The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all of us. As case numbers continue to rise, the greatest hope we have for ending the pandemic is in the vaccines that have been developed. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is circulating, particularly on social media. I have gathered some of the myths I have read and heard and would like to provide you with answers from the most reliable sources.
Myth: I won't need to wear a mask after I get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: The vaccine can help prevent you from getting sick, but we don’t know yet if people can still carry the virus and give it to others. Enough people need to be vaccinated before we stop wearing a mask. Please continue to follow public health directives, like wearing a mask and physically distancing, until you hear otherwise. By agreeing to be vaccinated you will be part of the solution and will help reduce the length of time that all of us have to wear masks.
Myth: There are already new strains of the COVID-19 virus, so the vaccines aren’t going to work.
Fact: Right now there is no evidence that the vaccine won’t work on new strains. The companies that make the vaccines: Pfizer and Moderna, are researching this now.
Myth: The vaccines are too new. I don’t want to be a guinea pig.
Fact: Unlike vaccines that put a weakened or inactivated virus in our bodies, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. This immune response produces antibodies that will recognize the real virus if it enters our bodies. Thousands of scientists have been working on this since the virus was first discovered. While this is a newer approach to vaccine creation, please know that it has been studied for more than a decade by researchers who specialize in studying viruses and immunology and there is no reason to think it is unsafe.
The reason we have the COVID-19 vaccines so quickly, compared to other vaccines, is because scientists, researchers, health professionals and governments from all over the world worked together with a sense of urgency. The vaccines and research documentation have been carefully reviewed by Health Canada and have passed all safety standards.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines can give you the virus.
Fact: You cannot get the virus from the vaccine because the vaccine does not contain the live or weakened virus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on mRNA (messenger RNA) meaning that the vaccine does not contain a live version of the COVID-19 virus. Instead it delivers the genetic information (mRNA or a ‘recipe’) about the ‘spike’ protein that surrounds the COVID-19 virus and teaches your body how to spot and respond to this protein - so when the real virus comes along, the body recognizes that protein and can fight it off.
Myth: The vaccine trials didn’t include people over the age of 65, so we don’t know if it safe for that demographic.
Fact: The vaccine trials included people over the age of 65 and the vaccine was found to be safe and effective in this age group. In fact, 41% of global participants and 45% of U.S. participants were between 56-85 years of age.
Myth: The long-term consequences of the vaccines could be harmful.
Fact: Even though it’s still early, it is unlikely that this vaccine can cause any long-term harm. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach your body how to fight off the spike protein that covers the virus. Once your body learns that, the mRNA is removed and there is no vaccine left. Canada’s vaccine safety program will continue to monitor the short-term data that we have, which to date is promising and does not suggest any long-term safety concerns.
Vaccine safety is continually monitored by Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, local public health authorities, vaccine manufacturers and the Ministries of Health in Canada’s provinces and territories to ensure that vaccines approved for use in Canada remain safe and effective.
Myth: The side effects of the vaccine are worse than getting COVID-19.
Fact: COVID-19 is a deadly disease and we need to act now to stop its spread, including adopting a nation-wide vaccination program.
Even though many people experience only mild symptoms of COVID-19, some experience severe illness and even death. More than 16,500 Canadians have died with COVID-19. There is also research that shows that even a mild case of COVID-19 can be harmful to a person’s heart and lungs in the longer term.
Side effects from the vaccine are generally very mild, are more likely after the second dose, and go away within 1-2 days. They include:
- pain or redness where you got the shot,
- feeling tired, and
- muscle aches and joint pain.
Side effects from a vaccine are your body’s way of learning how to recognize a virus and fight it off. Some people may experience more serious reactions to the vaccine, but these are very unlikely and tracked closely by Health Canada as part of on-going monitoring of vaccine safety.
When it comes to fighting COVID-19 we all have a role to play. Getting vaccinated and continuing to practice good hand hygiene, keeping physical distance and wearing a mask will finally give us the upper hand in this battle and protect those in our communities who are most vulnerable. The vaccine is safe, it has undergone extensive study and it’s our best option to defeat COVID-19. When it’s your turn, I encourage you to heed the call and help stamp out COVID-19 by getting the vaccine.