Illinois' top doctor urged residents to seek out verified information on the coronavirus vaccine currently awaiting approval in the U.S., warning of myths and misinformation spreading.
"Know myths from truths," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday, warning of "a lot of misinformation" spreading - and not just on social media.
Dr. Sharon Welbel, the director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control for Cook County Health, said she understands some people might have concerns about the vaccine, but she, too, wished to inform people of what is known so far.
Here are some "myths" experts - including Welbel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some of the country's top hospitals- have sought to clarify.
1. The vaccine isn't safe because the production of it was rushed
"It wasn't so much about being rushed, it was about being given priority," Welbel said said.
Welbel said that "a lot of resources" were put into the vaccine's development, which helped to shorten the timeframe but that it "still went through the traditional phases of any trial."
Welbel's response was echoed by others in the medical field, including Mayo Clinic.
"This emergency situation warranted an emergency response. That does not mean the companies bypassed safety protocols or performed inadequate testing," the hospital system's website states.
Ezike also said she trusts in the vaccine's "development and approval," saying "what is known of the safety has been evaluated."
2. If I had COVID-19 already, I don't need the vaccine
"We know people develop antibodies, but also know those antibodies can be short-lived," she said. "We know people have reinfected, so the recommendation is that people should get the vaccine if they had COVID-19."
The CDC agrees.
"At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19," the agency's website reads. "The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long."
3. Taking the COVID-19 vaccine will give me COVID-19
"This vaccine is not a live vaccine," Welbel said.
The vaccine is what is called an mRNA vaccine, or messenger RNA, relatively new technology that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.
"The vaccine is a little snippet of the genetic code of the virus that causes COVID-19. It instructs our bodies how to create a protein that's specific to the virus and then we develop our own antibodies," Welbel said.
Typically, a vaccine puts a weakened or inactivated virus into our bodies to trigger an immune response, which then produces antibodies. Those antibodies are what ultimately protect us from getting infected if we ever encounter the real thing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mRNA vaccines "teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies."
"That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies," the CDC stated.
The CDC also notes the vaccine won't make people test positive for coronavirus, though it could cause a positive antibody test.
4. If we don't know much about the long-term effects of the vaccine, why should we take it?
"It's true we don't know much about it," Welbel said. "For almost all vaccines, side effects have been found within days or weeks."
Welbel said typically the time frame for discovering potential issues is "short-term."
"We feel very comfortable with that," she said.
5. The coronavirus vaccine alters DNA
According to the CDC, "mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein."
"mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept," the CDC stated. "This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease."
Mayo Clinic also said "injecting messenger RNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells."
"Human cells break down and get rid of the messenger RNA soon after they have finished using the instructions," the clinic's website reads.
6. I won't need to wear a mask after I get vaccinated for COVID-19
According to the Mayo Clinic, this claim is false.
"It may take time for everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination to get one. Also, while the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is unknown whether you can still carry and transmit the virus to others after vaccination," the clinic said. "Until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions, such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and washing hands frequently, will be important."
Ezike echoed that claim Thursday saying "only when people adjust personal behaviors combined with vaccination will we end the pandemic."