Common Misconceptions Surrounding COVID-19 and the Vaccines
By Alexis Murk, DNP-FNP
As a healthcare provider in the local community, I wanted to address common misconceptions, concerns, and questions from patients regarding vaccine hesitancy. Misinformation often spreads faster than evidence-based data and can be harmful. To our patients who are unsure about this vaccine, we first want to say your questions and hesitation are OK and need to be addressed, but we want to make sure they are being addressed correctly.
Please talk to your doctor.
They are happy to spend as much time with you as you need to discuss the facts about COVID-19 and the vaccines available. These are the same doctors you trust with your life during surgeries, emergencies, and chronic health conditions. The risks of COVID-19 and the evidence surrounding the efficacy and safety of the available vaccines should be no different. A recent American Medical Association (AMA) study showed more than 96% of doctors have been vaccinated — and when it is more specific to those caring for COVID-19 patients in the hospital, it is closer to 100% (AMA, 2021).
I’m worried about the long-term side effects of the vaccine.
Vaccines are different from medications people take daily for years. The medications you take may cause side effects that occur over time as the drug levels build up in the body throughout months or years. Vaccines are eliminated quickly from the body, especially with the mRNA vaccines used for COVID-19. Most adverse effects related to a vaccine occur within the first six to eight weeks, not months or years later.
The vaccine was rushed.
Quite frankly, this is just not true. The mRNA technology has been around for more than three decades, and COVID-19 presented a huge opportunity to put this to use. No corners were cut in the vaccine development — if anything, what companies like Pfizer and Moderna really did was cut through was red tape. We have had so many people vaccinated we even have more safety data than we have for most vaccines. In exciting news, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was just granted full FDA approval for ages 16 and older on Aug. 23.
I’m healthy- why should I get the vaccine?
While most people who have no chronic health conditions have mild symptoms, that is not the case for everyone — we just don’t know who those people are going to be who won’t do well. At some point, it is very likely everyone will be exposed to this virus, so your choices are to have protection from the vaccine or roll the dice with natural COVID-19 infection. Additionally, we are seeing persistent symptoms from even mild infections with COVID-19 with what has been termed “long COVID.” Up to 10% of people who contract COVID-19 experience long-term side effects such as difficulty thinking, pain, tiredness, headaches, loss of taste, and depression. We don’t know how long these symptoms will last or if we will be able to successfully treat them.
I’ve heard the vaccine causes heart problems.
In teenagers, the COVID-19 vaccines carry a very small risk of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) after the second dose. There have been about 50 cases per million doses in boys, and only 12 cases in girls. It is usually mild and resolves in about one to two weeks. In comparison, teenagers infected with COVID-19 develop myocarditis much more frequently, ranging from about 500-3,000 cases per million. The risk of the virus very clearly trumps the risk of the vaccine. There are very few things in medicine that carry zero risk, it is always a matter of weighing the benefits with the risks.
I’ve heard ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are working. Why aren’t we giving this to everyone?
This is one of the biggest situations where the medical community begs you — PLEASE stay off Google and Facebook and talk to your doctor regarding any medication and indications. These medications are not being used in hospitalized patients. In fact, the available data shows no clear benefit and there is a high risk of toxicity.
Do the vaccines even work?
The vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations from COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 96% effective against preventing hospitalizations, and the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) is about 84% effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 90% effective at preventing infections. These vaccines are even more effective for those ages 75 years and older.
Most patients hospitalized with complications from COVID-19 are unvaccinated and many hospitals are at full capacity. Elective surgeries are being postponed and patients are often not able to get to the specialists they need because there are no open beds. This isn’t just happening in large cities — it is happening right here in our backyard and in our surrounding communities. The complications from COVID-19 have created a public health crisis that is affecting ALL patients, not just patients with COVID-19.
As a takeaway, your primary care provider cares about the health of you and your family. If you have all the facts, we think you’ll agree. You have trusted us with all your other healthcare needs and questions — please don’t stop now.
Alexis Murk, DNP-FNP, is a board-certified nurse practitioner specializing in primary care with clinical interests in acute care and preventative care. To learn more or schedule an appointment, call the Taylor Clinic in Beardstown at (217) 323-2245.