Scientists have been working hard to develop vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Even before the first vaccine entered clinical trials, misinformation and a variety of false claims were spreading on the internet.
If the people of the world are to beat this virus, a vaccine is essential. Now that vaccines have been shown to be more than 90 percent effective, the misinformation mongering and rumors have exploded.
In addition to the traditional anti-vaxxers, libertarians, New Age groups, followers of QAnon and others are united against the COVID-19 vaccine. A recent analysis looked at 14,394,320 social media posts that included the words “vaccine” or “vaccination” in English, Spanish and French from last summer.
The posts with the most engagement covered six main topics: development, provision and access; safety, efficacy and necessity; political and economic motives; conspiracy theories; and morality and religion.
The biggest themes were the political and economic motives behind vaccines and safety and necessity. The new vaccine technologies used in the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines aren’t well understood by most people.
The lack of knowledge about these vaccines allows disinformation to spread, which makes more people hesitant about the vaccine. These anti-vaxxer narratives, false information and conspiracy theories are adding to distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general.
One popular target for these conspiracy theories is Bill Gates. He and his foundation support efforts in public health around the world. A popular claim suggests he is using the pandemic and the vaccine to implant microchips into people. This is certainly not true, yet 28 percent of Americans and 44 percent of Republicans believe it.
Some people also believe that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines tamper with your DNA. The mRNA vaccines cannot cause changes in your genetic information. The vaccines introduce the mRNA for a protein on the surface of the SARS CoV-2 virus into your body.
Your immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and mounts a response against it, which protects you from the actual virus. The mRNA in the vaccines cannot alter your DNA.
It’s true that an mRNA vaccine like this has never been tested and approved before. Both vaccines have undergone rigorous testing similar to what all vaccines must go through before being used in people. The vaccines were tested in the lab before Phase 1 and Phase 2 testing on small groups of people to ensure they’re safe and to determine what dose should be given.
In Phase 3, thousands of people were either given the vaccine or a placebo to determine how effective it is and to monitor for side effects. The safety of vaccines is monitored long after they’re licensed.
We beg people to listen to their physicians, public health officials and scientists for accurate information about the SARS CoV-2 vaccines. Ignore what you see on social media, what politicians say and other unreliable information on the web about these new vaccines.
If we’re going to beat this virus with herd immunity, we need to administer as many vaccines as possible.
Medical Discovery News is hosted by professors Norbert Herzog at Quinnipiac University, and David Niesel of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Learn more at www.medicaldiscoverynews.com.