When I was talking to a friend about the pandemic, I asked her if she planned to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Her response: “Definitely not. I’m not going to be anyone’s guinea pig.”
She’s not alone. While many spend hours on their computers hoping to score an appointment for the vaccine, others remain skeptical, refusing it when offered. Yet, COVID continues to ravage our nation – and the world – disproportionally affecting communities of color.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 60% of Americans said they will probably, if not definitely get the COVID-19 vaccine. Another 18% said they were unsure and might get it in time when more information about its safety becomes available. However, 21% said they were “pretty sure” they would not get vaccinated, even if studies showed the vaccines were safe and effective.
More than 500,000 people in the U.S. alone have died of COVID. So why are four out of ten Americans undecided or unwilling to get a vaccine that can prevent them from dying? A recent Gallup Survey found that many felt the rushed timeline, as suggested by the name Operation Warp Speed, meant studies weren’t well done or done too quickly and that there is still not good evidence on long-term effects. Some, of course, don’t trust any vaccine. And others think it’s unnecessary because they don’t see themselves as at risk.
But here’s the problem: Studies suggest that to achieve herd immunity at least 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated. This means we need to increase vaccine acceptance, dispel misinformation and empower the public with reliable information rooted in science. Here’s some information regarding common myths that can help:
1) The vaccine was developed too fast.
False. The vaccine was developed so efficiently because a vast amount of money was poured into this effort, allowing scientists to work on it day and night. Over 70,000 adult volunteers from diverse age, ethnic, and racial backgrounds were included in studies to confirm the safety and efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
2) The vaccine will give me COVID.
False. The vaccines that have been authorized do not contain either a live, weakened or dead virus. This means it is impossible to get COVID from the vaccine. The vaccine can cause side effects like mild flu-like symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you have COVID. It means your immune system is revving up to keep you from getting sick if you are exposed to the virus.
3) I don’t need the vaccine because I’ve already had COVID.
False. Though rare, re-infection with COVID-19 is possible. That’s why it’s recommended that people who have had COVID still get the vaccine. If their treatment included monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, they should talk to their doctor about when to be vaccinated.
4) The COVID vaccine will alter my DNA.
False. The vaccine uses genetic material called messenger RNA to teach your body how to respond to the virus. This genetic material does not interact with your genes and will not change your DNA.
5) The vaccine contains a microchip that can be used as a tracking device.
False. This is an urban myth.
6) The vaccine may affect my fertility.
False. This is also an urban myth.
7) If an undocumented immigrant gets vaccinated, their immigration status will be shared with immigration officers.
False. Medical information is private and cannot be shared without consent.
8) Black and Latinx communities are being targeted for vaccinations more than other groups.
False. Adequate representation of people of color in the COVID vaccine trials was essential and in the best interests of communities of color, to ensure that the vaccines are in fact safe and effective for diverse populations. It is important that everyone be vaccinated. At this time, according to a CNN Analysis, Black and Latinx people have received half as many COVID vaccines as white people. This is despite dying at three times the rate of their white counterparts. This vaccine hesitancy reflects a justifiable response to historically untrustworthy behavior in these communities from the medical establishment, big pharma, and the government. But given the current vaccination and mortality disparities, it is critical that we develop culturally appropriate comprehensive vaccination campaigns that will build trust around the vaccine. The inclusion of diverse, community-based workers and the development of strategic messaging via culturally sensitive communication from trusted local leaders will be central to this effort.
We’re in this together. Inform yourself. Get vaccinated. It’s an act of love in the time of COVID.
And while you’re waiting for your vaccine, don’t let the pandemic delay your breast cancer screening! If you are due for a mammogram, book that appointment today!