But many Americans don’t want to get vaccinated as myths and misunderstandings spread.
“Facebook runs a survey every day … and that’s shown that vaccine confidence in the US has been slowly but steadily going down since February,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“We were at 75% of adults saying they wanted the vaccine. Now we’re down to, in those surveys, about 67%.”
“Even for young people who consider their risk of severe Covid to be low, the long-term consequences can be quite serious,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
“So long Covid represents one more reason to encourage everyone age 16 and over to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
But rampant myths and unnecessary concerns stand in the way. Here are some of the most popular arguments for not getting vaccinated and why doctors want to set the record straight:
‘We don’t know what the long-term side effects are’
Any adverse side effects from vaccines almost always “show up within the first two weeks, and certainly by the first two months,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
That’s why he and many other health experts asked the US Food and Drug Administration to wait at least two months after trial participants had been inoculated before considering whether to give emergency authorization to Covid-19 vaccines.
“If there were going to (be) problems … they would become apparent within two months of people getting vaccinated,” he said. “That’s what the FDA waited for.”
The most serious vaccine side effects in history have all been caught within six weeks, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.
“I would say, please tell me what vaccine has ever been shown to cause a long-term side effect that was not picked up in the first two months,” said Offit, a co-creator of the rotavirus vaccine who has studied vaccinology for more than four decades.
“The smallpox vaccine could cause inflammation of the heart muscle. The oral polio vaccine was a rare cause of polio — it occurred in roughly 1 in 2.4 million doses. … The yellow fever vaccine is a rare cause of … yellow fever. All those occurred within six weeks of getting a dose,” he said.
There may be very rare side effects that aren’t immediately found in clinical trials. But that’s due to the extreme rarity of those side effects — “not because it’s a long-term problem,” Offit said.
“Sometimes you’re not going to pick it up initially because it’s extremely rare, so you aren’t going to pick up a one-in-a-million risk in a trial of 44,000 people,” he said.
Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson had about 44,000 participants in each of their trials. Half the volunteers got vaccinated, and the other half got placebos.
The Moderna trial had about 30,000 participants, with half receiving vaccines and half receiving placebos.
‘The vaccine might hurt my fertility’
This is pure nons
ense, Offit said.
There’s no evidence that people have lost any fertility because of the Covid-19 vaccines.
The rumor apparently started with the myth that the coronavirus spike protein, which is mimicked when you get a vaccine, also mimics the protein on the surface of placental cells, Offit said.
“So the false notion was that when you’re making an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, you also were inadvertently making a response to a placental protein — which would then make you less likely to be fertile,” Offit said.
“So it’s all nonsense. It’s not true.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said there’s no link between any vaccines and fertility.
“There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.”
‘It’s none of your business if I don’t get vaccinated’
Refusing the Covid-19 vaccine actually impacts a lot of people — yourself, your loved ones, even the country as a whole.
“When people say, ‘What do you care? You’re vaccinated. I’m going to choose not to be vaccinated. You’re vaccinated, so you’re good'” — that makes three false assumptions, Offit said.
And as Americans go back to crowded bars, concerts, sporting events and movie theaters, the need for mass vaccination becomes even more important.
Second, it’s a mistake to think everyone who wants a vaccine can just get one. “Some people are on cancer chemotherapy. They can’t be vaccinated — they depend on the herd to protect them,” Offit said.
So many of the most vulnerable Americans are counting on fellow Americans to get vaccinated.
“And third, by not being vaccinated, or being part of a reasonably sized group of people who are choosing not to get the vaccine, you’re allowing the virus to continue to replicate. When it’s allowed to continue to replicate, it will create mutations, which could then cause variants that are completely resistant to the immunity induced by natural infection or immunization.”
In other words: Failing to get a vaccine could make the vaccines less effective. And that could ruin everyone’s vaccinations — throwing the country backward in this pandemic.
‘I’m young and healthy, so I don’t need to get vaccinated’
It’s critical for young, healthy adults to get vaccinated. Many of those who refused have already paid a price.
“We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand-new virus,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
“So remember that the B.1.1.7 variant is different from past types of Covid infections that we’ve seen — more serious and possibly more severe disease among younger people.”
Young adults can get long-term Covid-19 complications. Plenty of young, healthy people have turned into Covid-19 “long-haulers.”
“Covid-19 doesn’t have to kill you to wreck your life,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.