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COVID-19 Vaccines: Debunking myths and addressing misinformation

By Kari Cooper, PharmD
PMH Pharmacy Director

Pocahontas Memorial Hospital has been working diligently with other county healthcare organizations over the last four months to hold community vaccination clinics for our county residents. West Virginia has now made COVID-19 vaccines available to any person over the age of 16. Every county has vaccines available, and we are entering a crucial point in the fight against the Coronavirus. As the pharmacist in charge of the vaccination campaign at PMH, I wanted to address some common misconceptions and myths about these COVID-19 vaccines.

1. “Not enough people have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine to know it is safe.”

Tens of thousands of people were given the vaccine during the trials for the different vaccine manufacturers, and since the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was approved by the FDA, about 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. In West Virginia, more than 500,000 people are fully vaccinated. To address the safety of the vaccine, there are certainly risks of adverse effects (as there are with all medications), but the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly showing the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) to be safe and effective.

2. “The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine was recalled.”

The CDC recommended a pause on the administration of the J&J vaccine out of an abundance of caution to use the time to gather additional information. At this time, it is recommend that people who received the J&J vaccine within the past three weeks who develop severe head-ache, abdominal or leg pain, or shortness of breath should seek medical care right away.

3. “Vaccine side effects outweigh the risk of COVID-19.”

The vast majority of vaccine side effects being reported for the mRNA vaccines are mild and typically last less than 24 hours. While there are many people who have had mild cases of COVID-19, there are more than half a million people in the US who have died from this virus. Low-grade fever, body aches, headache and arm pain that usually last less than a day should be overwhelmingly less scary than a COVID-19 infection. The CDC has been very transparent with adverse effect data, and it is readily available if you want more specific information.

4. “I do not need a vaccine because I already had COVID-19.”

We know that there is some natural protection after a COVID-19 infection, but it is showing to wane quickly, especially for milder or asymptomatic cases. We are starting to see evidence that the antibody response from the vaccine is stronger than the antibody response from a “natural infection.” My recommendation is typically to get the vaccine once you are feeling well after recovering from COVID-19, but definitely before 90 days post-infection to make sure that you remain protected with antibodies.

5. “There is no long-term safety data for the COVID-19 vaccine.”

This is true to an extent, but we have no reason to scientifically think there will be a problem. This biotechnology for the mRNA vaccines has been in development for decades.

6. “The virus is mutating and the vaccine will not help.”

The virus IS mutating and the vaccine is one thing that could help! Both mRNA vaccines are showing efficacy against the mutating strains of COVID-19, but we also know that the closer the population gets to “Herd Immunity,” the less quickly and easily the virus will mutate and spread.

7. “I want the vaccine but cannot find an appointment.”

Please call PMH at 304-799-7400 ext. 1118 or go to Appointments are available every week in Pocahontas County. Every healthcare agency in the county is working together to get vaccines to the residents who want them.

7. “COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility.”

Specialists and experts are in overwhelming agreement that there is no scientific rationale to think that these vaccines would impact fertility. If you want more information though, please reach out to your OB/GYN or Primary Care Provider to discuss recommendations for your specific case.

8. “I am young and healthy, so I’m not at high risk for severe complications from a COVID-19 infection.”

Regardless of your risk, you can still catch the virus and spread it to others. The vaccine protects more than just you, it helps protect those around you (it is likely that some of your loved ones would be considered high risk for severe complications from a COVID-19 infection).

9. “The vaccine only lasts a short time and then we will need it again.”

We know that the vaccines are protecting people for at least six months; but because we have only had the vaccines available for a short time, it is not possible to predict with certainty how long protection will last. It is a possibility that booster shots may be required in the future.

So what is the bottom line?

Consider getting your vaccine. If you are over the age of 16 and you want the vaccine, we will get it to you. If you do not want the vaccine or you want to wait, that is okay, but please do not spread myths and misinformation surrounding these vaccines. The more people around you that get vaccinated the safer you, your family and your community will be. We are here to answer questions, address concerns, and are working every day to keep Pocahontas County safe and healthy.

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