- Myths, conspiracy theories, and misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines continue to circulate online.
- From the vaccines not working to them making you magnetic, these myths have no evidence to back them.
- Medical experts urge people to check the credibility of any source claiming to share medical information.
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Misinformation and falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccines have made their way into social media and beyond.
“These are the sorts of notions that are held by many people who are reluctant and hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine… [leaving many people] uncertain of the information they encounter, particularly on social media and even from conversations with their neighbor,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told Healthline.
Healthline turned to medical experts to set the record straight on some of the most common myths currently circulating.
Dr. Robert Amler, dean of New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice and a former CDC chief medical officer, says overwhelming evidence shows that vaccines have caused reductions in disease in the United States and worldwide.
“Through vaccination, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Through vaccination, polio has been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Oceania, with only a few pockets left in a few countries. And through mass vaccination, COVID-19 rates have declined dramatically in the second quarter of 2021,” Amler told Healthline.
More than 170 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
“We know what the safety profile is, and we know as we use more vaccines, cases are diminishing, hospitalizations are going down, and so are deaths, so that’s evidence that they really do work,” Schaffner said.
In early June, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, based in Cleveland, claimed that COVID-19 vaccines could turn people into magnets due to 5G telecommunication towers. While addressing Ohio lawmakers, she used her claim to justify the need for a bill to stop businesses and government agencies from requiring vaccinations.
“It’s difficult to say anything about this except it’s clearly untrue. If this is the case, it’s strange that we haven’t seen all of our neighbors who are vaccinated walking around with metal on them. I’ve been vaccinated, and I can assure you I’m not magnetic,” said Schaffner.
In fact, the COVID-19 virus itself, not the vaccines, produces the variants.
Schaffner explains that the virus in a human being multiplies and creates new viruses that generate genetic variation. When this happens, most variations are harmless with no effect, he says.
“But on rare occasion, you can get one mutation or a series of them coincidentally occurring that will create a variant… that will continue to reproduce,” he said.
The variants can become more transmissible, such as the most recent COVID variant, delta, which originated in India.
“Data suggests it might produce more serious illness and is starting to spread in England and in the United States,” said Schaffner.
He stresses that the variants come from the virus, not the vaccine.
“In fact, our vaccines currently protect against the variants pretty effectively, so far. The variants will spread among people who are not vaccinated,” Schaffner said.
For decades, risk of infertility has been used as a way to frighten people away from legitimate treatments, says Amler.
This myth is false when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines because the vaccines do not go near DNA in your cells, explains Schaffner.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
“It’s like bringing a blueprint to the body to create a protection, and the vaccine itself is so labile that it falls apart immediately. We excrete it right away as soon as the message has been delivered to our cells, so it does not linger in your body,” said Schaffner.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) convened a national expert group on all aspects of reproduction and looked at the COVID-19 vaccine.
ACOG concluded that the vaccines should be offered to and is safe for people who are thinking about becoming pregnant, wanting to become pregnant, are pregnant, or who are breastfeeding.
Conspiracy theories about the government using vaccines to track people and rich people like Bill Gates being behind the notion are false.
“Physically, chips are not small enough that they could be inoculated with a needle. The COVID-19 vaccines are old-fashioned simple public health. Bad disease; good vaccine. Let’s get the vaccine in order to prevent the bad disease. It’s nothing more complicated than that,” said Schaffner.
This misconception is derived from a grain of truth from past vaccines that has been amplified inappropriately.
“Many years ago, a strain of cells that was derived from a miscarriage was used initially in general vaccine research for coronaviruses,” said Schaffner.
However, the current vaccines do not consist of any fetal tissue.
Schaffner adds that Muslim theologians and religious leaders, including the pope and Jewish rabbis, have said this should not be a concern in deciding whether to get the vaccine.
“I suggest people talk with their respected religious and faith leaders who have addressed this issue,” he said.
In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield conducted research that claimed a connection between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. While the study was published in the reputable journalLancet, it was later retracted and found to be unethical and not factual. Wakefield also lost his license in the United Kingdom.
“This is demonstrably incorrect, as evidenced by a considerable array of peer-reviewed and published investigations. The perpetrators of this particular myth have been widely discredited,” said Amler.
Still, Wakefield’s misinformation has continued to spread for decades.
While mRNA does transmit information to the body in the cells, Schaffner explains that it does not go near the cell’s nucleus, which is where DNA is located.
“It stays away from that. It doesn’t interact with the DNA at all. It just provides a message to the protein developing apparatus in our cell. So, it transmits its message and then disintegrates,” said Schaffner.
Schaffner says of the long list of vaccines that have been used for decades, none have proven to create long-term effects.
“This comes as a big surprise to most people, but the adverse effects associated with most vaccines become evident within 2 to 3 months of the administration of the vaccine. We’re beyond that now with the COVID vaccines, and have given millions of doses of it, so we know what the side effects profile is,” he said.
Amler adds that vaccines are continuously monitored post-market.
“A U.S. government system (VAERS), as well as the manufacturers, identify and investigate any long-term events and follow up with appropriate recommendations whenever an unexpected issue presents after an extended time period, that was not found initially,” said Amler.
The VAERS surveillance system is constantly working and was made more elaborate in anticipation of the COVID vaccines, adds Schaffner. He notes that the system flagged the blood-clotting disorder associated with the J&J vaccine and heart inflammation linked to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
“The system picked up these really rare events. We investigate them, and we speak transparently about them to people, so they know what the level of risk is, and the medical community can recognize and treat them,” said Schaffner.