The Truth about the COVID Vaccine
There are lot of misconceptions and myths circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine, but here are some truths that everyone needs to know:
- The COVID-19 vaccine will help protect you from getting sick with the coronavirus by creating an antibody immune response. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick with COVID; but if you do, experts believe it will help keep you from getting seriously ill. The COVID vaccine available in the U.S. is an mRNA vaccine, which uses a copy of a natural chemical (RNA) to produce an immune response.
- These are “new” vaccines, but the science behind them has been studied for years. Yes, the vaccine was developed in under a year, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only recently gave two companies – Pfizer and Moderna – Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their vaccines. However, the research behind mRNA vaccines has been studied for more than 20 years. At the same time, the safety approval process used was the same as any vaccine that is summitted for FDA approval. This is called a Phase 3 trial, meaning that a large population was studied to assess the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
- The vaccine doesn’t contain the virus and won’t make you sick with COVID. The most common side effects are pain, swelling, and redness in the arm where you got the shot. Some people have reported chills, fatigue/tiredness, and/or headache, but these are minor and only last a few days. In rare occasions, people have had severe allergic reactions.
- An mRNA vaccine will not alter your DNA or genetics. The compound called mRNA tells your body how to make certain proteins; but it can’t access the part of the cell where the DNA is stored.
- Following the second dose of vaccine, it takes at least a week or two for immunity to develop. Even then, it will be important to continue safety measures such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- You should get the vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered. At this point, experts don’t know if and when you can get sick again after recovering from the virus. The vaccine will help protect you.
Those individuals who think they’re better off taking a chance of getting COVID instead of getting the vaccine are putting themselves and other at risk. There is no way to predict how COVID will affect each person. While some people only have minor or even no symptoms, others get seriously ill and there is a real risk of death. There also is little known yet about the possibility of long-term complications from COVID-19. Some people already are experiencing lingering respiratory, cardiac, and other issues. Even if someone gets COVID and has no or minor symptoms, that person can spread the virus to family, friends, and others.
Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is challenging, but a few actions might help:
- Find out why a person is hesitant to get the vaccine. Some concerns may be easy to overcome. For instance, they may worry about the cost of the vaccine. Let them know that it’s free.
- While it’s essential to get people factual information, it is important not to dismiss their concerns or fears even it they are unfounded. Listen and let them know that you understand that they might be uncertain, especially when they are hearing so many different things from several sources. Connecting them with someone they trust to address their concerns may help. Conversations are more productive when there is a foundation of trust.
- Promote vaccination via several channels (such as emails, web posts, social media, posters, etc.) and repeat consistent messages several times.
- Leadership, managers, and influencers can show others that the vaccine is important by getting it themselves and posting pictures and stories on social media.
Finally , consider following these 8 principles to reduce or even eliminate vaccine hesitancy:
- Work within worldviews, identities, and moral values.
- Use timing to the best advantage. Again, use multiple outlets to convey your messaging.
- Use the right messengers for the audience. Again, trust is key.
- Make content concrete, supply a narrative, and provide value.
- Recognize that communities have different relationships and histories with vaccination.
- Reinforce positive behaviors.
- Evoke the right emotion. Keep messaging positive; avoid fearmongering.
- Be clear and transparent about motivations. Stress why it is important to get vaccinated.
Of course, when it comes to information, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many great resources out there. Among them:
- AMDA COVID-19 Vaccine Education Toolkit
- AHCA/NCAL LTC Facility Key Talking Points: COVID-19 Vaccination
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Vaccine Page
If you have additional questions, Community Physicians is here to help.