by Dr. Nell Thomas

It is reassuring that on the COVID-19 Government of Canada vaccine safety data page there remains 957 total adverse events (0.078 per cent) out of the 1,221,539 total doses administered. Of those, 817 (0.067 per cent) of total doses were non-serious.

Continued safety monitoring of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in the US confirmed that severe allergic reaction following vaccination is a rare event, with rates between 2.7 and 4.7 cases per million. When compared to the hospitalization and death rates from COVID-19, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of anaphylaxis, which is treatable with immediate administration of epinephrine.

So, the benefit of vaccines outweighs the potential risks. And there are no side effects that come close to the effects of COVID-19. Yet we are hearing a lot of myths, nonetheless. Here are some of the more common ones circulating.

MYTH: The vaccines were rushed and so we do not know if they are safe.

TRUTH: There were no skipped steps to producing these vaccines. Rapid does not mean rushed. How did we get these vaccines so quickly? Because there has been unprecedented collaboration and investment from governments and specialists around the world. Also, these vaccines were produced during a pandemic, meaning tens of thousands of patients were available to provide data. Normally it would take years to accumulate the needed cases to evaluate whether a vaccine is safe and whether it works. Instead, more than 70,000 patients were studied over a few months in randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the gold standard for establishing safety and effectiveness data for vaccines and medications.  

All the components in the vaccines are tested in multiple steps to be sure all ingredients are safe and are in the correct amount. The manufacturing has constant oversight to ensure consistent high quality of every ingredient.  

MYTH: The vaccines can change DNA.

TRUTH: The current vaccines using messenger RNA cannot turn into DNA or communicate with your DNA. What mRNA does is give the instructions to the body to make a protein that is part of the virus. This has no relation to your own genetic code (DNA).

MYTH: There is no point in getting the vaccine because we still have to wear a mask and stay six feet apart anyway.

TRUTH:  The evidence so far suggests that a full dose of the vaccine and the recommended waiting period after the second shot effectively eliminates risk of death from COVID-19, nearly eliminates the risk of hospitalization and drastically reduces an individual’s ability to infect someone else.

MYTH: The vaccines cause infertility.

TRUTH: As per the lead scientists with the WHO, there is no vaccine that can cause infertility.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccine can give you COVID-19.  

TRUTH: No, it cannot. But it could save your life.

MYTH (maybe): A vaccinated person might still be able to infect someone else.

TRUTH: It is possible to become infected even after you are vaccinated, but just as with any other vaccine, the illness you would then experience would be very mild. In the case of COVID-19, that would be similar to having a mild cold. The scientific evidence indicates that a vaccinated person has a very small chance of infecting someone else with a severe case of COVID.

Right now, we are at a critical stage in winning this fight. We need to use all our tools in our toolbox: Double mask, stay six feet apart, avoid groups indoors, sanitize until your hands are raw and do not let the virus hop a ride with you because that gives it a chance to mutate, spread faster and become deadlier. Now is not the time to take your foot off the pedal.

Tell your friends and family that your doctor is looking forward to getting her vaccine. It is safe. It is highly effective against serious disease. And it may save your life.

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