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We asked medical and health experts about eight common problems surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine – here’s what they have to say.
Read more: Coronavirus Vaccine: Pfizer, Moderna and How Many Vaccine Doses Are Coming in 2020
1. The COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19
No, the vaccine will not give you the disease, says Dr. Thomas J. Duszynski, the director of epidemiology education at Indiana University. It’s like the flu vaccine can’t get you the flu. And you cannot get HPV from the HPV vaccine and so forth. However, because of the way vaccines work, people may have a false perception that a vaccine can give them the virus it is supposed to protect against, says Dr. Dusznynksi.
“Some people may think that once you are vaccinated, you are protected from the disease and that is not correct. If you are vaccinated, we have to wait for something like seroconversion,” he explains. During seroconversion, your body recognizes the contents of the vaccine as an intruder and begins to ramp up the attack on the intruder.
This eventually leads to the development of antibodies that protect you against the virus. This process can take several weeks, so if you get the COVID-19 vaccine and are exposed to the virus shortly after, you can still develop the disease – leading to the perception that you got the disease from the vaccination, which is what not right. Says Dr. Dusznynksi.
2. The COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for everyone, no exceptions
This is wrong. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has already stated that mandatory vaccination would be “unenforceable and inappropriate”.
Dr. However, Robert Quigley, senior vice president and global medical director of International SOS, a health risk mitigation company, says local governments can exercise their right to enforce vaccination.
“In earlier times of public health crises, you will find that states have exercised their legal authority to enact a vaccine mandate requiring people living in that state to be vaccinated,” he says. “So yes, once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, your local government may require those living in the state to be vaccinated, but it won’t be a national mandate.” States that do so can penalize non-compliance with a fine.
Individual employers, schools and school districts, sports teams and other institutions may require mandatory vaccinations for people to attend or be involved.
3. The COVID-19 vaccine will be forcibly administered by the military
While the military has a role to play in the COVID-19 pandemic and disaster response, the Department of Defense has made it clear that it is a “logistics-only” role.
“The COVID-19 vaccine will not be forcibly administered by the military against anyone else’s will,” said Dr. Quigley. “The DoD will play a role in assisting in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, and only in the distribution.” This means the military will assist in the search, procurement, and delivery of items such as needles, syringes, cotton swabs, and other items needed to develop and administer vaccines safely and effectively.
4. It is impossible to make an effective vaccine in just one year
It is normal and appropriate to be concerned about the speed at which the development of COVID-19 vaccines is progressing. However, the fact that the vaccine was followed quickly doesn’t mean it won’t work.
“It usually takes several years to make vaccines,” says Dr. Roshni Mathew, pediatric infectious diseases physician and the associate medical director for infection prevention and control at Stanford Children’s Health.
“In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, several steps that usually take place in sequence took place in parallel. However, the safety and efficacy safeguards are all still in place and vaccines are not approved for civilian use until they meet all the required standards. Says Mathew.
5. The COVID-19 vaccine is a microchip that the government can use to track you
No. The COVID-19 vaccine will not contain any microchip or tracking device implemented by the government. The COVID-19 vaccine is about preventing more cases, hospital stays, and deaths.
The vaccine syringes likely contain something like an RFID microchip from ApiJect Systems America, a medical solutions company, that allows public health authorities to collect information about when and where the vaccine was administered, but that microchip wouldn’t be injected into your body.
And if the government wanted to track you, they could just use your Social Security number, your Facebook details, your cell phone usage, your home video security system, or your mortgage loan information.
6. The COVID-19 vaccine makes you more susceptible to other diseases
Vaccines historically have not resulted in suppression of the immune system, making people more susceptible to various diseases, says Dr. Quigley. “The infection itself can suppress the host’s immune system and adversely affect the host’s ability to stimulate antibody production,” he explains. “The vaccines, on the other hand, should be able to enhance adaptive immunity,” referring to immunity obtained upon exposure to a pathogen such as SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In addition, the COVID-19 vaccines under development in the US do not contain live viruses that can make you sick, says Dr. Mathew. “The vaccines simply cause the body to recognize the virus protein so that the body’s immune system can develop a response to it.”
7. The vaccine is a greater risk than contracting the disease; we must of course let the virus run its course
Absolutely not, said Dr. Tom Kenyon, a former CDC director and Chief Health Officer of Project HOPE. “COVID-19 is on track to become the world’s leading infectious pathogen by 2020, surpassing annual deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” he said. “This is baffling.”
For the virus to run its course, as herd immunity advocates say, hundreds of millions of cases are needed – in the US alone.
“ It will take time, but to end this pandemic we must all unite and be vaccinated, and we must continue to follow the scientists’ recommendations to wear a mask, at a safe distance from others to stay and wash our hands. Says Dr. Kenyon.
8. The COVID-19 vaccine will stop the pandemic completely
Dr. Quigley puts it plainly, “This is not true.” While a vaccine is the best way to prevent more people from contracting COVID-19, reduce hospital stays, and minimize COVID-19 deaths, it is naive to think that vaccine production will automatically end to the pandemic, he says.
“Vaccines are meant to create a world where we can return to our daily lives through immunity,” says Dr. Quigley, but there are several challenges with vaccines – like encouraging the public to actually get vaccinated.
And even if the entire population would agree to vaccination, it is not that everyone can be vaccinated at the same time. “The vaccine is one of the strategies to reduce the risk of transmission and acquisition of an infection,” says Dr. Mathew. “Because the vaccine is not 100% effective, all other measures [such as mask-wearing] should be in place until a significant number of people have been vaccinated. “
Editor’s Note, Dec. 7, 2020: This story has been updated to clarify that we should need hundreds of millions of cases, not deaths, to achieve coronavirus herd immunity in the US.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.