‘Vaccine hesitancy’ is a growing concern, according to officials with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, that could prevent herd immunity if not addressed effectively.
Some people are holding out for one reason or another. The Atlantic recently wrote a story about vaccine hesitancy where they explore a variety of reasons people are sitting on the sidelines. Dissent. Deliberation. Distrust. Indifference.
“We want to reduce that vaccine hesitancy with our education, with our community based organizations and with the media to get the word out.”–Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado
People like Julia Robertson who commented on a Johns Hopkins Medicine Facebook post, question whether the vaccine could have an impact on pregnancy. “All you need to know is that no vaccines have been ethically tested or proven safe for pregnant women,” wrote Robertson.
Others, like Jamie Doolan question whether mRNA will interact with his DNA. “No long term proof of what this vaccine will do to you in years to come. Good luck to those who believe, I’ll take my chances,” wrote Doolan under a Facebook post that was trying to debunk the rumor.
Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado is engineering the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and says the only reason the United States won’t be able to vaccine every adult by the end of May like President Joe Biden promised Tuesday is due to people opting out.
“We want to reduce that vaccine hesitancy with our education, with our community based organizations and with the media to get the word out,” said Prado Tuesday afternoon.
Prado’s concerns are backed up by a recent survey from the United States Census Bureau showing that around 25% of all unvaccinated adults will probably not, or will definitely not, receive a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available to them.
Survey respondents who indicated uncertainty about receiving a vaccination (49%) were also asked the reason(s) for their reluctance.
The most frequently selected answers included:
- Concern about possible side effects (51%) and plans to wait to see if the vaccines are safe (50%).
- Feeling that other people might need the vaccine more right now (28%).
Side Effects Exactly as Advertised
“The adverse effects that are reported that show up in that CDC wonder database, for the most part, are exactly as advertised.”–Fresno County’s interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra
Fresno County’s interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra explains there are databases being kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that anyone in the public can query about adverse side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The adverse effects that are reported that show up in that CDC “wonder” database, for the most part, are exactly as advertised,” says Vohra.
Those side effects are:
- Flu like feelings for about a day
- Muscle aches
Vohra says those are the most common and frequently reported side effects. But, he says there are still several ongoing studies.
“People are also doing a deep dive into more unusual or exotic side effects that may be related to these vaccines,” says Vohra. “Those papers are being published as the information comes in.”
Vohra believes all of the available and forthcoming information will help people make their own risk assessment.
Do the mRNA Vaccines Change Your DNA?
UCSF researchers say the mRNA vaccine is a new kind of drug that uses genetic material to train cells to respond to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean it changes a recipient’s DNA, said Bryn Boslett, MD, an infectious disease expert who is leading the vaccination effort at UCSF.
“It’s (mRNA) basically a piece of material that contains instructions,” said Boslett. “Once it’s injected, it’s taken up by your cells, but it never enters the cell nucleus where all of your DNA exists within your cells.”
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which means they contain messenger ribonucleic acid.
“The mRNA is a just temporary message,” said Boslett. “After the spike protein gets made, your body destroys the mRNA so it doesn’t stick around in the body. It doesn’t mix with any genetic code. It doesn’t go into your DNA. I’m not at all worried about there being any kind of damage to a person’s DNA from these vaccines.”
The CDC says:
- mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.
- The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines for During Pregnancy
The CDC says until findings are available from clinical trials and additional studies, only limited data are available on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, administered during pregnancy.
- Limited data are currently available from animal developmental and reproductive toxicity studies. No safety concerns were demonstrated in rats that received Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy; studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are ongoing.
- Researchers have studies planned in people who are pregnant.
- Both vaccine manufacturers are monitoring people in the clinical trials who became pregnant.
CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have safety monitoring systems in place to capture information about vaccination during pregnancy and will closely monitor reports.
In mid-December, GV Wire℠ asked Prado if someone who is pregnant should get the vaccine. Prado answered, “The recommendations are that pregnant women within the health care worker population may get the vaccine.”