Exit Explains: Mythbusting Common Vaccine Myths

There are many mistruths and conspiracy theories circulating regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Most of these are untrue or contain information that has been misrepresented or taken out of context. Others have been propagated by well-organized misinformation campaigns designed to destabilize the response to the pandemic.

Exit may not be staffed by epidemiologists, but by gathering information from reputable sources such as the world’s leading hospitals, medical educational institutions, and health organizations as well as peer-reviewed, reputable studies, we have been able to debunk some of the most common concerns in simple, layman’s language.

I had COVID-19, so I don’t need a vaccine.

According to data from John Hopkins, immunity from natural infection with COVID-19 starts to decline after six months.  Other sources have said this can be as low as four months. The truth is, we don’t know how long or effective natural immunity is, and it can vary from person to person. Studies show that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection for people who have recovered from COVID-19.

It also provides a more reliable level of immunity in those who have not had COVID-19. Simply put, having a vaccine provides stronger protection than not having a vaccine or relying on natural immunity. For those that haven’t had COVID-19, the risk of serious side effects and symptoms from the virus is higher than any benefit from natural immunity.

COVID-19 vaccines change your DNA

There are claims that mRNA vaccines alter your DNA. This is completely false as the RNA does nothing to human cell DNA. The use of an mRNA vaccine works by instructing the body to produce a protein found on the Coronavirus’s surface. This teaches the immune system to recognize and produce antibodies against that protein. The ingredients of the vaccine do not enter the cell, do not contact hereditary material within it, and therefore, do not have any impact on DNA.

Furthermore, mRNA vaccines are not new technology. They have been tested and used in clinical trials for over three decades. The results of these trials show they offer long-lasting immunity. mRNA technology has been used in studies and trials for vaccines against flu, rabies, and Zika. With the new COVID-19 vaccine, the technology remains the tried and tested type, but only the protein has been changed.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been tested properly

As mentioned, mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been subjected to around three decades of testing, just for other viruses. The only thing that has changed is the spike protein, which has no bearing on the vaccine’s makeup. These vaccines have been determined as safe based on rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people.

Typically, the development of a vaccine is done by one company and spread out over a long period of time. Due to the nature of the pandemic, all companies and labs invested significant money and time in developing a vaccine. The emergency resulted in emergency response, but this doesn’t mean safety protocols were bypassed.

We don’t know the long term effects of COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccines are not a medication, and they are not injected into your bloodstream.

There are only a handful of instances where vaccines have caused long-term issues, and in every case, the issue can also be caused by contracting the infection or disease. For example, the risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome with the flu and COVID-19 vaccine (there’s a higher risk of contracting it from having influenza or COVID), or blood clots from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. 

In terms of the latter, the risk is about 1 in a million, which is considered extremely rare. The risk of blood clots is also present if you contract the virus itself. Those administering vaccines to the population will assess medical history and risk factors before deciding which vaccine to give.

COVID-19, on the other hand, brings with it a significant number of long-term side effects. These include taste and smell issues, fatigue, breathing issues, chest and abdominal pain, palpitations, headaches, rashes, changes in menstrual cycles, autoimmune issues, kidney problems, and blood clots.

Some 10-25% of people who have COVID-19 will experience long-term side effects. It’s impossible to predict whether you will have them or how serious they will be, even if you are healthy with no other health conditions. This is significantly higher than the risk of GBS or a blood clot.

Short-term side effects such as fever, body aches, headaches, and fatigue are common, normal and show the vaccine is doing its job by stimulating an immune response.

You can still get COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated.

No vaccine is 100% efficient. The seasonal influenza vaccine can be between 30-70% efficient. COVID-19 vaccines offer different levels of protection; contracting the disease, having mild symptoms, having severe symptoms, or dying. The majority of vaccines for COVID-19 offer over 90% protection against dying, over 80% for severe symptoms, over 70% for mild symptoms, and over 50% for contracting the virus. 

In other words, if you are vaccinated, you can still get the virus (although the chance is significantly decreased), but you will get a very mild version with minimal symptoms and almost no risk of dying. There will always be cases where those who are vaccinated will get COVID-19, some may even die, but the data shows that being vaccinated greatly increases your chance of remaining COVID-free, hospitalized, or dying.

You can still transmit COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated.

Being vaccinated at COVID-19 does not completely stop you from infecting others. Recent data from the CDC shows that those immunized with mRNA vaccines are less likely to transmit the virus than someone who hasn’t been vaccinated. You can still catch COVID and potentially transmit it, but the risk of this happening is significantly less than with unvaccinated people.

We don’t know what’s in them.

You can read the ingredients list of several COVID-19 vaccines here. 

Vaccines kill and injure people.

The only way a conventional vaccine can kill you is via anaphylaxis which is an allergic reaction and can be treated by medical intervention at the time of injection. This type of reaction doesn’t occur hours, days, or weeks later. There is no evidence that vaccines, be they COVID-19 or otherwise, kill people. It’s also important to note that correlation doesn’t equal causation. For example, getting a vaccine and then falling ill/dying the next day doesn’t mean it was the vaccine. There is an infinite number of other factors that could be the cause.

Similarly, vaccines don’t cause Autism, regressions, SIDs, injuries, or any other kinds of conditions.

There have been over 2.5 billion COVID-19 vaccines issued globally to date. The data overwhelmingly shows they are safe, even for pregnant women.

You can increase your immunity in other ways.

No, you can’t. If you were to increase your existing immunity, you would end up with an autoimmune disease. You don’t want to increase the activity or strength of your immune system; you want it to be balanced. The best way to protect yourself from infections is to avoid sick people, wash your hands, and stay updated with your vaccines. You can also stay fit and healthy, ensuring you eat plenty of vitamin-rich foods, but this will not increase your immune beyond its natural and safe level.