January 20, 2021 ● 3 min read
By Shivam Bhargava and Emily Bradfield
As of January 2021, over twenty-two million COVID-19 cases had been reported in the United States alone, and at least 91 million worldwide; the rollout of a vaccine is a long-awaited reprieve after months of lockdowns, economic damage, overwhelmed hospitals, and high levels of uncertainty. More than 9 million Americans have already received their first dose of a vaccine. As a healthcare worker, you may be thinking, “I’m in the midst of the most stressful period of time in my professional career, and NOW I’ve got to decide whether I want to be on the front end of this vaccine campaign!” Heroes Health would like to provide some background information to help alleviate some of the anxiety and concerns surrounding the vaccine so that you can make an informed decision for yourself, your family, and those around you. So, what should you know about the two COVID-19 vaccines?
Vaccines are an important public health tool because they reduce the risk of illness by “working with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to a disease”. The ultimate goal of a vaccination campaign is to eventually obtain herd immunity, which occurs when enough people acquire immunity through either natural infection or vaccination that it becomes unlikely that a virus or bacteria can spread through a population and cause disease.
So far, two vaccines have received emergency use authorizations from the FDA and are now in distribution — Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. As more Americans have become vaccinated, many have raised concerns over the COVID-19 vaccines and what risks may accompany vaccination. Here are some common myths about the vaccines:
Myth 1: Many worry that the mRNA vaccines may alter recipients’ genetic information.
However, the vaccine does not interact with an individual’s DNA. Neither of the available COVID-19 vaccines contains the virus itself, so there is no way for anyone who gets vaccinated to become infected by the vaccine.
Myth 2: Some may also fear the protocols taken to release it because of the quick turnaround with the vaccine distribution.
No shortcuts were taken in the process of the vaccine approval and vaccine safety was tested through three phases of clinical trials involving thousands of participants. Fortunately, vaccine development speed was enhanced because researchers were able to build off of biological and clinical lessons learned from SARS-CoV (2003) and MERS-CoV (2012), both of which are in the coronavirus family. Both vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trial testing, FDA evaluation, and review from both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the CDC before being approved for widespread dissemination. There are also other COVID-19 vaccines in development that may be approved for public usage soon. Additionally, because mRNA vaccines can be synthesized in a laboratory using ready-made materials (no virus needed), development and production can be scaled up quickly. Government funding through Operation Warp Speed has also enhanced development and production speeds.
Myth 3: Another common misconception regarding the vaccines is that only the vulnerable and those who are classified as high-risk need to get vaccinated.
While vulnerable and high-risk populations are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, it is imperative that the entire population gets vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity and protect those who may not be able to be vaccinated, such as newborns and those who are immunocompromised.
Myth 4: Some believe that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
This false claim comes from the idea that the vaccine contains a spike protein called syncytin-1, which is vital for the formation of the placenta. The claim states that the vaccine works so that we form an immune response against the syncytin-1 protein, which would ultimately cause infertility in women. However, the coronavirus’s spike protein is not the same protein that is related to the formation of the placenta. While the coronavirus spike protein and syncytin-1 share a very small genetic sequence, the similarity is too small to elicit an immune response and cause infertility.
While it is natural to have hesitations about something that has been released so quickly, scientists and researchers across the world have assured the general public that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and needed for our country in order to move towards a pandemic free society. Not only do experts believe that getting the COVID-19 vaccine will help prevent you from getting seriously ill if you do get COVID-19, but getting the vaccine helps those around you as well, particularly those who are at higher risk. The COVID-19 vaccine will protect you by creating an antibody response without you having to get sick. While additional research is needed to determine how long the protection lasts, it is clear that the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to family, friends, and patients.