Clearing up COVID-19 vaccine misconceptions

Dr. Tanya Horne, Suncoast Hospice Physician

BY KAREN DAVIS-PRITCHETT, Empath Health Vice President of Access & Inclusion

With new things often comes uncertainty. The COVID-19 vaccine is no different. Currently, there is a lot of information and misinformation circulating about the vaccine. Picking facts from fiction can be overwhelming during this already stressful time.

Tanya Horne, MD, Suncoast Hospice physician, stresses the importance of having the facts for making the choice about getting vaccinated.

“The COVID vaccine has been shown to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. Even if you don’t want it, you should think about your family or your neighbor you could transmit the virus to,” said Dr. Horne. “People are tired and want to get back to normal, but if we don’t get things under control, it’s going to be difficult to do that.”

Horne believes the vaccine is an essential tool for ending the pandemic. However, she recognizes some common misconceptions and feels it is vital for people to have factual information to decide what is right for them.

Misconception: I don’t want to get the vaccine because they are putting the COVID virus in my body.

Truth: None of the currently available vaccines use the live virus. The Pfizer and Moderna versions use mRNA, which is like giving your body a set of instructions for making a specific spike protein found on the coronavirus. Once your body recognizes this spike protein, your immune system can start making antibodies against it.

If you do get the virus, the antibodies will prevent you from getting very sick and becoming hospitalized. The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine uses a harmless vector to deliver these same instructions to the body and is just as effective. However, women under the age of 50 should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with the J&J vaccine.

Misconception: The side effects prove that the vaccine makes you sick and it is not protecting you.

Truth: Side effects can be a part of any vaccine and are completely normal. Even the flu vaccine can cause side effects such as a sore arm, mild body aches, and low-grade fevers. This is your body’s way of letting you know your immune system is activating, not that you have an infection. The COVID vaccine may cause a low fever, muscle aches, headache, or fatigue, but these are mild and short-lived.

Misconception: I got the vaccine, so I can stop wearing my mask.

Truth: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently revised their recommendations, indicating fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks. These recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings, and policies may vary at local businesses and on public transportation. Horne advises people remain vigilant and cautious.

Misconception: I got the flu shot, and that will protect me from contracting COVID-19.

Truth: The flu and COVID-19 are caused by two different viruses. The flu vaccine only protects against the flu virus. In order to be protected from the coronavirus, you need to get the COVID vaccine.

Other misconceptions circulating in the community include the vaccine causes infertility, alters a person’s DNA, or is injecting a microchip into the body. None of these are true either. The vaccine does not enter any cells, and once it has done its job, it is no longer in the body.

Experts believe we have a better chance of ending the pandemic if more people are vaccinated. Horne adds, “The vaccine not only protects you but your family and coworkers. Be mindful of your neighbor. Care about your fellow man.”

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