The COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is not only seen in India but across the globe. Various news and information pieces floating around, about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines- how they work and whether they will protect you from the newest strains of the novel coronavirus - has resulted in panic and confusion; leading experts to believe that more people might opt out of getting the jab.
If you’re still uncertain about getting vaccinated when your turn comes, then this list of myths and facts about the COVID-19 vaccine should help you clear most of your doubts.
Myth 1: The COVID-19 vaccines were approved in a hurry and are not safe.
Truth: Each of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, whether in India or other countries, have gone through proper clinical trials.
The clinical trials have reported vaccines to be safe, with headache, fatigue, fever, and pain in your arms as the most common side effects. Vaccines are bound to cause certain temporary side effects in a large proportion of the receiving population but they are mostly safe.
Your immune system is building resistance or immune response against the virus and the human body is expected to show mild side effects.
All COVID-19 vaccines are safe and you must take both doses of the vaccine until you have a signed certificate from your physician to not get the vaccine with supporting reasons.
Myth 2: The COVID-19 vaccine can possibly alter your DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).
Truth: Currently, both the vaccines approved for use in India, Covishield and Covaxin are viral vector vaccines, i.e., both the vaccines are made of inactivated or dead viruses that are safe to inject into your body, allowing your body to create necessary antibodies against the pandemic virus. These vaccines do not interact with your DNA, and cannot alter it.
The mRNA vaccines are approved for use in the United States. COVID-19 mRNA or Messenger RNA (Ribonucleic acid) vaccines also do not change or alter your DNA in any manner.
Messenger RNA vaccines provide a blueprint for your cells to build an immune response against the virus. Besides building antibodies, your immune cells will also retain the information in their memory and initiate the same defense response when you are exposed to the virus, after being vaccinated.
The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine will never enter the nucleus of any cell, which is where your DNA resides. This means that mRNA vaccines cannot affect or interact with your DNA at all.
Myth 3: You do not have to follow social distancing rules after getting vaccinated.
Truth: It is true that the COVID-19 vaccine is being administered to curb the spread of Coronavirus disease. However, it is in your best interest to follow all the current guidelines - maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing, even after receiving the vaccine.
Health experts do not have enough data to predict how long natural or vaccine immunity will last for COVID-19. Until then, it is advisable to take necessary precautions to keep the infection away.
Myth 4: You should not take the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re planning a pregnancy or undergoing fertility treatment.
Truth: It is advisable for all those who are trying to get pregnant or undergoing fertility treatments to get vaccinated. The approved vaccines will only help build immunity against the virus, with little or mild side-effects in most cases. There is not much to worry about and there is no reason to delay pregnancy attempts or discontinue ongoing fertility treatments.
Another reason you might want to consider is the fact that your antibodies against COVID-19 can be passed to your fetus (baby-to-be), in both, natural pregnancy or through any fertility treatment. Always check with your doctor/gynaecologist in case of any doubts.
Myth 5: The vaccines are not effective against the newer, deadlier strains of COVID-19.
Truth: The contagious strains of the Coronavirus found in the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, and Brazil have raised many questions about the effectiveness of the current vaccines against them.
Researchers state that Covishield is effective against the UK strain. Reports released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) suggest that Covaxin can work against the new UK variant.
Studies are being conducted to analyze the efficacy of Covishield and Covaxin against South Africa and the Brazilian strain.
Currently, it is advisable to take any of the approved vaccines to develop immunity against the COVID-19 infection.
Myth 6: Individuals with a certain blood type have less severe COVID-19 infection, and they don’t have to get vaccinated.
Truth: There is no research to support that a certain blood type will result in less severe or mild symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Making the choice to get yourself vaccinated will not only protect you but your family and the community as well.
Myth 7: Natural immunity is better than vaccine immunity for COVID-19.
Truth: This is not true at all! The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that intentionally exposing yourself and your family to the virus to develop a natural immune response is not ideal and practical.
This may lead to many more cases and serious consequences for your health. It is recommended to follow all physical distancing measures.
Even if you have already contracted the infection and recovered from it, it is advisable to take the vaccine. Immunity, whether natural or through vaccination, will only protect you, your family, and the society at large. Having said this, it does not mean that you expose yourself to infected patients knowingly.
Myth 8: Herd immunity will slow the spread of COVID-19 and you do not have to get vaccinated.
Herd immunity, also known as community immunity or herd protection, occurs when nearly 70% of a population is either vaccinated or contracted an infection to develop immunity against a disease, to stop its spread.
To achieve herd immunity with COVID-19, would take millions of cases and probably, more deaths. More cases would put more strain on the already strained healthcare system and economy across the globe. And we do not know for sure how long the immunity will last.
Hence, it is advisable to get yourself vaccinated and not wait for herd immunity to be developed against COVID-19.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html> [Accessed 3 March 2021].
2. AAMC. 2021. 6 myths about the COVID-19 vaccines — debunked. [online] Available at: <https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/6-myths-about-COVID-19-vaccines-debunked> [Accessed 3 March 2021].
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