The COVID-19 virus can be so nasty, deadly, and even chronic. At times it doesn’t run a course and fade away like most viruses. Are vaccines the answer? Voices throughout the global scientific, medical, and public health communities are echoing each other:
COVID-19 vaccines will minimize deaths and serious illnesses caused by this virus.
The approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
This vaccine effort has involved scores of scientists and laboratories, regulatory and administrative agencies, supply chains, and manufacturers who existed before the pandemic and likely intend to be here afterward. Large and small, local and global, public and private, profit and non-profit, governmental, academic, and even competitors are all agreeing on the vaccine message.
Yes, you can certainly find other opinions, but you won’t find them in numbers with the expertise recognized in the vaccination campaign. You can also find intentional frauds and fakes, though bad actors are called out quickly. Bogus N95 healthcare respirators, improperly handled vaccine, price gouging…, all brought to the light of day thanks to the vast involvement of so many reputable entities and workers.
In the U.S., regulatory approval depends on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s central mission is improving the health and safety of American citizens. For over 70 years, the CDC has been central in applying science to a long list of public health issues including salmonella in food, carcinogens in cigarettes, cholesterol, and childhood illnesses. COVID-19 is the public health emergency of the day.
The CDC publishes information for our health & safety based on research. COVID-19 has its own space on their website. It is updated daily as new and changing information is verified. Remember when face coverings for the public were deemed “unlikely to be useful?” That CDC guidance changed in response to research. Research ensures vaccine safety.
There are falsehoods out there that work against trusting COVID-19 vaccine safety. Here are some common ones:
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines were developed too fast, so are probably unsafe.
- FACT: Makers are using the exact same standards they used before the Pandemic. No steps were omitted, but many were done simultaneously rather than sequentially. What is very different is the speed with which the vaccine was designed, produced, and approved in the U.S, the U.K, and Europe.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA.
- FACT: The vaccine tells our cells to make antibodies but cannot get to the DNA in the center of our cells, so it can’t alter our DNA. Messenger-RNA is part of some vaccines, but RNA is not part of DNA.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccine gives you the virus.
- FACT: You cannot get the virus from the shot. There is not a single complete virus in the vaccine, only specific pieces.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccination means you don’t need to distance or wear face coverings.
- FACT: For now, we are still advised to do both. Research will tell us for how long.
MYTH: If you’ve had COVID-19 illness you don’t need the vaccine.
FACT: Even if you’ve had COVID-19 illness, the vaccine is recommended by the CDC. Research is ongoing. It is unknown how long immunity may occur after an infection or how long the vaccine will protect people from infection.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe for pregnancy and affects fertility.
FACT: There is no credible evidence that the vaccine is unsafe for pregnancy or affects fertility; research is ongoing, and folks should speak with their healthcare providers.
The CDC vaccine information page COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC addresses many questions like herd immunity, and V-safety. The CDC is also publishing communication tools to aid leaders in getting science-based information out to employers and groups: COVID-19 Vaccination Toolkits for CBOs & Employers. Thus far, they have toolkits for essential workers, community-based organizations (CBOs), medical, pharmacy and clinical settings, and long-term care facilities.
So, when primary care providers’ offices say the risks from the vaccine are less worrisome than those from a complicated case of COVID-19 illness, you now have some of the reasons behind that advice. As with any medicine or vaccine, the decision is personal and should be made after a review of the current science and your own health factors. Even a different normal provided by vaccinations is worth aiming for—it would be a lot more comfortable than the current situation. Right now, take control of your own part for yourself and your community: distancing, handwashing, covering, and understanding the facts around vaccinations.