San Diego

‘The Side Effects,’ ‘It’s Unsafe,’ ‘I’m Healthy’: Debunking COVID-19 Vaccine Myths


“It was rushed to market,” “There are too many unknowns,” “It doesn’t matter if I don’t get vaccinated.”

Those are just some of the misconceptions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, and with national vaccination numbers below 60%, public health experts fear we’re running out of of time to end this pandemic.

Right now 69.2% of people who live in San Diego County are fully vaccinated. That’s higher than the national average, but herd immunity depends on transmission, and the Delta variant is way more infectious. So even if San Diego got to 70% fully vaccinated, it’s likely no longer enough for us to reach herd immunity which is why public health experts say debunking myths about the vaccine is even more critical now.

“Vaccines aren’t really all about personal health,” director of the San Diego State University Institute of Public Health Corrinne McDaniels-Davidson said. “They’re about public health, and that means that what you do helps protect the community.”

And not enough of us are pitching in right now, Davidson said.

New COVID cases in San Diego County are now well over 500 a day — numbers we haven’t seen since February. Simultaneously, vaccination distribution has essentially nose-dived.

“It’s problematic because it leaves us unprotected,” Davidson said.

There is so much misinformation surrounding this vaccine, we asked Davidson to debunk some of the myths we hear the most often.

#1: We don’t know if there are any long-term side effects.

“The long-term effects of COVID we know pretty well. There are good studies out there that show 10-50% of people who get COVID get long COVID — symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more — and a lot of people who have severe COVID have really long-term organ damage. And we know because about 338 million doses have been given in the United States, that the long-term side effects and side effects in general are vanishingly rare.”

#2: I already got COVID-19, so I’m immune.

“What we don’t know is how long your immunity lasts after you’ve had COVID, and whether that immunity is good against the variants. But we know that all the vaccines we have so far, especially the two-dose MRNA vaccines are really good against all of the variants that we have.”

#3: I’m young and healthy so I don’t need the vaccine.

“Young people right now are the ones filling up the ICUs and they’re dying. We know young people are not immune. People who in the ICUs are swimmers, they’re coaches, they’re body builders. They’re people who are fit and healthy. This variant and the disease in general is not messing around and it’s here for everyone.”

#4: It’s not FDA Approved yet so it might not be safe.

“So the process that the vaccines went through to get FDA Emergency Use Authorization was incredibly rigorous. It went through all of the trials it would normally go through. And those got sped up so that we could get a vaccine out and we do have long-term safety data. So I anticipate that it will have FDA approval soon. But I do trust the EUA with the clinical trials that it underwent and the 338 million doses that have been given out that we have watched ever so carefully This is one of the most carefully watched vaccines we have ever deployed.”

We also asked Davidson about what will happen if people don’t change their minds, and if roughly a third of Americans never get the vaccine.

“Essentially COVID won’t go away. It’ll be endemic. We’ll have to keep dealing with variants upon variants upon variants. Because variants only emerge when there are infections. If you stop the infections, you stop new variants. And so, I haven’t been willing to go there yet,” she said.

Davidson also said she often hears concerns that the vaccine might impact fertility. She can debunk that one, too. People who participated in the vaccine trials promised to try to not get pregnant because that’s not what they were testing for, but a lot of people got pregnant anyway proving the vaccine is safe for those hoping to conceive, according to Davidson.


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