On Thursday, July 22, Governor Kay Ivey called out “the unvaccinated folks” for Alabama’s rise in COVID-19 cases over the past week. We asked The Bama Buzz readers if they agreed with the Governor, and 63% answered yes. Even so, about 66% of Alabama remains unvaccinated, largely because of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. We set out to debunk some common myths regarding the vaccine. Here’s what the experts told us.
Myth #1: the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility
Like many vaccine myths, this one arose through misinformation on social media. As reported by NPR, a false report stated that the spike protein on the coronavirus vaccine was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy.
During Pfizer vaccine trials, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists put it simply: “Claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded and have no scientific evidence supporting them.”
Getting COVID does put your fertility at risk, however. According to the CDC, pregnant women who contract COVID are more at risk for preterm birth (before 37 weeks). Get vaccinated and protect yourself before and during pregnancy.
Myth #2: the vaccine contains unnatural and unhealthy ingredients
Lots of people are intimidated by COVID-19 vaccine ingredients with complex scientific names.
The active ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine is mRNA. This is the first time mRNA vaccines have been approved for human use, but these types of shots have been researched for decades. According to UAB Medicine, mRNA vaccines were a vision 30 years in the making.
The mRNA in the COVID vaccine directs cells in the body to create a “spike protein” found on the outer wall of the coronavirus. Our bodies recognize this spike protein and start producing antibodies against COVID.
You cannot get COVID just from its spike protein alone. That’s like trying to drive a car with just a single tire, says the University of Cincinnnati’s Health Department.
In addition, the mRNA found in the COVID vaccine degrades in about one to two weeks. Only the effective antibodies it produces stick around.
Other vaccine ingredients have long names, but they aren’t harmful chemicals. Here are a couple examples:
- (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6, 1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate) is found in the Pfizer vaccine. This long name is a lipid. Lipids are fatty substances found in many foods. They also make up our cell walls.
- Tromethamine hydrochloride is found in the Moderna vaccine. This ingredient is an acid stabilizer, which maintains the stability of the COVID vaccine. Acids and acid stabilizers are found naturally throughout the human body. Hydrochloric acid in our stomachs helps aid digestion, amino acids are needed to make proteins and fatty acids help grow and repair the body’s tissues.
For more on vaccine ingredients, visit University of Cincinnati Health’s Comprehensive List of All COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients.
Myth #3: I don’t need the vaccine because I’ve already had COVID
You should still get vaccinated even if you’ve previously had COVID, as stated by the CDC.
Protection from the vaccine itself is more effective than immunity from previous infection. According to the CDC, experts don’t know how long you are protected from getting sick again after having COVID.
Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. You should, however, wait 60-90 days to get a vaccine after getting sick.
“The best immunity that anybody can have is someone who’s had infection like me, and then gets vaccinated. Then, you get immunity through the roof.”-Dr. Mike Saag, UAB Division of Infectious Diseases
Myth #4: the vaccine is ineffective
According to an Alabama Department of Health press release earlier this month, unvaccinated people represent over 96 percent of COVID deaths in Alabama since April 1.
Especially with the contagious Delta variant spreading, the vaccine will protect you from severe COVID infection. Since July 12, 90% of the samples sequenced at UAB’s Fungal Reference Lab have been confirmed as the Delta variant.
“COVID-19 vaccines are our best defense in preventing serious disease as well as deaths, and this is especially important as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads. While it is possible to get any strain of the virus, infected people are much less likely to experience complications or hospitalizations if fully vaccinated.”-Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer
Myth #5: I will get sick if I get the vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you COVID, as emphasized by the CDC.
The vaccine doesn’t contain the actual virus, but mRNA that instructs your cells to make spike proteins. The protein produced by the mRNA helps your cells recognize and fight the virus. It doesn’t cause any sort of infection.
Some people have experienced short term side effects from the vaccine like fatigue, headache and nausea. According to the CDC, these side effects will go away in a few days.
Mike Saag, a researcher at UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its short-term side effects.
“The question is, what’s my risk of having a problem with the vaccine versus my risk of getting COVID and having a problem with that. We know the vaccine is safe. But if I get COVID, even if I’m a young person, because we’re seeing Delta heavily penetrating into young people, I will get sick. So if you get COVID, and you’re young or old, it doesn’t matter, your chance of getting very sick and possibly going onto a breathing machine, and maybe dying is much, much, much higher than from getting the vaccine.”-Dr. Mike Saag, UAB Division of Infectious Diseases
Myth #6: I am young and healthy, so COVID won’t affect me
Alabama struggles with getting younger people vaccinated. Less than 26% of Alabamians age 18-29 are vaccinated, according to ADPH’s COVID dashboard.
“Our Achilles heel remains very low rates of coverage in younger adults, particularly those aged 12 to 49. We just are not managing to reach those folks the way that we need to. And that’s informing not only our number of cases, but also really sadly, the number of severe infections we’re seeing.”-Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases
As the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain in the US, young people are even more at risk. A recent study from Imperial College London found that children and young adults are 2.5 times more likely to get infected with the Delta variant than the original COVID strain.
The best way for young people to protect themselves, their family and their community is to get vaccinated. A recent New England Journal of Medicine study found that two doses of the Pfizer demonstrated almost 90% efficacy against Delta, while two doses of Moderna were almost 70% effective.
For updated vaccine sites and information, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website.
Are you thinking about getting vaccinated? What’s holding you back? Tag @thebamabuzz and let us know.