RACE TO VACCINATE: Health officials debunk COVID-19 vaccination myths

CHARLOTTE — Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 is a daunting but essential task to eliminate the virus. However, skepticism spread online by rumors has health officials fighting that false information just about as hard as they’re battling the virus itself.

“We try not to get irritated. We try to answer every question. We take as much time as they need,” said Dr. Daniel Kelly from American Family Urgent Care in Pineville.

Kelly is bombarded with questions about the COVID vaccines, including if it alters your DNA or if the vaccine contains the virus -- both of which are false.

“The vaccine keeps you from getting the illness and more severe forms of the illness,” Kelly said.

Skeptics also flood the comments on the Channel 9 social media feeds whenever a story is posted. The names are omitted but some Facebook users post things such as “I will get the vaccine when I feel confident that it does more good than harm.” Another person wrote “Will not be putting that venom in my body” while someone else posted “What’s the point of taking an experimental, not FDA approved vaccine?”

Doctors are eager to set the facts straight as more doses become available.

“I think the biggest myth I encounter is that after you’re vaccinated, you’re good to go and you don’t have to wear a mask. You don’t have to social distance. And, of course, that’s not true,” Kelly said.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

There is a reluctance even in younger people, including Jake Reardon, who contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. He said he’ll sit it out getting the vaccine.

“I’m just a little unsure with the information I have right now,” Reardon said.

Kelly believes vaccine recipients who encourage others to get the shot only helps the cause. That’s the case for Adrienne Clarke, who said she’ll roll up her sleeve when her time comes.

“I think it’s just doing my part,” she said. “You know, I’m relatively healthy so why not get the COVID vaccine?”

Several hospitals and clinics, including Novant Health and American Family Urgent Care, are rolling out fact sheets to combat misinformation.

>> You can download and watch Novant’s Myth vs. Facts here.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions surrounding the vaccine (source: American Family Urgent Care):

1. If you get vaccinated, they inject the COVID-19 live virus into your body.

FALSE

The vaccines authorized for emergency use do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so it cannot make you sick with COVID-19. The vaccines are made with mRNA technology which works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.  Sometimes when this happens, the process can cause symptoms like a fever or muscle aches. This is normal and, most importantly, proof that the vaccine is working, building immunity to COVID-19.

2. You are not fully vaccinated until weeks after you receive a second dose.

TRUE

One shot does not do the trick. The CDC states you must get two doses for the vaccine to work. You must wait to get the second dose three to four weeks after the first vaccination. Then it will take several weeks for the vaccination to build immunity in your system.

3. Testing positive for COVID-19 means you can skip the vaccine.

FALSE

COVID-19 is so new, no one knows for sure how long natural immunity might last. Right now, evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon within the 90 days after someone is first infected with the coronavirus.

4. You can alter your DNA if you take either vaccine.

FALSE

Both vaccines authorized for emergency use (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) are classified as mRNA vaccines. Messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines do not change your DNA or interact with your DNA in any way. This kind of vaccine teaches your cells how to make a protein that triggers immunity. The mRNA does not enter the nucleus of a cell where DNA is kept.

5. Once I get a shot, I still need to wear a mask and stay six feet away from others.

TRUE

Keep wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing. Not everyone is able to get the vaccine at the same time, so it’s still important to protect yourself and others.

6. The vaccines were released so fast, they are unsafe.

FALSE

The vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. The CDC requires clinical trials for all vaccines before they can be authorized for use and the potential benefits of a vaccine must outweigh the potential risks before the CDC gives approval.

7. Just because I have the vaccine does not mean I can book a vacation.

TRUE

The director of the CDC went on record during a recent CNN Town Hall and said this is not the time to travel – domestically or internationally. It is still possible to get infected and not have symptoms before you receive the second dose of the vaccine. The maximum immunity begins 10 days to two weeks following the SECOND dose.