In an interview with Forbes, West referred to getting vaccinated as "the mark of the beast" and hinted at a debunked conspiracy theory that a potential COVID-19 vaccine would be part of a larger effort to "put chips inside of us."
The rapper's comments come as recent polling suggests that only half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were developed.
The fears occur with the backdrop of anti-vaccination sentiments having reached mainstream conversation in recent years despite the medical community consensus that vaccines are safe and effective in preventing disease.
Last January, the World Health Organization said "vaccine hesitancy," or "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines" was among the organization's top global threats for the 2019.
How far are we from a COVID-19 vaccine? One-third of the way, experts say
The risk of autism is cited by a small yet increasingly vocal group of parents that opt not to vaccinate their children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no link. West's claims also similarly lack evidence.
Vaccines used in US today do not cause paralysis: expert
In the Forbes interview published Wednesday, West, who says he is running for president this year, revealed he was sick with COVID-19 in February. The story includes a long quotation "on vaccines" from West, who said:
“It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed… So when they say the way we’re going to fix COVID is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven. I'm sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it. Next question.”
More from West's interview: Kanye says he no longer supports President Trump, details his own run for office
There is no evidence linking current vaccinations to paralysis in children, said Daniel Salmon, the director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The oral polio vaccine, which is no longer used in the United States, did cause 1 in 750,000 people receiving the first dose of the vaccine to contract polio, which could lead to paralysis, Salmon said.
The oral polio vaccine was extremely effective at preventing disease, Salmon said, but its use has since been phased out and replaced with the inactivate polio vaccine, which cannot cause the disease.
Other vaccines still in use in the United States can cause some minor, adverse reactions, including a minor fever or a sore arm, which Salmon says indicate the body is responding to the vaccine and creating an immune response. Serious adverse reactions are extremely rare, he added.
"When you think about vaccines, it's like anything. It's risk vs. benefits. And the benefit really outweighs the risk," he said.
Facts alone don't sway anti-vaxxers: So what does?
West saying that people want to "put chips inside of us" also appears to reference a debunked conspiracy theory concerning Bill Gates, microchips and a global surveillance state, though West did not directly name Gates.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced that it was committing $1.6 billion to work to deliver vaccines to the world’s poorest countries through the Vaccine Alliance.
It’s possible the microchipping conspiracy theory may have had its roots in a small study funded by his foundation and published in December.
It involved technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to include a tiny bit of dye with vaccines. The dye would be invisible to the naked eye but could be seen with a cellphone app that shines near-infrared light onto the skin.
A study explaining the technique was published in December in the journal Science Translational Medicine, but the technique was tested only in animals, never in children, and has never been put into use.
“In a way, it’s so bizarre you almost want to see it as something humorous, but it’s really not a humorous thing,” Gates said in a media call last month. “It’s almost hard to deny this stuff because it’s so stupid or strange that even to repeat it gives it credibility.”
More on the Gates conspiracy theory: Bill Gates is not secretly plotting microchips in a coronavirus vaccine. Misinformation and conspiracy theories are dangerous for everyone.
Polls suggest some hesitant about a potential vaccine
As misinformation spreads around vaccines, surprisingly low numbers of Americans say they would get one for COVID-19 if developed.
A May poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found just half of Americans say they would get a vaccine. One in 5 Americans said they would not while roughly 1 in 3 weren't sure.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in June found a more promising 7 in 10 Americans say they "definitely" or "probably" would get vaccinated.
Salmon said it's the group of people who are hesitant about, though are not necessarily outright against, receiving vaccines that he worries about, given that they make up a larger share of the population than staunch anti-vaccination advocates.
"It's a very difficult climate to introduce a vaccine," Salmon said.
Like any vaccine development, there are potential risks with developing a vaccine for COVID-19.
Clinical trials may not detect some rare outcomes, a delayed onset of an adverse effect could occur after the trial ends and some populations may not be captured in the trial, Salmon said.
But the potential benefit of vaccination would outweigh those risks given the current safety protocols of vaccine trials in the United States, he added.
Some have expressed concern the Food and Drug Administration might face pressure from the White House to approve a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, under an Emergency Use Authorization rather than the agency's typical process.
FDA guidance issued last week indicates that at least the first vaccine to be approved must go through the full FDA licensure process, including Phase 3 clinical trials to show it protects people against disease or infection.
More on FDA guidance: A coronavirus vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective to be approved
Phase 3 trials would need to show people have developed protection against the virus, not just that their blood indicates they may be protected, several vaccine experts said.
"While the FDA is committed to expediting this work, we will not cut corners in our decisions and are making clear through this guidance what data should be submitted to meet our regulatory standards,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.
A clear concern in the FDA's guidance for the coronavirus vaccine is whether vaccine candidates might cause enhanced respiratory disease – not only failing to decrease the severity of COVID-19 but causing it to get worse.
While rare, data from animal studies in some vaccine candidates for other coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, has raised concerns regarding COVID-19, the FDA said.
Coincidental events could also contribute to opposition or hesitation to vaccines, Salmon said. Any time someone gets sick or dies after receiving a vaccine, there's a risk people will perceive the vaccine as causing that illness. What's needed in these cases is thorough scientific research into whether the adverse outcome was causal or coincidental, Salmon said.
"The science needs to answer those questions, and science takes time," Salmon said.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise and Brett Molina
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 vaccine: Kanye West says he's 'cautious,' promotes anti-vax