Understanding the unknown

Debunking common myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine

Sneha Selvaraj, Opinions Editor

When the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines began in January, saying it was met with resistance would be an immense understatement. While many rushed to vaccination centers to reserve their dose, an even larger number of observers watched skeptically from the sidelines. A nurse in Germany even injected thousands with saline instead of the vaccine just to minimize its distribution. While it was hoped that time would alleviate this issue, nine months later, we see that not much has changed. 

On the morning of August 30th, news channels around the world displayed a long awaited headline: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Despite this, vaccination numbers remained relatively stangnet, having reached a stubborn plateau. The CDC states that only 51.1% of Americans are completely vaccinated. In Nebraska that number is 53%. This percentage is nowhere near what we need to reach the threshold proportion for immunity, which would almost stop the circulation of COVID if enough people were to get vaccinated.

While being anxious of the unknown is a valid concern, the refusal to get vaccinated is proving to be deadly. There have already been more COVID related deaths in 2021 than 2020, and it is unvaccinated people who are spearheading this rapid spike. In fact according to AP news, vaccinated Americans only accounted for 1.1% of all 107,000 COVID hospitalizations in May and 0.8% of all 18,000 COVID related deaths. 

This issue is rooted in the fact that many of those dodging their vaccination are simply misinformed of what is being put in their body. Whether it’s believing that the government is trying to insert a microchip into them(our phones already track us better than any microchip ever could) or assuming that the vaccine itself will give them COVID (it is not made with live virus cells so that is impossible), it is imperative that these myths are addressed.

 

Myth #1: 

One of the largest circulating fears is that the vaccine was too new and rapidly created  to be safe. In reality, the technology used (called mRNA vaccines) is no recent phenomenon. Research on it began in the early 1990s due to the arrival of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) which are both extremely similar to COVID. The development of both of these helped make the mRNA vaccine what it is today.

 

Myth #2: 

Another misconception is that the mRNA can affect your genes. The truth is that the vaccine never even makes it to your nucleus and therefore does not interact with your DNA. Thus, if you are pregnant or hoping to have a child one day, the vaccine will have no effect on your fertility or baby– which is another popular myth. So no, your baby will not grow four heads because you decided to get vaccinated.

 

Myth #3:

One last piece of misinformation to clear up is the idea that certain groups do not need a vaccine. Many believe that if they already had COVID, they are completely immune to getting the infection once more. 

This was never proven and scientists do not know how long the immunity lasts. In addition to this, many have reported getting infected with COVID twice. After you receive the vaccine you are not safe from getting infected either. While it significantly reduces your chances of getting the illness and alleviates your symptoms, you can still transmit it to others and get infected yourself. This is why it is important to keep wearing masks until a larger portion of the population is vaccinated.

Of course, there are exceptions to people not getting the vaccine. Whether it’s an allergy to vaccine components or other issues in their medical history, vaccinations simply aren’t an option for everyone. However if you are eligible to get a vaccine safely, it is imperative that you do so.

While it is difficult living in a time of uncertainty, educating ourselves can go a long way in alleviating concerns. So stay informed and continue to inform those around you. If you choose to not get vaccinated, make sure that it is for the right reasons and that you have researched them thoroughly. The safety of you and those around you depends on it.