The COVID-19 vaccine now being distributed is one of our best tools yet in ending the pandemic. But as your patients endeavor to educate themselves about the COVID-19 vaccine, be cognizant of the fact that there is a lot of inaccuracies and misinformation in circulation. For example, COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19. None of the vaccines currently in development or distribution in the U.S. use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
But unfortunately, hesitance about the vaccine is not a myth. One in five Americans polled in May 2020 said they would refuse a vaccine. To help you better inform your patients about some of the myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, we’ve created a list of myth-busting facts from several sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, to help separate truth from fiction. The more informed patients are about the vaccine, the better the decisions they can make about reaching out to their healthcare providers to receive the vaccination.
Myth #1: The speed of development affected the vaccine's safety and efficacy.
Fact: Many skeptics have noted how quickly the vaccine was developed in an attempt to use its speed against it. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said the speed was just “a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances that have been made in platform technologies for vaccines” over the past decade.
Fauci also credited the speed of the vaccine development to the “enormous amount of money” that was devoted to getting coronavirus vaccines prepared—even before approval. The NIAID director was adamant that the speed of the vaccine development “was not at the expense of safety, nor was it at the expense of scientific integrity.”
Myth #2: I already had COVID-19 and I have recovered, so I don’t need to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Fact: Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.
At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
Myth #3: COVID-19 vaccines have severe side effects.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to have short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions. Some participants in the Pfizer/BioNTech study experienced pain at the injection site or developed headache, fatigue or muscle pain lasting a day or two. These types of side effects are common with vaccinations.
Myth #4: You can stop wearing a mask after you're vaccinated.
Fact: With the end of COVID in sight, many people are eager to toss out their masks, but Dr. Anthony Fauci says we can’t do away with precautions just yet. “You need to keep wearing masks and doing the fundamental public health measures” even after you've been vaccinated, he said.
According to Fauci, we can't begin to get rid of any public health measures until there is an extremely low amount of virus circulating, which he believes will be when between 70 to 80 percent of people have immunity to COVID.
Myth #5: Our immune systems are better than vaccines.
Fact: A popular social media claim, circulated by Sen. Rand Paul and others, says the vaccines are inferior to people’s immune systems in protecting against COVID-19.
This belief conflates two numbers: the survival rate of those who contract the virus, which is about 99 percent, and the roughly 95 percent efficacy rate of the vaccines under consideration in the U.S. Asked about the claim, Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, said the survival rate still means hundreds of thousands will die from the disease. The vaccines’ high efficacy rate, much higher than that of flu shots, could swiftly bring about herd immunity that would prevent people from encountering the virus at all, he said.
Myth #6: COVID-19 vaccines were developed to control the population through microchip tracking or “nanotransducers” in the human brain.
Fact: There is no vaccine microchip, and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database. This myth started after comments made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology they were referencing is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner, and is not tied to the development, testing, or distribution of the vaccines.
Myth #7: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will cause infertility in women.
Fact: This myth was circulated recently on social media. But experts say these claims are baseless.
“It’s a myth, it’s inaccurate—there’s no evidence to support their perception,” said Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Yale University. Expert agencies that oversee the clearance of vaccines for use in people, he added, “have a rigorous process” to weed out products that might cause such disastrous effects. “And when things happen, action is taken,” Dr. Omer said.
The rumors about infertility were fueled by an article published by a blog called Health and Money News, which falsely claimed that Pfizer’s vaccine contained ingredients capable of “training the female body to attack” a protein that plays a crucial role in the development of the placenta.
Download a Word file template of these COVID-19 vaccine myths here to help educate your patients. It can be used all, or in part, in emails, text messages, social media, or website content. You can also sign up here for a COVID-19 vaccine resources series that includes tips, tools, and stories.