COVID-19 vaccine myths vs. facts

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COVID-19 vaccine myths are prevalent in the United States today. Almost four of every five American adults believe or are uncertain of at least one false statement or myth about the COVID-19 pandemic or the vaccines.

With 78% of adults who responded to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey believing a falsehood, we take a look at those false statements – myths – and provide facts from trusted sources and some of our experts at OSF HealthCare.

Myth: The government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths.

Fact: This myth stems from a table from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows how the majority of people who have died of COVID-19 had multiple causes listed on their death certificate.

The speculation is that the deaths resulted from pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, a lung condition, obesity, diabetes or a weakened immune system. The CDC states that reasoning is accurate and that the vast majority of those individuals could have lived longer if they had not contracted COVID-19.

“For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death,” the CDC states.

This aligns with what public health officials have said throughout the pandemic. The risk of becoming severely ill from or dying of COVID-19 may be increased for people who have other serious health problems.

Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines are safe for you and your unborn child, according to the nation’s leading public health experts.

The American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC strongly recommend vaccinating women who are breastfeeding, women who are pregnant and women who are trying to get pregnant.

“The recommendation that women who are breastfeeding, pregnant or planning pregnancy get vaccinated has only gotten stronger over time,” said Michael Leonardi, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist for OSF HealthCare. “The COVID vaccines are some of the most thoroughly studied drugs we have ever given – in particular to pregnant women.

“The best way to take care of a baby in utero is to take care of the mother who is carrying the baby. The best way to take care of a newborn is to ensure the people caring for the newborn are vaccinated and COVID-free.”

Women who are vaccinated before or during pregnancy make antibodies against COVID-19, which cross the placenta into the baby, just like antibodies against anything the mother has ever been infected with or vaccinated against. These antibodies are detectable in the baby.

Myth: The vaccines have been shown to cause infertility.

Fact: COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone age 5 and older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or who might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners, according to the CDC.

There is no evidence that shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (difficulty trying to get pregnant) in women or men. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and people who would like to have a baby.

In addition, for children ages 5-11 who receive the vaccine, “There has been no evidence that either the COVID-19 vaccine or infection from COVID-19 affects fertility,” said Frank Han, MD, an OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois pediatric cardiologist.

Unfortunately, according to Raghu Kasetty, MD, an OSF Medical Group pediatrician, there is a lot of misinformation about the vaccine that confuses people, making it hard to make the correct decision.

“There is no proven link between getting the COVID-19 vaccine and a child’s reproductive organ development,” Dr. Kasetty said.

Myth: Ivermectin is a safe and effective COVID-19 treatment.

Fact: For months, different news and social media outlets have talked about ivermectin being used to treat COVID-19. It has also been a popular topic on Twitter and was even touted as a miracle drug. But this is not the case, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Ivermectin is approved by the FDA as a prescription medication to treat certain infections caused by internal and external parasites. It is not authorized or approved for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

“Ivermectin is a medication that was developed to treat parasites. It is essentially like an antibiotic for parasites and has been studied against parasites like scabies or lice – which are parasites you might be familiar with,” said Bill Walsh, MD, a chief medical director with OSF HealthCare. “It has no known effect against a bacteria and it has no known effect against a virus.”

The FDA’s consumer update on ivermectin further states, “Using any treatment for COVID-19 that’s not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm. There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. It is not okay.”

Overdose of ivermectin can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension, allergic reactions, dizziness, ataxia, seizures, coma and even death.

Further, animal formulations of ivermectin – or other medicines – are highly concentrated for use in large animals such as horses and cows, which makes veterinary medicine formulations extremely toxic in humans.

Dr. Walsh said there are approved treatments for COVID-19 and encourages having a discussion with your doctor before trying any treatment on your own.

“There are outpatient treatments such as monoclonal antibodies that has been tested and proven to work in patients who are not in need of hospitalization,” Dr. Walsh said. “There is a medication called Remdesivir, which is a treatment for people who do need hospitalization.

“And, of course, the safe and very effective vaccines are good at helping to prevent you from getting sick,” he said. “Taking medications that are not prescribed by a doctor to treat COVID-19 because you’ve heard about it on social media is not a safe way to treat yourself.”

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines can cause a COVID-19 infection.

Fact: None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes after being vaccinated, you may experience symptoms, such as fever. This is normal and indicates the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine shots contain a microchip.

Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain microchips. Vaccines are developed to fight against disease and are not administered to track your movement.

Brian Laird, PharmD, a Pharmacy Operations manager with OSF HealthCare, said the myth is based on a widely-shared conspiracy theory that falsely claimed Bill Gates funded the vaccines to put microchips in people through vaccines.

“The vaccines contain a tiny piece of genetic material encased in salt, sugar and fats,” Brian said.

Learn more about the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccinations and how mRNA vaccines work. You can also watch this video about mRNA vaccines and how they work.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines can alter DNA.

Fact: COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way, according to the CDC. The vaccines deliver instructions (genetic material) to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. The genetic material never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is kept.

Last Updated: December 3, 2021

About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: COVID-19