply eliminated many of the bureaucratic inefficiencies that typically slow down the process, she explained.
Plus, drugmakers were able to ditch everything they were working on and have all of their scientists do it around the clock, Yancey added.
Having said that, “there are parts of vaccine development that you can’t rush. You can’t rush security testing, and that’s why we waited and then they released those results this summer, ”Yancey said of these Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.
“Then you can’t rush efficacy trials, so that’s what we expected in the fall,” Yancey said, referring to the larger-scale Phase 3 trials. “And it went really well.
Additionally, federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in real time as vaccines are distributed – not because they worry that they have not been studied enough, but as an additional layer of protection (standard!).
Myth # 2: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
None of the vaccines approved for use in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Which means it’s just not possible to get sick with COVID-19 as a result.
This is a persistent misconception that follows other vaccines as well, like the flu shot. Many people feel unwell after being vaccinated against the flu and believe they are carriers of the virus itself. But the flu vaccine is actually made from inactivated or “dead” viruses.
Likewise, it is common to develop symptoms after being vaccinated against COVID-19 that may seem similar to those of infected people, but they are not the same.
“You’re going to have a nice quick immune response,” Yancey said. “So yeah, your arm is going to hurt. Yes, you are probably going to have a fever and be in pain for a few days. This is a good thing. This means that you get good immune absorption and that you will get that high level of protection.
Myth # 3: Vaccines can change your DNA.
Approved coronavirus vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA. This technology teaches cells in the body to make a harmless piece of the “spike protein” found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This triggers an immune response that produces antibodies, protecting against COVID-19 infection.
But mRNA vaccines don’t interact with a person’s DNA.
“One thing I hear that worries people is that it’s going to impact their DNA, and I can see why people would make such a connection,” said Nicole Iovine, chief epidemiology at the University of Florida Shands Hospital. “But there are a number of reasons why this can’t happen.”
On the one hand, our DNA is protected by a membrane that prevents things from passing easily, she explained. “This messenger RNA just enters the outer part of our cell called the cytoplasm. And it doesn’t go into the nucleus, so it doesn’t have access to our DNA.
What’s more, messenger RNA doesn’t even stay in our cells for very long, added Iovine.
Myth # 4: COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women receive the COVID-19 vaccine, although there have not yet been tests specifically performed in this population.
The same goes for women who are planning to become pregnant. Experts point out that there is absolutely no evidence that getting the vaccine causes infertility. This is a lie often spread by anti-vaccination campaigners about various vaccines, Yancey said.
In fact, getting the COVID-19 vaccine could be very important for moms and their babies.
“I think one of the things we don’t talk about is the potential benefit to fetuses and babies,” said Linda Eckert, obstetrician-gynecologist and infectious disease specialist at UW Medicine in Washington. “We anticipate that antibodies will travel through the umbilical cord blood to the baby and provide some protection. And also that it should pass into breast milk and offer protection.
Eckert added that the lack of trials on pregnant women and the COVID-19 vaccination is not a sign that researchers necessarily fear they are not safe for this population. This is simply because such trials have long excluded pregnant women.
“The lack of data is do not an indication that we are concerned about harm; the lack of data is an indication of systems and assumptions that have been around for a long time and which I hope will be reconsidered, ”she said.
Myth # 5: You don’t have to be vaccinated if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past.
CDC says anyone who has had COVID-19 and has recovered (and otherwise qualifies for vaccination) should be offered the vaccine – although the agency adds reinfection is unlikely within the first 90 days , so it may make sense to wait a few months. .
In part, that’s because there are still a lot of questions about how long natural immunity lasts, as well as how hard it is. But the evidence shows that vaccines are very effective in eliciting a significant immune response.
“When you get the vaccine, because you’re just doing the immune response to the part of the spike protein – which is the target for preventing infection – your immune response is completely focused on responding to that key part of the virus. So you get that really, really strong and really targeted response against the good part, ”said Iovine. “That’s why people who have had a COVID infection should still benefit from the vaccine.”
Myth # 6: Once you have been vaccinated, you can no longer spread the virus.
The two COVID-19 vaccines take time to be fully effective, as they require two doses that are fairly spaced apart: 21 days between doses for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for Moderna. Even after the second booster, full immunity is not immediate. The trials measured the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing the spread of symptoms seven days after the second dose and 14 days after the second dose of Moderna vaccine.
Thus, people who have already rolled up their sleeves should take all the usual precautions in the meantime.
Additionally, it is not yet clear whether vaccines prevent individuals from passing the virus to others. At present, the data only shows that they are very effective in preventing the person who received the two doses from developing severe symptoms. This means that it is possible for a fully vaccinated person to be exposed to the coronavirus, be infected without any outward symptoms, and then transmit the virus.
Therefore, it is essential that public health measures such as wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing remain in place.
Myth # 7: Severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are common.
It is alarming to hear that people have had serious reactions to the COVID-19 vaccination, but the percentage of people who have had these responses is low. At the end of December, the CDC said it was looking at around 21 cases of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening immune response) after more than 1.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered.
“At this point, getting a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine would be less than a one in a million chance,” Yancey said. “And compare that to a virus that if you catch it you have a 1 in 30 chance of dying and probably a 1 in 10 chance of side effects that persist for several months.”
Mild allergic reactions are possible within four hours of the injection, according to the CDC. And the agency is urging anyone who has had allergic reactions to other vaccines to talk to their doctor about what it means for the COVID-19 vaccination. It also states that everyone, regardless of their medical condition, should be monitored by their doctor for at least 15 minutes after receiving a dose.
Myth # 8: You should wait until you can choose the exact type of vaccine you want.
Iovine said she regularly responds to questions from patients wondering whether they should choose the Moderna vaccine over the Pfizer vaccine or vice versa.
But it’s really a myth that there is a significant difference between the two at this point – or that people should expect one rather than the other.
“We don’t distinguish between them because they seem to behave the same way,” said Iovine. “So whatever you are offered, you should absolutely get it.”
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.