Opinions and myths determine the politics. Only facts determine the outcome.
The comment section of this column has logged numerous opinions by our readers regarding the COVID pandemic, and many readers have also emailed me various opinions as well. I thank them all and appreciate the level of engagement by readers of this column. We all harbor opinions about a wide variety of subjects and COVID-19 is, of course, no exception. It is, however, difficult to identify a time when the gap between opinions (or myths) and facts has loomed so large.
So, now is as good a time as any to address the dichotomy between the strong opinions and myths about COVID, and the simple facts regarding COVID. The information that follows is based on reports from Johns Hopkins University Medicine, other leading university medical research centers, The Cleveland Clinic, and the United States Center for Disease Control.
Myth: “Natural immunity” following COVID is better than the immunity one gets from a vaccine.
Fact: COVID-19 often produces long-term health issues that do not occur with the vaccine, making the disease itself a far less desirable way to attain immunity. While the Cleveland Clinic recently found that there was no reinfection among employees of the Clinic who had previously contracted COVID-19, the Cleveland Clinic states, “This is still a new virus, and more research is needed. It is important to keep in mind that this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population. In addition, we do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against reinfection after COVID-19. It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if you have previously tested positive, and we recommend all those who are eligible receive it.” While there have been some breakthrough cases among vaccinated people, the vaccine vastly reduces severe illness, and, therefore, reduces the need for hospitalization. The vaccine provides remarkable protection against the disease.
Myth: The vaccine can cause the disease itself.
Fact: None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s fertility.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the specific spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. The vaccine does not contain syncytin-1 (a totally unrelated spike protein involved in pregnancy) as has been falsely reported in some social media.
MYTH: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.
FACT: Studies have demonstrated that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both very effective and reported few if any serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed so quickly. Here are just a few:
- The technology used in the COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna was in development for decades, so the companies could start the actual vaccine development for COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
- COVID-19 genetic information was available very early in the outbreak, so scientists immediately started working on vaccines using existing mRNA technology.
- The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
- Vaccine development projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
- COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), which allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
- Mass media, including social media, helped companies find and engage volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
- Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to determine the efficacy of the vaccine among volunteers who were vaccinated. Rarely did they become infected with COVID.
- Companies began making vaccines early in the process — even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorized.
MYTH: The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are dangerous.
Fact: The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can produce normal side effects, but they are generally very short-term —not serious or dangerous. Some people experience discomfort where they were injected; body aches; headaches or fever, lasting for a day or two. These are signs that the vaccine is working to stimulate your immune system.
Myth: If one is young and healthy and, therefore, not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 they don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: Regardless of your personal risk of getting very sick from COVID, you can still contract the infection just like anyone else, and spread it to others. Even if you don’t get very sick from COVID, you can still make other people very sick. The vaccine not only protects you but your family and community as well.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell where DNA resides. The mRNA causes the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, without affecting your DNA.
MYTH: The messenger RNA technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccine is brand new.
FACT: The mRNA technology behind the new coronavirus vaccines had been in development for almost two decades. Scientists began creating mRNA technology at the turn of the last century to enable the country to respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, such as COVID-19. Operation Warp Speed made funds available to focus mRNA technology on COVID-19 and to pay for the roll-out of the vaccine. The development of this technology did not begin with Operation Warp Speed.
Myth: The current vaccines cannot protect against emerging variants of COVID.
Fact: So far, the current vaccines recognize these variant viruses and induce excellent immunity against them. It is, of course, possible that new variants, yet to have emerged, may be more resistant to the vaccines. Variants are produced from time to time when the virus replicates in human cells. That means the unvaccinated population, those who remain susceptible to infection, are the primary source of new variants. This is another reason why everyone should get vaccinated.
Myth: Many have died and have been injured by the vaccine.
Fact: The vaccines are remarkably safe. Here is what is known as of this date. More than 351 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through August 9, 2021. During this time, deaths occurred among 0.0019% of those who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires any death to be reported following COVID-19 vaccinations—not whether the vaccine was the cause. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established any causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.
President Trump made a wise decision when he approved funding the use of mRNA technology for a COVID-19 vaccine, and for the procurement and distribution of the vaccine. President Biden also deserves credit for the massive effort currently underway to get the country vaccinated.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to the COVID-19 vaccine as a miracle. How often can we make an appointment with a miracle?
All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.
All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.
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Hal thank you for this synopsis. To this point, one would think our society would be receptive to acquiring accurate, factual information pursuant to this global crises, and even more so in coming together for the welfare, health and protection of our nation. To think we are still so heavily divided and millions of our society continue to resist is most disturbing. Let’s hope we can all come together for the sake of humanity……..Let’s hope.
Hal, this is an excellent report about the myths of the vaccines currently used in the United States.
There are also a myth that Covid-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells. There is an article from Nebraska Medicine that reports that they do not that follows:.
You asked, we answered: Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells?
Published March 2, 2021
Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells?
Answer from infectious diseases expert James Lawler, MD
No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any aborted fetal cells.
However, Pfizer and Moderna did perform confirmation tests (to ensure the vaccines work) using fetal cell lines. And Johnson & Johnson uses fetal cell lines in vaccine development, confirmation and production.
But it’s important to have the full context: Fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue.
Fetal cell lines are cells that grow in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Those individual cells from the 1970s and 1980s have since multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating fetal cell lines. Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. They do not contain any tissue from a fetus.
Vaccine makers may use these fetal cell lines in any of the following three stages of vaccine development:
Development: Identifying what works
Confirmation: Making sure it works
Production: Manufacturing the formula that works
When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use, neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines used fetal cell lines during the development or production phases. (So, no fetal cell lines were used to manufacture the vaccine, and they are not inside the injection you receive from your doctor.) However, both companies used the fetal cell line HEK 293 in the confirmation phase to ensure the vaccines work. All HEK 293 cells are descended from tissue taken from a 1973 elective abortion that took place in the Netherlands.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a bit different. It is an adenovirus vector vaccine. (Adenovirus is the virus that causes the common cold. The virus in this vaccine has been changed so that it does NOT cause illness.) With this type of vaccine, a carrier, in this case adenovirus, acts as a delivery vehicle. The adenovirus has had the coronavirus spike protein added to its DNA. The adenovirus carries that genetic material into your body, delivering its modified DNA to your cells. Your cells will then make the spike protein, activating your immune system. Once activated, your immune system creates antibodies to fight off the spike protein. Learn more about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To make their virus vector vaccine, Johnson & Johnson infects PER.C6 fetal cell line cells with adenovirus. All PER.C6 cells used to manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are descended from tissue taken from a 1985 elective abortion that also took place in the Netherlands. They use this cell line because it is a well-studied industry standard for safe and reliable production of viral vector vaccines.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development use fetal cells taken from recent abortions.
We understand this topic is very sensitive and important within communities of faith. We want everyone to feel like they are making a fully informed decision. We encourage anyone with concerns about the use of fetal cell lines in vaccine development to weigh the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines with their doctor and have a personal conversation with a faith leader.
The Vatican has issued clear guidance that permits Roman Catholics in good faith to receive COVID-19 vaccines that use fetal cell lines in development or production. Read the Vatican’s comments on the morality of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
well done thanks
I note that supporters the of the ‘former guy’ have, so far, not responded to your excellent myth-by-myth rebuttal with hard science. Hopefully, they agree with what you wrote.
While I am not an MD or PHD, I was in the biomedical arena at the bench for 25 years. I am coauthor on peer reviewed research and worked with Francis Collins in the mid 90s as the human genome was elucidated. I have seen what was believed as dogma disputed decades later, such as “junk DNA”, that was disproved as was the theoretical number of human genes.
My husband and I had CV in early 2020 and did fine after a good two weeks of what we thought was a bad flu.
When available, he took the Pfizer injections and had to go to the ER with extreme vertigo for 8 hours and take meds for several weeks after #2 – coincidence? I reported it to VAERS. I am trusting my immune system. I need more data. I am prochoice.
mRNA therapeutics are new with no long term data. None. I remain hopeful but with a cautious eye. Viruses mutate, like HIV and RSV, for which there are no vaccines. My gut believes we need to coexist with contagions as we have forever.
I suggest we read all sources, eat well, maintain healthy weight, exercise and enjoy friends and family.
As always Hal, thanks for keeping the dialog moving.
Time will ultimately tell.
Betty, You know I totally respect you and your take. Do I understand that you have not been vaccinated and counting on your “antibodies” to protect you and those around you?
Are you wearing mask for safety of others around you…. and, social distancing when your out and about?
Folks like me that are Cancer survivors and/or have otherwise compromised immune systems, (like our young grandchildren with respiratory issues) continue to wear masks not only to protect us but others. We are told we need to take extra precautions and have no way of knowing who has and has not been vaccinated. Some close friends that are COVID survivors refuse to wear masks.
Everyone physician (and EMC personnel) has told us to avoid covid survivors if they have not been vaccinated…. as the “antibodies” for COVID don’t last that long? I’m so very sorry your husband had a bad experience… Be well…
Thank you Hal for a very thoughtful synopsis of the COVID vaccine. Well written .