With COVID-19 numbers rising with the proliferation of the Delta variant, it’s becoming increasingly important for people to get the vaccine to keep each other safe and to curb the pandemic. This week, we spoke to and published personal accounts of people who were formerly vaccine-hesitant and why they changed their minds about getting the vaccine. Some of their concerns are listed below while others have been circulating online. So here are a list of common misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccines and how to fact-check and respond to them.
I don’t want to be injected with the virus or I don’t know how the vaccine works
While some vaccines use either inactivated or weakened germs, the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not. Instead, mRNA vaccines work by teaching cells how to make the S protein which is found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. That triggers an immune response in our bodies which produces antibodies that protect us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies, according to the CDC and Mayo Clinic. After delivering the instructions, the mRNA is immediately broken down and it never enters the nucleus of the cells where DNA is kept.
For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a modified version of a different virus, otherwise known as a viral vector, enters a cell. It then delivers harmless genetic material from the COVID-19 virus which gives the cells instructions on how to make copies of the S protein. Then the immune system creates antibodies and defensive white blood cells. Viral vector vaccines do not cause people to become infected with the COVID-19 virus or the viral vector virus. The genetic material does not become a part of your DNA either, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The vaccine is so new
Despite the fact that the novel coronavirus is new, the technology being used by both Moderna and Pfizer, two of the most common vaccines in the US, is not. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbet, one of the lead scientists for the Moderna vaccine, told the National Institute of Health that “messenger RNA technologies have been in development from a basic science perspective for over 15 years.” During those years, Moderna developed mRNA as a bioplatform, which allows “for speedier vaccine development. Bioplatforms are systems that can easily be scaled and tailored for many different diseases, according to a CNBC article.
The vaccine was developed too fast
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the technology of using mRNAs for vaccines has been around for more than 15 years. While vaccines usually go through phases of clinical trials one at a time, for the COVID-19 vaccines, the phases were overlapped to speed up the process so they could be rolled out as quickly as possible to control the pandemic, according to the CDC. No trial phases were skipped. Operation Warp Speed also helped fund vaccine makers develop and build out the vaccines at commercial scale quickly.
I don’t know what the long-term side effects of the vaccine are going to be
“Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination,” according to the CDC. “Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose.” An outline of historical vaccines by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found this to be true. And while there have been some health complications for those who have taken one of the COVID-19 vaccines, health experts repeatedly note that the likelihood of getting sick with COVID or surviving with permanent damage due to COVID-19 is much more likely, according to a Healthline report.
It’s not approved by the FDA
While some may point to this as a reason not to get the COVID-19 vaccines, on Monday, the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine. Prior to the approval, it had been approved under emergency use authorization or EUA, like the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is still under EUA for people aged 12-15 and for immunocompromised individuals who want a third dose. According to the FDA, “EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.” Moderna filed their application for full approval in June, a few weeks after Pfizer, according to NBC. Johnson & Johnson is expected to file for full approval later this year
I can still get COVID-19 even if I get vaccinated so what’s the point?
While this may be true, breakout infections among vaccinated individuals is much less likely than unvaccinated people becoming infected with COVID-19. According to a study released by the CDC on Tuesday, unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to those who are vaccinated and were five times as likely to be infected. A report from late June by the Associated Press also found that about 98 to 99 percent of individuals dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
I’m young and healthy so I don’t need to get vaccinated
It’s true that younger people were less susceptible to contracting and getting COVID-19 since the outbreak began last year. However, with the rise of the Delta variant, more and more young people are being hospitalized for COVID-19. Whereas before, experts said that a person’s age and underlying conditions were the biggest factors on whether someone would be hospitalized, now it’s vaccine status according to Healthline. According to CDC data, this summer, adults ages 18-49 accounted for the largest increase in hospitalizations. An article in the NY Times recently stated that doctors are “seeing more younger patients who seem sicker than younger patients were last year, deteriorating more rapidly.” Doctors suspect that the Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections nationwide, is playing a role, according to the article. Studies have also shown that the Delta variant may cause more severe disease as well.