While COVID-19 vaccines have some people excited to be released from the pandemic’s shackles, they’ve left others terrified — and, in many cases, misinformed.
On WhatsApp, WeChat and other social media platforms, myths about the impact of vaccines range from microchips being injected into your body to the risk of infertility.
The fear is especially palpable in the Black-Canadian community, for good reason.
“Given the history of systemic anti-Black racism in North America, we have to ask: Has enough been done to earn that trust?” said Akwatu Khenti, chair of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity.
“There are valid reasons to be skeptical and, even if there aren’t valid reasons, you don’t want to do harm in how you respond to people’s long and deeply held views about any health-related matter. You want to be able to create teachable moments.”
Khenti is a part of the City of Toronto’s Black Community COVID Response Plan announced this week by Mayor John Tory. The plan comes on the heels of data that revealed Canadians of the African diaspora have the highest proportion — 26 per cent — of COVID-19 cases and a vaccine acceptance rate of only 34 per cent.
The city’s new campaign will, among other things, address that hesitancy, and a big part of the solution will be a balanced discussion that mixes people’s views with scientific evidence.
“It’s not just a question of trust, it’s a question of trustworthiness,” says Khenti.
The Star asked Khenti; Dr. Upton Allen, an infectious disease expert and lead investigator on COVID at Sick Kids Hospital; and immunologist Dr. David Burt to help debunk some of the biggest myths.
COVID-19 vaccines can lead to infertility
It’s simply not true, the experts said. This concern stems from an incorrect belief that vaccines spike proteins that interfere with another protein essential for placenta formation. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain anything nor affect anything that would lead to this.
The approval process was rushed, therefore it’s unsafe
Development of vaccines was sped up by doing things that generally happen sequentially at the same time instead.
In reality, research that relates to the mRNA vaccines for cancers and other coronaviruses was being conducted 10 to 15 years before 2019. So when COVID-19 came along, they were already very far ahead.
Scientists simply accelerated studies to get the vaccines into production. They did not cut corners in the process.
The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are dangerous and can cause me to contract the virus
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The vaccines don’t contain live virus, therefore they cannot cause you to become infected. The vaccine might be associated with some side effects that researchers and doctors call reactogenicity. Examples are soreness, headaches, fevers, muscle aches and tiredness, but those tend to occur most frequently after the second dose. There have been cases of allergic reactions. Speak to an allergist and doctor about your concerns if this has been a problem in the past.
These vaccines will alter my DNA
Vaccines consist of mRNA. For mRNA to enter into DNA, it must convert to DNA. This won’t happen because our cells do not have the complex machinery and enzymes to cause that conversion.
I was already asymptomatic with COVID-19. I don’t need to get the vaccine
It’s advised that people who have been previously infected should still get the vaccine. The level of antibodies — proteins created by your body’s immune system for protection — in people who have had the virus varies greatly. An asymptomatic individual may not have high enough antibodies to prevent reinfection.
With the vaccine, I’m untouchable — no need to physically distance or wear a mask
Scientist say there’s a difference between preventing the disease and preventing infection.
In a diseased body, the immune system is completely weakened and the body is responding with apparent symptoms. An infection is the virus’s first attack on the body, during which it starts to grow.
The current vaccines prevent COVID-19 disease, but it is unclear if they prevent infection; this means that COVID-19 could still be transmitted even when vaccinated. Additionally, with newer COVID-19 strains appearing, the current vaccines might offer less protection against them.
The vaccine will cause mental and physical disabilities for my future children
So far, there’s no evidence that vaccines are causing future disabilities in children.
There is a microchip in the vaccine planted by the government to control us
This is nothing but a conspiracy theory stemming from a false claim that Bill Gates has patented the COVID-19 vaccines.
When a vaccine is developed, it is required by regulatory authorities to have a detailed report of all the elements and components in it, including their origins. There are entirely too many active professionals and authorities who are part of this process for a microchip to be inserted into the vaccine.
Additionally, a device inserted into a vaccine would prevent the vaccine from working.
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