Covid-19 vaccine myths | Sunday Observer

Covid-19 vaccine myths

28 March, 2021

Of all the modern medical interventions we have at our disposal, few have been victim to as much falsehood as vaccines. As the world battles a pandemic, stripping the truth from the lies is more urgent than ever.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 2010 and 2015, vaccines prevented an estimated 10 million deaths.

Scientists have worked tirelessly to create safe and effective vaccines to protect us against SARS-CoV-2. Now, as many governments roll out Covid-19 vaccines, scientists and medical experts are facing a new challenge: misinformation and associated vaccine hesitancy.

Some anti-vaxxers — those who believe vaccines cause a range of medical ills — dedicate their entire lives to railing against vaccines. In reality, vaccines have saved lives of millions of people.


It is true that scientists developed the Civid-19 vaccines faster than any other vaccine to date — under one year. The previous record breaker was the mumps vaccine, which was developed in four years.

There are a number of reasons the Covid-19 vaccines were developed more quickly, none of which reduces its safety profile.

For instance, scientists were not starting from scratch. Although SARS-CoV-2 was new to science, researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades.

Also, because Covid-19 has touched every continent on earth, the process of vaccine development involved an unprecedented worldwide collaboration. And, while many scientific endeavoursface funding difficulties, Covid-19 researchers received funding from a wide range of sponsors.

Another factor that slows vaccine development is recruiting volunteers. In the case of Covid-19, there was no shortage of people who wanted to help.

Under normal circumstances, clinical trials are run sequentially. But in this instance, scientists could run some trials simultaneously, which saved a great deal of time.

These factors and more meant that the vaccine could be developed swiftly without compromising safety.

Identifying the virus was quicker; we already had experience with similar pathogens; technology has moved on since the 1980s; every government on earth had a vested interest; and there were few financial restraints.


Some Covid-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. These vaccines work differently to traditional types of vaccine.

Classical vaccines introduce an inactivated pathogen or part of a pathogen to the body to “teach” it how to produce an immune response.

By contrast, an mRNA vaccine delivers the instructions for making a pathogen’s protein to our cells. Once the protein is created, the immune system responds to it, priming it to respond to future attacks by the same pathogen.

However, the mRNA does not hang around in the body, and it is not integrated into our DNA. Once it has provided the instructions, the cell breaks it down.

In fact, the mRNA will not even reach the cell’s nucleus, which is where our DNA is housed.

Vaccines response

The Covid-19 vaccines cannot give a person Covid-19. Regardless of the type of vaccine, none contains the live virus. Any side effects, such as headache or chills are due to the immune response and not an infection.


A YouGov poll conducted in the U.S. last year asked 1,640 people a range of questions about Covid-19. Some 28  percent of respondents believe that Bill Gates plans to use the Covid-19 vaccinations as a vehicle to implant microchips into the population.

According to some, this microchip will allow shadowy elites to track their every move. In reality, our mobile phones already complete that task effortlessly.

There is no evidence that any of the Covid-19 vaccines contains a microchip.

Although the specifics vary from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory, some believe that the vaccine contains radio-frequency identification tags. These consist of a radio transponder, radio receiver and transmitter. It is not possible to shrink these components to a size small enough to fit through the end of a needle.


There is no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines impact fertility. Similarly, there is no evidence that they will endanger future pregnancies.

This rumour began because of a link between the spike protein that is coded by the mRNA-based vaccines and a protein called syncytin-1. Syncytin-1 is vital for the placenta to remain attached to the uterus during pregnancy.

However, although the spike protein does share a few amino acids in common with syncytin-1, they are not even nearly similar enough to confuse the immune system.

The rumour appears to have begun courtesy of Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg. In December of last year, he petitioned the European Medicines Agency to halt Covid-19 vaccine trials in the European Union. Among his concerns was the syncytin-1 “issue”.

Dr. Wodarg has a history of skepticism toward vaccines and has downplayed the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Wodarg and the former vice president and chief scientist of Pfizer Inc. pharmaceuticals joined voices to make claims about the vaccine producing infertility, thus stoking widespread fears.

However, there is no evidence that any Covid-19 vaccine affects fertility.

Fetal tissue

Over the years, anti-vaxxers have spread rumours that vaccines contain fetal tissue. Neither the Covid-19 vaccines nor any other vaccine contains any tissue from fetuses.

As Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, told the BBC, “There are no fetal cells used in any vaccine production process.”

Covid-19 affected

Even people who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the past should be vaccinated. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, “Due to the severe health risks associated with Covid-19 and the fact that reinfection with Covid-19 is possible, [a] vaccine should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had [a SARS-CoV-2] infection.”

There is also a chance that the initial test produced a false positive — in other words, the test was positive, but there was no viral infection. For this reason, it is better to err on the side of caution.

Virus transmission

Covid-19 vaccines are designed to prevent people from becoming ill following a SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, a person who has been vaccinated may still be able to carry the virus, which means that they might also be able to transmit it.

Because scientists do not yet know whether the vaccines will prevent infection, once a person has been vaccinated, they should continue to wear a mask in public, wash their hands and practise physical distancing as recommended by regional authorities.


Because scientists have only been studying the virus for around a year, we do not know how long immunity will last. According to the WHO, “It’s too early to know if Covid-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. However, it’s encouraging that data suggest that most people who recover from Covid-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection — although we’re still learning how strong this protection is and how long it lasts.”

It may be that we will need to have an annual Covid-19 shot, in the same way that we do with the flu shot.

Pre-existing conditions

People with most pre-existing conditions — including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease — can take a Covid-19 vaccine. However, if anyone is concerned, it is always advisable to consult a doctor.

In fact, because pre-existing conditions, such as obesity and heart disease, can increase the risk of developing more severe Covid-19 symptoms, being vaccinated is even more important for people with preexisting health issues.

There is an exception: those who are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine should not have the shot. Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to any vaccine in the past should speak with their doctor.

However, the CDC stated, “People with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications — such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies — get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.”

Compromised immune systems

Because the vaccine does not contain a live pathogen, it will not cause an infection. Therefore, those who have a compromised immune system can still take the vaccine. However, they may not build up immune protection to the same degree as someone with a fully functioning immune system. The CDC also explain that few people who have a compromised immune system were involved in the vaccine trials:

“Immunocompromised persons may receive [a] Covid-19 vaccination if they have no contraindications to vaccination. However, they should be counseled about the unknown vaccine safety profile and effectiveness in immunocompromised populations.”

Older adults

Currently, in most countries where officials are rolling out the vaccine, older adults are being prioritised, as they are most at risk of severe illness.

Some of the clinical trials had specific subgroups that included older adults to check the vaccine’s safety in this population.

In Norway, 23 frail older adults died shortly after they received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) are currently investigating the situation. Steinar Madsen, a medical director at NOMA, believes that common adverse reactions, such as fever, nausea and diarrhoea, “may aggravate underlying disease in the elderly.”

Madsen said that “these are very rare occurrences and they occurred in frail patients with serious disease.” He added,“ We are now asking for doctors to continue with the vaccination but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it.”

It is hard to believe that not much more than a year ago, Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were entirely unknown. Now, we have a number of viable, effective and safe vaccines. In this internet-fuelled era, rumours grow and spread like wildfire. The addition of a significant dose of fear and anxiety provides the perfect petri dish in which to grow stubborn, dangerous myths.

The situation and the science are moving quickly and the best advice is to ensure that you always get information from reliable sources and do not pay attention to powerful but misleading social media posts.

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