With so much conflicting information on the COVID-19 vaccines, GEORGE LOUW sets out to find the truth from reputable sources
We live in a world of false news e live in a world of false news and distorted facts distributed on social media. One way to counter false and distorted posts is to corroborate the information by researching reputable websites (such as the Johns Hopkins Medicines site in this instance) and see what it says.
Then find at least two other reputable sites and compare the information on all three sites. If the sites provide essentially the same information, it can be accepted as factual.
With this in mind, I’ve researched 10 popular myths regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and uncovered the truth.
MYTH: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.
FACT: The two initial vaccines are both about 95 percent effective with, reportedly, no serious or life-threatening side effects.
The COVID-19 vaccine trials and developmentweredonespeedily,duetothe urgency, but were subjected to rigorous safety and effectiveness regulatory standards in the countries making and/or distributing the vaccines. Importantly, the vaccines that have been approved have been tested in human trials.
MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19.
FACT: The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The protein that helps your immune system recognise and fight the virus does not cause infection of any sort.
The vaccine does not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so it simply cannot infect you with COVID-19 and you will not test positive for the coronavirus.
There may be side effects to the vaccine. It’s normal after the vaccination to see skin redness, swelling or pain around the injection site. You might also have fever, headache, fatigue and/or aching limbs in the first three days after vaccination.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.
FACT: The two COVID-19 vaccines available to us 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 does not enter 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.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine includes a tracking device.
FACT: Vaccines do not contain tracking devices or microchips. Rumours on social media should be ignored as fake news.
MYTH: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.
FACT: Individuals who get the COVID-19 vaccination still need to practice infection prevention precautions. Keep your mask on, and continue staying at least six feet (or 1,5 metres) from people outside your household, until further notice. Vaccines do not stop the coronavirus from entering your body; they only prevent you from developing 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.
Masking, handwashing and physical distancing remain necessary until a sufficient number of people are immune. The best protection we can offer each other right now is to continue to follow current guidelines.
As more people are vaccinated and experts have a better idea of how long natural and vaccine immunity last, public health experts will update their guidance as necessary.
MYTH: If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.
FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. With the severe health risks associated and the possibility of re-infection, people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with it before.
There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
Several subjects in the Pfizer trial, who were previously infected, got vaccinated without ill effects. Some scientists believe the vaccine offers better protection against the coronavirus than natural immunity.
MYTH: The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are dangerous.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine can have side effects, but the vast majority are very short term, and not serious or dangerous. The vaccine developers report that 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 stimulate your immune system. If symptoms persist beyond two days, you should call your doctor.
Although extremely rare, people can have severe allergic reactions to ingredients used in a vaccine. That’s why experts recommend people with a history of severe allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine, such as anaphylaxis, should not get the vaccination.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can cause other illnesses including autism.
FACT: The vaccine is made up of messenger RNA, which boosts your immunity to the coronavirus. It does not heighten your risk to become sick from another infection such as the flu.
There is no connection between the vaccine and autism. This fear seems to stem from a study published in 1998 suggesting that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine might cause autism. Since then, scientific studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines, or any of their ingredients, and autism.
MYTH: The vaccine causes infertility in women.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The truth is that the COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it.
Misinformation on social media suggests the vaccine trains the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta, which could lead to infertility in women.
The truth is, there’s an amino acid sequence shared between the spike protein and a placental protein; however, experts say it’s too short to trigger an immune response and therefore doesn’t affect fertility.
Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t protect you against the new strains of the virus.
FACT: Viruses do mutate, and existing vaccines may be less effective against the new variants. However, AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot, said recently that the company’s vaccine should “remain effective” against new variants.
Meanwhile, recent scientific evidence has shown that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is effective against the two variants of the virus (known as N501Y), identified in South Africa and in the United Kingdom.
More data is needed on the effectiveness of the current vaccines against possible future variants of the virus, in particular, the recently identified “escape mutant” known as E484K.
A key advantage of the mRNA technology used in Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is that it allows the vaccines to be adapted to potentially provide immunity to future mutations in the virus.
All the approved COVID-19 vaccines have been tested extensively for safety and have been proved to be over 90 percent effective, which is an excellent result for vaccine efficacy. Together with mask-wearing, hand-sanitising and social distancing, they are a key weapon in the fight against COVID-19.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on COVID-19 vaccines. When asked to compose an article on the vaccines, I searched the web for entries by reputable organisations. The 10 myths were taken from the below sources and the facts are an abbreviated synopsis of these resources.
Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine. org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19- vaccines-myth-versus-fact.
University of Missouri Health Care: https://www.muhealth.org/ our-stories/covid-19-vaccine-myths-vs-facts.
1 Life (a South African Insurance Company with a blog on healthy living): https://www.1life.co.za/blog/myths-covid-vaccine.