Bleach injections, horse dewormer, microchips—disinformation during the pandemic has been straight-up bonkers, you might even say laughable, if it weren't for the thousands of people who've clung to those very myths and died.
While King County's vaccination rates are high, other parts of the state and certain subsets of the population seem to accept the jab only when backed into a corner (see: Gov. Jay Inslee's vaccine mandate, King County's restaurant requirements, you get the idea).
That may be why, 20 months after this whole pandemic thing first sent us running for toilet paper and beans, the Washington State Department of Health felt compelled to host a webinar debunking common Covid-19 vaccine myths. Is it slightly depressing that our public health experts have to continue answering these types of questions? Yes. Is it also necessary considering the horrifying memes your high school friend is reposting on Facebook (not to mention the history of systemic racism in health care that breeds deep distrust of the medical community)? Also yes.
In attendance: Dr. Larry Corey, Fauci's BFF and former president and director of Fred Hutch; Dr. Anisa Ibrahim, director of Harborview Medical Center's pediatrics clinic; and Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Here's what they covered.
Is the Covid vaccine unsafe or experimental?
In a word: no. In significantly more words from Corey: "RNA has been in development for over 30 years.... The patent that both Moderna and Pfizer have was a patent that the University of Penn has that was filed in 2005. I think we need to remember that these vaccines have been given to 400 or 500 million people now. It's not experimental."
Can the Covid vaccine change your DNA?
Here's Corey again: "It really actually is impossible, from a molecular biology point of view." You can pretty much apply this emphatic answer to questions like "Can the Covid vaccine make me magnetic?" or "Does the Covid vaccine contain microchips?" Just...no.
If you had Covid already, isn't natural immunity just as good as a vaccine?
Nope. Corey notes that your body produces antibodies at much higher levels after a Covid vaccine than from natural infection. Something that'll especially be handy when it comes to the Delta variant, which is eight times more infectious than the original version of this coronavirus.
Does the Covid vaccine affect your fertility?
There's no evidence that the vaccine affects male or female fertility, Ibrahim notes. "There have been many women who have gotten the vaccine and have gone on to get pregnant and gone on to have healthy babies as well," she says. In fact, it's maybe even more important for people who are pregnant to get vaccinated as they are especially vulnerable to the disease. And if you're breastfeeding, you're actually passing protective antibodies onto your baby through breastmilk if you're vaccinated. Add that to your tally of parenting superpowers.
Can you still get Covid after you've been vaccinated?
While the answer is yes, all the ado about breakthrough cases is for nothing when you think about the entire reason for getting vaccinated. "The point of this vaccine was to prevent severe side effects from Covid, meaning hospitalization or death," Getz explains. So even if it feels like the vaccine has "failed," it really hasn't when you consider that unvaccinated folks have roughly 10 to 11 times higher death rates from Covid than those who've gotten the jab.
Why do we need boosters if the vaccines work?
Well, immunity (while still high) is waning. That's in part because these vaccines were developed based on the OG version of this new coronavirus rather than Delta, but it's also just how vaccines work. Think of the flu shot you're supposed to get every year or the multiple measles or polio vaccines kids have when they're young. The virus is evolving so the science (and the vaccines!) do too. In a sense, boosters help you get to optimum vaccination status.
But, like, only older people need to get vaccinated right?
Ibrahim offers up this sobering picture: "Covid-19 is one of the scariest infections we've seen in the medical community because there are five-year-olds dying from it, there are 20-year-olds dying from it, there are 60-year-olds dying from it.... There were healthy 20, 30-year-olds that were doing triathlons that are dying from Covid-19, so no one is untouched. No one is invincible."