By Gregory T. Williams, MD
Chief of Infectious Disease
Despite millions of Americans being safely vaccinated, many people are still reluctant to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. If you or someone you love has still not been vaccinated, I offer the information below, which I hope will dispel some common myths and fears some people may have about the vaccine.
I’ve gotten COVID-19, so I don’t need the vaccine.
Although getting infected with COVID-19 produces antibodies that protect you after you recover, the protection doesn’t last indefinitely and the virus can re-infect you. That’s why the CDC recommends that recovering COVID-19 patients should get the vaccine once they are no longer in isolation but may safely wait up to 90 days after they are infected.
It’s safer to wait, as the vaccines are not fully approved by the FDA.
It’s important to know that full FDA approval is largely based on how effective a vaccine works over a longer period of time – not how safe the vaccine is. The FDA is still studying the long-term efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines under real-world conditions, which is why not every vaccine has received full approval yet. However, all the vaccines underwent Phase 3 clinical trials, which carefully measured their safety and ability to protect against the virus – which is why they received emergency use authorization. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received full FDA approval for those 16 and older on August 23, 2021. Full FDA approval for the other vaccines is expected in the near future.
The COVID-19 vaccine will affect a woman’s fertility.
Two of the COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology to instruct cells to generate a spike protein that spurs an immune response using antibodies in the body. Previously, a retired British doctor and a German physician erroneously claimed that the spike protein on the coronavirus was the same as a protein that is responsible for the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy, and that the antibodies in the vaccine would not be able to differentiate between the two proteins and cause problems. This is not true, the overall makeup of the placental protein is very different from the coronavirus spike protein. In fact, during the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine tests, 23 female volunteers became pregnant after taking the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant woman and women who wish to become pregnant. In addition, the antibodies the vaccine creates will help protect the baby when it is born.
I am hesitant because of side effects and dangerous adverse events.
Most of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild, including low grade fever, a sore arm, and fatigue. These are actually indications that the vaccine is starting to work to protect you. There have been some reports of medical issues with the COVID-19 vaccines. However, these adverse events are extremely rare. For instance, one adverse advent reported with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine – blood clots with low platelets in women – has occurred at the rate of about seven times per one million vaccinations in women 18-49 years old. It is simply much safer to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than unvaccinated.
The mRNA vaccines were rushed, so I worry about their safety.
It’s true that that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly. However, this was only possible because scientists have been doing research on messenger RNA (mRNA) for decades. This allowed the vaccines to be created quickly once the genetic information of the virus was identified. All the vaccines were tested in very large clinical trials for their safety and effectiveness before being given to the general public. No shortcuts were taken.
The COVID-19 vaccines can alter my DNA.
The vaccines have no ability to alter your DNA. The messenger RNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech) and the viral vector vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) cause your body to develop protective antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. Your DNA is located in the nucleus of your cells and the vaccine does not enter the nucleus. For this reason, it cannot affect your genetic code in any way.
I don’t believe the vaccine has been used long enough to know the long-term effects.
Doctors and medical researchers know that the most serious side effects of vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, show up in the first six weeks after vaccination. In fact, serious side effects are usually detected in the first two weeks after a person has been vaccinated. The vaccines were first given to healthcare workers in December of 2020, and millions of people across the world have been safely vaccinated and shown no long-term effects other than being protected from COVID-19.
The virus is not as dangerous as the vaccine.
This is simply not true. The COVID-19 virus is deadly. Millions of people around the world have died after contracting COVID-19. Since the vaccine has been rolled out in the United States, nearly all deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among people who weren’t vaccinated. Even if you still have concerns about the health effects of the vaccine, the protection it affords against COVID-19 far outweighs any potential adverse side effects. Please get vaccinated!
About Gregory T. Williams, MD, Chief of Infectious Disease
Ever since he was a child, Dr. Greg T. Williams knew he wanted to be a doctor. “It was just one of those things, I always knew I wanted to be in medicine. I think it was a combination of enjoying science and wanting to help others that led me to decide to become a doctor,” he explains.
Dr. Williams works in the Division of Infectious Disease at Reliant Medical Group, helping to diagnose and treat a wide range of viral, bacterial,...View profile View posts by this doctor