It has been nearly eight months to the day since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United States. For a long time, vaccines were in high demand. Now, vaccines go unused as the lines at clinics slow to a trickle.
At one of SEWA-AIFW’s vaccine clinics, a Hennepin Health worker remarked that there was a time when they simply couldn’t get enough vaccines. But as they looked out over the handful of people who stopped for their shot, he added that now, the problem has reversed.
We understand the vaccine hesitancy. There has been an incredible amount of misinformation circulating. It can be difficult to discern fact from fiction, especially when the pandemic has been so heavily politicized. We hope that this post will be a source to help you make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.
Separate Fact From Fiction
The vaccine rollout has been hampered from the beginning by viral misinformation. These are a few of the most common misconceptions around vaccines. It’s possible that you have heard some version of these and felt some anxiety and hesitancy about getting vaccinated.
Let’s look through them together.
Myth: The vaccine is not safe because it was rapidly developed.
It is true that the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in record time. However, there are a few reasons for that. The biggest is that some COVID vaccine types use mRNA technology, which is different from more “traditional” vaccines. This allowed them to be developed faster because the process was different.
When you hear people say that the vaccine was rushed, they are comparing two different things. The most common COVID vaccines, which use mRNA technology, have a different timeline for development. They are developed faster and are just as safe.
Furthermore, the technology that is used in the COVID vaccines has already spent years in development. It’s not brand-new technology — scientists and researchers had already invested significant time before the pandemic ever began. When the need for vaccines arose, years of work were already finished! In fact, the technology for mRNA vaccines has been in development for nearly 20 years.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.
This is based on a misconception and nothing more. The vaccines use mRNA, which got confused with DNA early on. However, they are not the same. They simply do not affect your DNA.
Myth: The vaccine gives you COVID-19.
This is also based on a misconception. It’s true that some kinds of vaccines contain the virus they are fighting (such as the measles vaccine). The COVID-19 vaccine is not one of them. In truth, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus in any amount.
Instead, they contain mRNA, which simply teaches your body how to fight the virus. Traditional vaccines use small amounts of the virus to give you antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain COVID. Think of them as providing your immune system with an instruction manual.
Myth: We don’t know the long-term effects.
Side effects of vaccines typically appear no later than two months. Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a recent CNN interview that the most serious vaccine side effects in history have all been caught within 6 weeks at the latest.
This means that the side effect window had already passed when the vaccines were first released to the public several months ago. If there were any serious long-term effects, we would certainly know by now.
Myth: I’m young and healthy so I don’t need the vaccine because I’m not at risk.
Everyone is at risk of COVID. It’s true that older people and people with pre-existing conditions are more at risk, but that doesn’t mean there’s no risk if you’re young and healthy. It may interest you to know that COVID is surging among young people precisely because of the misconception that they are not at risk.
Older populations have higher vaccination rates, so their infection rates are falling. Younger populations that are more lax about COVID are still at risk.
Why You Should Get Vaccinated
The “personal choice” isn’t as personal as one might think.
The common retort to getting vaccinated is that it’s a personal choice. While this is true, it’s also not. It is a decision that, despite making for yourself, affects everyone you interact with. You may be fine with taking the risk of getting COVID, but what about everyone else? It is not a decision with effects that are confined to you.
So, yes, it’s a “personal” decision in that it’s a choice you make. However, the consequences of that choice can reach far beyond you. You are at an increased risk of carrying and spreading COVID to others who have taken precautions.
The vast majority of COVID deaths are among unvaccinated populations.
This isn’t sensationalized nor is it a scare tactic. We are now reaching a point where nearly every COVID-19 death is someone who was not vaccinated — 98 to 99%, in fact. Last winter, before the vaccine was available, the daily death counts were exceeding 5,000. Nowadays, daily death tolls are down to roughly 300.
That decline is because of vaccinations. It could be zero. Nearly 100% of those daily 300 are unvaccinated. Dr. Alex Garza, a hospital administrator in St. Louis, told Associated Press that the majority of COVID patients have expressed regret for not getting vaccinated.
We want to see our community safe.
Every one of us at SEWA-AIFW either knows someone who had COVID, died from COVID, or both. We want to ensure the safety of our community as we head into the fall. This is why we continue to host vaccination clinics. Getting as many vaccinated as possible is the way forward.
Getting vaccinated not only protects yourself, but also the more vulnerable members of our community. Again, it is a decision that is not as personal as one might think. It has effects that can cascade through communities. We don’t want anyone from our community, or any community, to feel those effects when the answer is already here.