By Philip S. Chua, MD.
In this information age and era of rapid telecommunication and split-second transmission, data, truths, and facts are disseminated with lightning speed to do business, social contact, educate, and entertain, but, unfortunately, so are myths, fake news, and falsehood, which could instantly misinform, confuse, and put people’s health and life in jeopardy.
With the advent of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna anti-COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, which is a light at the end of the long tunnel in this pandemic, hope smiles at humanity because this symbolizes the beginning of the end of this deadly global disaster that has infected almost 86.5 million and killed about 2 million people around the world; nearly 21.5 million cases and almost 365,000 deaths in the United States; nearly 480,000 infected and around 9400 deaths in The Philippines.
Here are some harmful myths circulating around the internet and in the social media we want to correct before they hurt and kill people. I appeal to all readers to eblast only facts and truths to counter fake news and falsehood. This is our obligation to ourselves and to our fellowmen.
The vaccines for COVID-19 are dangerous
Not true. These vaccines have been proven safe and effective. People are actually now feeling more secure about the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 after seeing healthcare front-liners, government officials, celebrities, and seniors getting either shot, without serious side-effects. The social media claim that Tennessee nurse Tiffany Dover died after getting the vaccine was fake news; she is alive and working. The CDC advises people with a history of “immediate allergic reactions” to anything in the past should NOT get these vaccines, without consultation with an allergist-immunologist first. More than 13 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in 30 countries, 4.7 million persons in the United States have received the shot since the vaccination started here on December 14, 2020. People now know that vaccines are safer than COVID-19, which has killed millions, and are eager to get their shot for protection and peace of mind.
These vaccines were rushed and unsafe
False. The reason why these vaccines were developed so fast was not because short-cuts were taken, but because of the new discovery and application of a more advanced, more efficient, and speedier techno-scientific process (using mRNA) in vaccine development, the first time ever to be utilized. These new mRNA vaccines do not alter the recipient’s DNA. President Trump also helped in facilitating efforts of these and other vaccine companies. In the past, it took several years or even decades to come up with vaccines. Henceforth, the world will witness faster vaccine development in the future for other ailments.
One can get COVID-19 from the vaccine
Not true. There is no virus in the vaccine, unlike in some vaccines of yesteryears. These two available mRNA vaccines today work by providing the genetic code for our body cells to manufacture proteins, which cause our body to launch an immune response against the virus, enabling the individual to develop immunity. So, these new vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 or any disease. It does no cause infertility either. Pregnant women with COVID-19 might even prevent a miscarriage or premature labor with the vaccine, so vaccination is recommended to ALL pregnant women.
These vaccines can cause long term ill-effects
No. There is no evidence, even in the studies and clinical trials, and among those vaccinated, that these mRNA vaccines can lead to long term side-effects. The only complication observed is mild allergic reaction (immediately severe in rare cases) which happens within 15 minutes or an hour after vaccination, the reason post-vaccinated individuals are observed for 15 to an hour before being discharged. The common side-effects can include pain around the needle-entry site, headache, tiredness, fever, and chills, varying in different persons. These reactions are a good indication that the body is responding and creating antibodies against the SARS-CoV2 virus, including the new variant from the United Kingdom.
Instant protection after the shot
Wrong. With the widely publicized efficacy of 90 to 95 percent for each vaccine, as shown by their respective studies and three-stage clinical trials, people may have the impression that after receiving the shot, they are instantly protected, immune within seconds/minutes from getting infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus of COVID-19. Not true! There were cases reported where individuals, five or so many days after receiving the vaccines, still got infected with COVID-19. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the vaccine to provide 52 percent (partial) immunity, and about another couple of months to achieve 90-95 percent protection. The claim that two half doses will confer the same full immunity was not part of the original studies and trials on 80,000 subjects, and is therefore questionable. As time goes by, we will learn more about the virus and the efficacy, duration of protection from the mRNA vaccines, and if we will need annual shots, like the flu vaccines.
People with health issues should not get the vaccine
False. As a matter of fact, those with high blood pressure, diabetes, hearty diseases, etc., should get the vaccine because they are high risk for COVID-19, especially seniors, who have the highest COVID-19 mortality. The same is true with those with compromised immune system (those with autoimmune disease, cancer patients undergoing treatments, etc.). After the healthcare front-liners, seniors, and these persons are the next priority for vaccination.
After getting infected, no vaccine is needed
Not true. Studies show the protective value of the vaccine is better than the immunity from having COVID-19, so the CDC recommends vaccination also for those who had COVID-19 for greater protection.
After getting the shot, no PPE are needed
False. After receiving the vaccine, Personal Protective Equipment are still needed, as explained earlier. We must continue to use facemasks (more effective N95 masks, if available) when in public, do social distancing, and do frequent handwashing. As I stated above, there were people who got infected several days after getting the shot, because immunity takes weeks/months to develop antibodies to protect the person. My precautionary recommendation is, after vaccination, behave as if you never got the shot, and continue to protect yourself and others following the same standard COVID-19 Guidelines, until herd immunity is established and stable. The scientific community and government will surely advise the public when “freedom” day arrives. We are all anxiously looking forward to that historic liberation with bated breath (literally) under our facemask.