By Aaron Shaykevich, Opinions Editor
As the world attempts another try at in-person dining, business, and schooling, there are many misconceptions about what the COVID-19 vaccine can and cannot do. Many people are adamant that the vaccine is in some way harmful. Others believe that we no longer need any COVID-19 prevention protocol such as social distancing and masks. However, these beliefs, and others, have had negative effects that will cause COVID-19 to last longer and further amplify the issue. The purpose of this article is to address some of these harmful misconceptions and explain why they are inaccurate. Further information can be found at cdc.gov, and any medical questions should be asked to a physician.
Myth #1 Already having COVID-19 is enough, there is no need for a vaccine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a video explaining the reason why a vaccine is still necessary for those with natural antibodies from a previous case of COVID-19. People who get COVID-19 have different reactions and every person’s immune system reacts differently. For those with mild reactions, their natural antibodies may be very low. The COVID-19 vaccine, however, underwent clinical trials to ensure the most effective treatment. Furthermore, the vaccine can boost already existing antibodies. This is seen in a study by the CDC which found that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.”
Overall, the COVID-19 vaccine has more data than natural immunity and is more effective than most of those who had mild COVID-19 cases. Moreover, if someone already contracted COVID-19, the vaccine is able to boost their immunity against a second COVID-19 infection, rather than just relying on antibodies.
Myth #2 The COVID-19 Vaccine booster shot is unnecessary.
The COVID-19 vaccine is very effective in reducing the disease’s transmission. However, the vaccine does not make everyone who takes it 100% immune to COVID-19. A study by the CDC found that the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization was “80% among adults aged ≥65 years compared with 95% among adults aged 18–64 years.” Other studies found that the Moderna (mRNA-1273) vaccine was around 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 transmissions and the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) vaccine is around 84%. However, with the introduction of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the vaccine’s effectiveness is lowered slightly more. Israel, a country that has offered COVID-19 booster shots to anyone above 12 since August 29, 2021, found that the third dose was highly effective in lowering the risk of contracting COVID-19 and having any serious reaction for adults over 60. Some scientists, however, believe that a vaccine booster is currently not necessary for those who are not immunocompromised since the first two doses remain very effective. As of writing this article, the CDC only recommends that those who are immunocompromised and received an mRNA vaccine get a third shot. However, President Biden has said previously that booster shots will be available on September 20, 2021.
To summarize, those who are immunocompromised and received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna are heavily encouraged to get a third dose of the vaccine, as they are more likely to have serious complications due to COVID-19. Others who live in the U.S. should wait until the CDC allows for booster shots and get it if it isn’t a hardship. As more data on COVID-19 transmissions comes out, reassessing and deciding whether a booster is right for you is imperative.
Myth #3 Vaccinated people should not wear masks and social distance.
As mentioned before, the COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective, and with the Delta variant now emerging, a vaccine alone does not appear to be enough. This does not mean, however, that we need to return to lockdowns like in Spring 2020, but it does mean extra precautions. For example, wearing masks is a great way of helping stop the spread of COVID-19. A study by the National Academy of the Sciences found that “nonmedical masks have been effective in reducing transmission of respiratory viruses” and “most effective at reducing the spread of the virus when compliance is high.” While social distancing isn’t mandatory, it is preferred to limit human interaction, especially large gatherings, and interact mostly with (other) vaccinated peoples. Importantly, focusing on good hygiene, such as washing your hands, is imperative for public health.
All in all, you most certainly should take extra precautions for your health and others, including masks. Extreme measures do not need to be taken, but lifestyle, hygiene, and social improvements are extremely beneficial. (For example, do you really need to go to that concert with 10,000 other people?)
Myth #4 The COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine isn’t safe.
One belief is that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause serious adverse reactions and can even lead to death. However, the vaccine goes through rigorous testing to make sure that this isn’t the case. While serious side effects can occur, they are extremely rare. While it is not clear how many people died due to the COVID-19 vaccine, there is clear evidence that it is extremely low. The found that as of September 13, 2021, only 0.0020% of all vaccinated people have been reported dead. The cause of these deaths could have been due to any other ailment, so the number of deaths due to the vaccine is unknown. However, it is clearly a low number. Serious side effects are also found to be extremely rare. As an example, only 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated go through anaphylaxis shock. It is imperative to realize that the vaccine has gone through many trials in order to prevent adverse reactions. Another belief is that the vaccine causes fertility issues in men. However, it is blatantly false. Research done by the American Medical Association investigating both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines disproves this claim. The study found that the sperm volume and motility significantly increased after vaccination, while the sperm concentration remained statistically similar (yet still larger after the vaccine).
The main point is that there is virtually no chance of having a severe adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have been conducted, and those that have already received the vaccine are proof that the vaccine is not harmful. The purpose of vaccines is to save lives, not risk them.