The COVID-19 vaccine offers the greatest hope to end the pandemic. Vidant Health has played an important role helping to get vaccines to eligible community members in eastern North Carolina. Dr. T. Ryan Gallaher, infectious disease specialist with Vidant, recently answered questions about some common misconceptions about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are all safe and effective. All existing vaccines effectively protect you from getting severe cases of COVID-19 and also prevent spread.
Additionally, at this time, the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variants albeit to different extents. Variants are normal in viruses because they mutate during the replication process. The most efficient way to prevent these variants from emerging is by getting our community vaccinated as soon as possible. Thus, the best vaccine to take is the first one available to you.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine contain live virus?
No. Existing technology accelerated the production of the COVID-19 vaccines. Though some vaccines use live virus, which is completely safe, there are no live viruses in any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, in the case of Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccine is either made of mRNAs (messenger RNAs) which carry a message to your cells, instructing them to build immunity against the COVID-19 virus. In the case of Johnson and Johnson (“J&J”) vaccine, it uses a common cold virus (dead/incapable of replicating/infecting) to carry the part of the virus to your immune system in order to build immunity.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. All of the authorized vaccines are both safe and effective. Both the mRNA technology and the viral vector technology has been used for years in other treatments and vaccines (cancer in the case of mRNA and Ebola in the case of J&J).The vaccines simply use methods that our cells do every single day on their own, and there is no DNA altering taking place.
Is there any risk for infertility or complications for pregnant women?
The vaccine is important for everyone to get, including women of child-bearing age. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that getting any of these vaccines will result in infertility. Additionally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women talk to their doctor about getting the vaccine. The risk of a pregnant person getting COVID-19 is worse than the risk of the vaccine. We must fear the virus, not the vaccine.
Should I get the vaccine if I already had COVID-19?
Yes. Those who previously had COVID-19 should also get vaccinated when eligible. Experts prefer vaccine immunity rather than natural immunity because of the lack of solid information on the duration of natural antibodies. I myself had COVID-19 and later was fully vaccinated and experienced very mild side effects.
Do young people really need the vaccine?
Young people may believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, but they are not immune from having issues with COVID-19 if they were to get infected. There is some data that shows that 1 in 10 even young people struggle with lingering COVID-19 symptoms after infection. More importantly, young people do have a high chance of spreading the virus without experiencing symptoms so getting the vaccine is not necessarily about you. It is about the people you love and are around, especially those who are elderly and those with underlying conditions that put them at risk of more severe forms of COVID-19.
Should I wait until we know more about the long-term effects of the vaccine before I receive it?
Currently, millions of people are vaccinated. Historically, vaccine consequences happen relatively soon after receiving the vaccine. By now, if long-term consequences happen as a result of the vaccine, we would see them by now and, besides the different self-limited symptoms consistent largely with the clinical trials, we have not seen any other issues. Going forward, if everyone takes the wait-and-see approach regarding the vaccine, we will lose our ability to control the virus and we will also give the variants time to take hold and render our previous work null and void.
Misinformation regarding the vaccine is spread far and wide. Consult with your trusted doctor regarding any COVID-19 vaccine concerns or questions that you may have. COVID-19 numbers are on the decline largely due to vaccinations, and we need to keep our momentum going to stop the spread of COVID-19. Everyone getting vaccinated is the main way we are going to have any hope of ending this pandemic and return to any sense of normalcy.
We thank our community for continuing to wear a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and getting vaccinated when eligible. For more information about vaccination appointments, visit Vidanthealth.com/Vaccinate or call 252-847-8000.