As a health care provider I have access to a lot of information. As a teacher of medicine, I’ve spent decades reviewing medical publications, journals, and studies for accuracy and best practices based on evidence based medicine.

I’ve learned which sources to trust based on the data and the results they yield. That doesn’t mean the information doesn’t change. If we’re doing our job with science, we want the information to change rapidly. That is progress and good science.

It’s up to us as medical providers to keep up with that science. In medicine, what we did 10 years ago, or sometimes what we did last month is not how we will do it today. The answers have to change based on our data and our technology.

You need COVID-19 information. I understand. Be prudent when you check your sources. Talk to your own doctors. When you receive your information from trusted sources (and not your aunt or friend from work) you will be able to make the best decision for you and your family.

Johns Hopkins and The American Academy of Family Physicians have compiled data from trusted sources. I’ve used their data while trying my best to answer some of the Myths regarding the vaccine, mostly stemming from Social Media. It may not sound “scientific”, and that is why I chose these sources, for this purpose. It’s faster and easier for my patients to understand. I hope that is what you want too.

Some of your health care providers are asking for your help. I know most of you are tired of hearing it. We understand. Regardless of whether or not you agree, be patient and kind with them. They are trying their best and will (hopefully) be the ones who will be here to treat you once this pandemic is controlled.

For that to happen, I hope you will reconsider and get your vaccination or help someone else to feel okay doing the same. In the meantime, please protect our children by wearing your mask in public.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines were developed too fast to be safe.

FACT: The technology used to develop the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines isn’t new.

The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. Messenger RNA has been studies for decades. The science has been used for cancer research for decades.

The pandemic offered the opportunity to use this awesome technology for a large vaccination, and these two companies had the technology already in place. We are living in extraordinary times. We hope to be able to use this science for other vaccines, such as RSV.

The other vaccine platform (Johnson and Johnson) uses a weakened adenovirus, which has also been studied extensively for other vaccines.

Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines were done with the same rigor applied to all vaccine trials. Typically a trial will involve a few thousand people. These trials enrolled 30,000 people under each company. The results were reviewed and approved by multiple independent advisory panels.

The emergency Pandemic brought the world developers together for increased collaboration, use of new technology and increased funding, which meant working quickly for a lifesaving vaccine.

I personally have colleagues and friends who were willing participants for this trial.

Most doctors and nurses were first in line.

We know the technology. We use the technology to treat you. We trust it.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s fertility.

FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will NOT affect fertility.

The truth is that the COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it.

CONFUSION arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncytin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy.

The false report said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility. The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will NOT affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through In Vitro fertilization methods.

During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.

Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially SERIOUS impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health.

MYTH: If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.

FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 still need a vaccine.

We don’t have enough information to predict how long people are protected from contracting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). I’ve seen patients re-infected within 2 months. It will vary, depending on several factors.

Due to severe health risks associated with the COVID-19 virus and the fact that re-infection is possible; people are advised to get a vaccine even if they have been previously infected.

Re-infections are especially likely when the virus is allowed to mutate and new variants emerge. We are experiencing that in Arkansas with the Delta variant.

The infected are younger and the illnesses are more severe, even when that person has been previously infected.

Currently, the vaccine developed for the original virus is still providing protection against the Delta variant. The majority of the infected who are vaccinated have mild symptoms. It’s providing even more protection against severe illness and death.

Reasons enough to get the vaccination.

MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you the COVID-19 virus.

FACT: The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot and will NOT give you the COVID-19 virus.

An mRNA vaccine is not a virus and can’t cause disease. It activates the immune system, and therefore it can cause mild symptoms in some people. The symptoms are not even close to what people feel with the virus.

Based on data from the clinical trials, the most common reactions to the vaccine are pain at the injection site, fatigue, low grade fever, headache, and muscle aches. These symptoms are very common with other vaccines, including the flu shot, and are a sign that the body is responding to the vaccine.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses a different virus. It does not cause COVID-19 either. The viral vector for this vaccine has been modified so it isn’t able to replicate, nor make copies of itself.

None of the vaccines are live and they do not replicate so they do not cause disease.

MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines were developed to deliver a microchip into my body.

FACT: There is NOT a microchip in the vaccines.

This rumor evidently started after comments were made about digital vaccine records. States maintain electronic immunization records to help people and their physicians know which vaccines they have received. There are no electronic components in any of the vaccines.

The mRNA vaccines contain only mRNA, lipids (fat bubble), salts and other stabilizing agents, which are routinely used in other medicines.

The other vaccines contain the non-replicating adenovirus vector and stabilizing agents.

MYTH: The COVID-19 Vaccine will alter my DNA.

FACT: The vaccine does NOT alter your DNA in anyway.

DNA is short for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. DNA is the biochemical “blueprint” or set of instructions on how to produce every tissue, chemical or hormone that it takes to make a human being. The same DNA “blueprint” is in every cell of our body.

Before I get too deep into the specifics, I would like to paraphrase (below) what one of my mentors said about our DNA: When you see how beautifully simplistic, efficient and so elegantly constructed our DNA is, you know that it did not happen by chance. This had to be created by a much higher power.

We have DNA and the science to understand and use it to live life, and live it more abundantly. I thank God for giving us both.

The Sars-COV-19 virus has its own DNA. Virologists have discovered that this virus has an M spike protein on its surface. It allows the virus to attach to human cells and cause the COVID-19 infection.

Modern science has made a vaccine using messenger RNA (mRNA) that enters the cytoplasm of human cells, but cannot and does not enter the nucleus. Therefore, it does not alter our own (human) DNA.

The mRNA is attached to a very small piece of the viral (not human) DNA which produces only the M spike protein, not any other part of the SARS virus.

The mRNA particle tells the “machinery” in our cell’s cytoplasm to produce M spike proteins using the small piece of viral (not human) DNA. It does so without coming into contact with our DNA.

When these spike proteins enter our circulation (not the nucleus) they come in contact with immune cells which recognize these proteins as foreign and dangerous. Our immune cells then make antibodies to these spike proteins. In doing so, the virus can’t infect our cells.

It is not possible for the vaccine to change our DNA since it never enters our nucleus, where our DNA is stored.

MYTH: I am vaccinated. I can’t get the virus or transmit the virus.

FACT: Although the vaccine provides a high level of protection, it’s never been 100%. You could still get infected.

The COVID-19 vaccine currently provides a high level of protection from contracting the virus. It provides even greater protection from severe illness and death, even from the Delta virus. The extent of that protection varies from person to person, depending on the risk factors.

Risk factors may include:

  1. Immunocompromised individuals
  2. A much older population
  3. Persons who live in a community where the vaccination rate is low, a high level of transmission of the disease exists or a community with a variant of concern exists such as the Delta variant.

Arkansas has all three community risk factors. Therefore, until more individuals are vaccinated, it’s necessary for Arkansans to take extra precautions and use extra layers of protection when in public.

If you are vaccinated, it may still be possible to transmit the virus.

A few months ago, we knew that as a vaccinated individual, we could be with other vaccinated individuals and not be as concerned about contracting or transmitting the virus, unless unvaccinated people were in the home.

Now that all the community risk factors exist in Arkansas, we need to take the appropriate precautions until more of the population is vaccinated.

In our present situation-Those precautions are:

  1. Don’t gather in large crowds. The Delta variant is over 50% more transmissible in doors than the previous virus, and over 40% more transmissible in outdoor settings.
  2. Wear a mask in public places. They work!
  3. I was getting used to hugging people so I know it’s hard, but keep a reasonable distance with others outside of your household.

If you are vaccinated or unvaccinated and you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19:

  1. Get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  2. You need to stay home and away from others
  3. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive, even if you are vaccinated.

What we know:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are very effective against severe disease and death from variants of the virus, including the Delta variant.
  • Infections happen in a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, especially with the Delta variant. When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.
  • If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.
  • People with weakened immune systems, including people who take immunosuppressive medications, may not be as protected even if fully vaccinated.

We haven’t seen anything like we are seeing right now, from a medical and hospitalization perspective. We have young children who are losing their parents and health care providers questioning how long they can stay in the game. Here’s how this goes:

The more this circulates, the more it will change.

It IS changing.

The Delta is more transmissible and it attaches to the cell easier. I am not here to scare any one, only to educate, but this is not the last variant we will hear about. It’s dynamic and it’s day to day. The best way to slow this circulation is our current public health measures. Not trying to sound like the government. I am just a physician trying my best to give correct information and to save our health care community in Arkansas.

I don’t know what else to say other than get vaccinated, but wear your mask and stay distanced and diligent in the meantime.

Dr. Mark Attwood

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