The rapid development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines has been truly remarkable. In the United States alone, millions of people 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.
One obstacle encountered has been reluctance and mistrust of vaccines. In the United States, for example, polls suggest that between 50% and 70% of Americans plan to get a full COVID-19 vaccine. In Canada, it would be almost two-thirds .
Myth # 1: COVID-19 vaccines have been ‘done on the fast track’, so it can still be dangerous.
The speed of vaccine creation was unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean the researchers skipped any important steps.
“These vaccines were n’t ‘rushed’ through development,” says Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas.
Instead, the drug companies and the government have simply eliminated many of the bureaucratic inefficiencies that typically slow down the process, she points out.
In addition, drugmakers were able to ditch everything they were working on and have all of their scientists do it around the clock, Yancey adds.
Having said that, “there are parts of vaccine development that you cannot speed up. You can’t rush the safety trials, and that’s why we waited and then they released those results this summer, ”Yancey notes of those Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.
“Then you can’t rush efficacy trials, so that’s what we expected in the fall,” she says, referring to the larger-scale Phase 3 trials. “And it went really well.”
Additionally, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in real time as the vaccines are distributed – not because that they fear that they have not been sufficiently studied, but as an (usual) layer of additional protection.
Myth # 2: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
None of the vaccines approved for use in the United States or Canada contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Which means it’s just not possible to get sick with COVID-19 because of the vaccine.
This is a misconception that is also related to other vaccines, such as the flu shot. Many people feel unwell after having been vaccinated against the flu and believe they are carriers of the virus itself. But the flu shot is actually made from inactivated or “dead” viruses.
Likewise, after being vaccinated against COVID-19, it is common to develop symptoms that may appear 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 yes, your arm can 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 alter 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 infection from COVID-19.
But mRNA vaccines don’t interact with a person’s DNA.
“This messenger RNA simply enters the outer part of our cell, called the cytoplasm. It doesn’t go into the nucleus, so it doesn’t have access to our DNA. ”- Nicole Iovine, chief of epidemiology at Shands Hospital, University of Florida.
“One thing I hear that worries people is that it’s going to have an impact on their DNA, and I can see why people would make such a connection,” says Nicole Iovine, head of epidemiology at the Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. “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 simply enters the outer part of our cell, called the cytoplasm. 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, says Iovine.
Myth # 4: COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
In Quebec, the government’s reference site indicates that “the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined on the basis of future studies on the safety and efficacy of vaccines in these people”. In Ontario, pregnant and breastfeeding women can be vaccinated .
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.
Experts consulted 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.
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, argues Linda Yancey.
Even 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 there are antibodies that will pass through the umbilical cord blood to the baby and provide some protection. And also that it should pass through breast milk and offer protection. ”
Eckert adds 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.
“Lack of data doesn’t mean we’re 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 revisited, ”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 in the first 90 days , so it may make sense to wait a few months.
In part, this is because there are still many questions about how long natural immunity lasts and 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, ”Iovine details. “That’s why people who have had a COVID infection should benefit from the vaccine.”
Myth # 6: Once vaccinated, you can no longer spread the virus.
The two COVID-19 vaccines take a long 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.
In addition, it is not yet clear whether these vaccines prevent individuals from passing the virus to others. At present, the data only shows that they are effective in preventing the person who received both 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 mask wearing, hand washing and 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. In late December, the a health organisation said it was examining about 21 cases of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening immune response) after more than 1.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered.
Mild allergic reactions are possible within four hours of the injection, according to the WHO . And the agency urges anyone who has had allergic reactions to other vaccines to talk to their doctor about what it means for the COVID-19 vaccination. It is also stipulated that everyone, regardless of their medical condition, should be monitored for at least 15 minutes after receiving a dose.