By: Dr. Frank Iannetta
Among the many reasons COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States peaked earlier than experts hoped, rather than declining into the summer months—are mostly due to myths that took hold among the unvaccinated and solidified as their reasoning to not get vaccinated. A few of those myths are: The vaccine will make women sterile; the vaccines are too new; the shots have a microchip in them; the vaccine itself will give me COVID; I’m immune because I had COVID; breakthrough cases prove vaccines are useless.
There are many more and not a single one of them are true.
But no matter how convincing and irrefutable the science and the data about the COVID-19 vaccines are, misinformation has spread quickly mostly due to social media and false reporting on the news. All of the myths and misinformation circling about has created a major barrier preventing the United States from reaching higher levels of vaccination (190 million people, or 57 percent of Americans, have received at least one shot) that would hopefully bring us closer to herd immunity.
Let’s address a few of these myths:
MYTH: The vaccine will make me sterile. Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?
FACT: This rumor started after a report claimed inaccurately, yet circulated on social media, that the SPIKE protein on this coronavirus was the same as another protein called syncytin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. It was quickly debunked as false by the scientific community—STAT News, Shattering the Infertility Myth.
The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 12 years of age or older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.
Currently no evidence shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and people who would like to have a baby here.
MYTH: A microchip, with the backing of Bill Gates, is being implanted with the vaccine.
FACT: This myth started circulating after Microsoft cofounder Gates said in an interview: “We will have some digital certificates” that could ultimately show who has been tested and who’s been vaccinated. He never mentioned microchips in this interview (BBC, Coronavirus: Bill Gates Microchip Conspiracy Theory).
MYTH: The technology used to create the COVID vaccines is too new to be safe.
FACT: The technology used, called messenger RNA, or mRNA, is not new. Research on it actually began in the early 1990’s, and two diseases that are similar to COVID—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) helped bring the mRNA vaccine development to present day use. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines)
MYTH: Getting the COVID vaccine gives you COVID.
FACT: This is not medically possible. COVID vaccines are not made with live SARS-COV-2 virus cells. They are not giving individuals the virus itself so you cannot get COVID from getting the vaccine.
MYTH: I already had COVID, so I am immune, and I do not need to get the vaccine.
FACT: After three to six months or so, the natural immunity begins to wane, and the risk of reinfection returns. We are definitely seeing people develop reinfections. Receiving the vaccine after having COVID is like a booster effect, and it is much more effective. Studies have been completed that compare people who had COVID versus those who did not, and those who got at least one shot after having COVID end up with very high levels of antibodies.
MYTH: Breakthrough cases are appearing with people who have been vaccinated so why bother getting the vaccine?
FACT: On August 9, the CDC stated there had been 8,054 vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died who had also tested positive for coronavirus, out of more than 166 million fully vaccinated Americans. This is roughly .005 percent. Additionally, CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, stated that 99.5 percent of all deaths from COVID-19 are in the unvaccinated. (Politifact, Fact Checking Joe Biden’s Figure on Unvaccinated COVID-19 Deaths)
COVID vaccines have been shown to be very powerful in preventing more severe disease and the need for hospitalization. Breakthroughs occur at a much, much lower rate than in people who are unvaccinated. The breakthroughs have been occurring more frequently with the Delta variant because of the high level of infectiousness (or transmissibility) of the Delta variant and lower protection of current vaccines against this variant. But people having breakthroughs have much more mild infection, more like an upper respiratory infection. The vaccines prevent severe disease and complications and allow people to return to a more normal state.
MYTH: Since I am vaccinated, I can ease off or drop all of my COVID precautions, correct?
FACT: The challenge is that Delta is so transmissible that we are advising people to wear masks again in supermarkets and stores and public places. The Delta variant is causing outbreaks mostly in unvaccinated people and only in small numbers of vaccinated people. Until we get to the point where transmission slows down considerably, Delta is just more easily spread, and we highly advise everyone to continue wearing masks in public. We are learning rather quickly that this variant can lead to vaccine breakthroughs and even be spread from one vaccinated person to another.
How do I know which COVID-19 vaccine information sources are accurate?
Accurate vaccine information is critical and can help stop common myths and rumors.
It is difficult to know which sources of information are trustworthy and which are not. Before reading about the vaccines on the internet or social media please check that the information you are reading comes from a credible source and is updated on a regular basis. You can learn more about finding credible vaccine information by clicking here.
Recommendations and information continue to change as science evolves and new information about COVID-19 comes to light.