Debunking COVID-19 vaccine myths

Posted at 11:34 AM, Dec 15, 2020

After the rapid roll out in the U.K. of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine, Britain’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is warning people who have severe allergies, like those who have to carry around an adrenaline shot, to refrain from getting the vaccine for now.

“Two individuals seemed to have a severe allergic reaction,” Dr. William Moss said.

Dr. Moss is the executive director of International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He says we need to better understand what those two people had an allergic reaction to.

“This isn’t kind of completely out of the blue," Dr. Moss said. "These kinds of things are rare events, but they sometimes occur, and it’s usually to some kind of component or chemical in the vaccine that the individual’s immune system is responding to in a very abnormal way, creating this very intense allergic reaction.”

Even though it’s rare, Dr. Moss says it’s important to provide clarity on issues like this so people can trust the information they’re getting is reliable and true. Otherwise, there’s room for misinformation to spread. Many myths have already been circulating online about the vaccine.

Myths include things like Dr. Anthony Fauci will personally profit from a COVID-19 vaccine, or government food stamps will be denied to those who refuse COVID-19 vaccines, or the mRNA vaccines being developed for COVID-19 will alter human DNA.

“The MRNA vaccine, that doesn’t change our DNA in any way," Dr. Moss said. "These are not genetically altering vaccines. That Messenger RNA stays in the cytoplasm. It’s basically just a code for our bodies to make the spike protein of the SARS coronavirus-2 and then induce our immune response.”

One internet resource that can help you discern which sources offer actual facts is NewsGuard. The company has a team of journalists who review and rank the credibility of sources to help people know whether or not they can trust the information is true.

NewsGuard Health Editor John Gregory says each myth has a tiny grain of truth that is taken out of context and exaggerated. For example, another popular myth is that the COVID-19 vaccine will use microchip surveillance technology created by Bill Gates-funded research.

“Bill Gates did fund research into what is not a microchip, but what was supposed to be a detectable tattoo that would help track vaccines in the third world where there’s not robust medical records so you could just scan something, and a doctor would be able to tell ‘ok this child got this vaccine,’" Gregory said. "It’s not a tracking device because you can’t track it unless you’re in direct contact with the person, and it also had nothing to do with the pandemic.”

Dr. Moss says the microchip myth sounds like a sci-fi movie.

"These are vaccines," Dr. Moss said. "These are biological products that are designed to produce an immune response against the SARS-Coronavirus-2 so that individuals who are exposed to the virus either don’t get infected – that would be ideal – or at least are protected from developing severe disease, hospitalization and death.”

Living in a society where we’re constantly bombarded with new information right at our fingertips, how are we supposed to know who we can trust?

“The best thing people can do is know more about the sources of information that they are absorbing about the vaccine," Gegory said. "What their history and what their agenda may be when it comes to previous disease outbreaks and previous vaccines.”

Dr. Moss says even though it’s been done in a quick manner, it’s critical people understand these vaccines have gone through a rigorous scientific process to be approved.

“Vaccines are going to be key, a key tool in our toolbox to getting out of this pandemic.”