Despite misconceptions, COVID-19 vaccine can prevent future loss
Hamdard Healthcare is a Federally Qualified Health Center with locations in Addison and on Chicago's north side. The communities we serve have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 virus both physically and economically. We have sadly lost several patients to the virus and have seen many more become seriously ill.
While there has been much to mourn and grieve, the news of the vaccine has provided us in the medical profession with much needed hope.
More than helping our country get back to some semblance of normalcy, the vaccine can prevent future loss of life from COVID-19.
Still, there are some in our community that have concerns about the vaccine.
Given that it is vital that as many people as possible receive the vaccine, I wanted to use my platform as Hamdard's Medical Director to address some common misconceptions around the COVID-19 vaccines (both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) recently approved by the FDA.
• "The vaccines were developed too quickly to be safe"
While the vaccines were developed in record time, no corners were cut in making them. The researchers followed the same procedures and approval processes that other vaccines have had to follow in the past.
The main factor that typically slows the development of other vaccines is not a lack of research, but a lack of funding.
In this case, an unprecedented amount of investment came in from both the federal government and private sector to help the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
If anything, the speed of this vaccine's development proves that increased funding in scientific research can accomplish amazing things.
• "I do not want to be a "guinea pig" for these vaccines"
Although the vaccines are now available to the public, that does not mean the people receiving it now are the first to receive it ever. In the same way that these vaccines received unprecedented funding for research, a record number of people volunteered to receive the vaccines as part of the clinical trials. Tens of thousands of individuals received the vaccines earlier this year and their successful experience with the vaccine is what led to its distribution to the general public.
• "The vaccines will give you COVID-19"
Unlike the vaccines you have been taking your entire life for diseases like measles and mumps, these vaccines do not inject the live virus that causes COVID-19 into your system.
These vaccines simply tell our bodies how to make a harmless piece of the so-called "spike protein" from the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. To quote the CDC's website, "Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the immune cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them."
While previous vaccines injected small amounts of a virus into your body so it could learn how to fight it off, these vaccines give your body a ready-made blueprint for protecting itself from COVID-19.
• "The vaccines use experimental technology that rewrites your DNA"
It is true that this is the first mRNA vaccine to be approved for distribution, but that does not mean that this is brand new technology. Scientists have been studying mRNA for nearly 30 years and were working on developing this vaccine even before the spread of COVID-19 had grown into a global pandemic.
One of the common misconceptions about the vaccine is that it rewrites your DNA. This is simply not true. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our genetic material is kept, but instead passes on the instructions for fighting COVID-19 before getting broken down and discarded.
• "The side-effects from these vaccines are worse than COVID-19"
As of writing, there have been a minimal amount of instances worldwide where the vaccines have caused severe allergic reactions. While these are concerning, none of the reactions have been fatal and they pale in comparison to the number of deaths and severe long-term effects of COVID-19 infections.
In general, the side-effects from these COVID-19 vaccines have been the same as other vaccines. To quote the FDA, the common side-effects from the vaccine are "pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever." While uncomfortable, these side-effects are again significantly less than those associated with contracting COVID-19.
COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on our modern society, devastating families both physically and financially.
The COVID-19 vaccines, which have been developed safely, tested thoroughly, and are currently being distributed with great success in Europe, will literally be a lifesaver here in the U.S. as well. Hamdard Healthcare's mission is to promote the health of people in our community, and the tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us fulfill that mission.