ST. LOUIS — The Surgeon General is warning: myths and false information about COVID-19 vaccines are costing lives.
"The truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy in a passionate White House briefing. "This has led to avoidable illnesses and deaths. Simply put, health information has cost us lives."
Even as hospitals fill up, health officials watch case counts with concern, and variants pose a higher risk, false information about the vaccines permeates the conversation.
Here are some of the most frequently shared falsehoods related to the vaccine, and what doctors have to say about them.
Myth 1: You don’t need a vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19.
“You have some natural protection for a bit,” said Dr. Jason Newland, Washington University infectious disease specialist. “However, we have learned that the vaccine is actually probably giving you even better protection.”
The vaccines are also proving effective against identified variants.
Myth 2: The vaccines can make you infertile or cause issues in pregnancy.
“Even biologically, it doesn't look plausible that this could be the case,” said Dr. Newland.
People who are pregnant are at much higher risk of severe symptoms or death if they get COVID-19. That’s why specialists recommend anyone who wants to conceive in the future get the shot now, as well as anyone currently pregnant or breastfeeding.
“We've been looking at this emerging data of pregnancy and breastfeeding we've seen only good stuff,” said Dr. Marta Perez, OBGYN. “We have yet to find any downsides basically.”
Myth 3: The MRNA vaccine changes your genetic makeup.
It does train your cells to respond to infection, but it doesn’t change your DNA.
“This MRNA vaccine gets into you and provides your body the ability to make a protein that your immune system will respond to,” explained Dr. Newland.
Myth 4: The vaccine was developed too quickly to be safe.
There were no shortcuts in the vaccine process, but Operation Warp speed made it more efficient.
“The emergency use authorization, all it did was speed up the administration and production parts, it actually did not cut any corners on safety,” said Dr. JoAnn Jose, SSM St. Louis University Hospital infectious disease specialist,
In the history of vaccines, doctors say, widespread severe side effects have always become evident early enough in the process that we would know about them by now. The vaccines approved in the United States actually involved more people in the initial trials than most.
Myth 5: The vaccine can make you sick.
You might not feel good--but that's just your immune system at work.
“It's a small one to two date sense of illness. It is usually lasts about a day and it is far, far, far better than having a disease,” said Patsy Stinchfield, head of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Those things are to be expected. And what is happening is your immune system is responding. It sees the bad guy. It's making the good guys.”