COVID-19 vaccine myths: No, the Pfizer and Moderna doses won't hack your body with nanotechnology

Ahmar Khan

The Public Health Agency of Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, with thousands of doses expected to arrive into 2021. Despite the approvals and the initial fleet of vaccinations, skepticism and misinformation around the vaccine is running rampant. From lewd theories of the vaccine being used to control populations to the myth you’ll be immune from the vaccine and no longer need to practice prevention control tactics, Yahoo News Canada spoke to Kelly Grindrod, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at University of Waterloo to break down some of the myths around the COVID-19 vaccine.

Claim: Vaccines are not safe because they’ve been developed and tested too quickly.

These vaccines have been developed so quickly because countries and companies around the world have invested more in their development than ever before. So many researchers, companies, and governments have worked together to make this possible. It shows us what we science can achieve when it is well funded and supported. Also, the vaccine technology used in the new vaccines was already being studied before the pandemic in vaccines for Ebola, Zika, and cancer, so it was ready to test once they knew what virus was causing the illness.

Claim: There’s a microchip in the vaccine being used to control the population.

No. While the vaccine does use nanotechnology, “nano” means really small and refers to the super tiny fats that are used in the vaccine to stabilize it—not tiny computers or microchips. The tiny fats are used to stabilize the vaccine molecule (the mRNA) to make sure it stays effective until it can be given to the patient and the immune system can learn from it.

Claim: I’ve tested positive already, so I don’t need a vaccination.

We hope that people who have had COVID-19 retain some immunity after their infection but we don’t know how much or how long it will last. We also don’t know how much you were exposed to. In comparison, a vaccine is a standard dose that ensures everyone gets the same exposure, which should lead to a more reliable immunity.

Claim: The vaccine will have severe side-effects.

Many people will have mild, short-lived side effects like a sore arm, tiredness or muscle aches. A few people may have a more severe side effect like very high fever and there are new reports of anaphylaxis for people who have a history of severe allergic reactions. Side effects are more likely after the second dose and in younger individuals.

Claim: Once I’m vaccinated, I don’t need to wear a mask.

At first, you will still need to keep wearing a mask. You will likely need to wait until most of the population is vaccinated before you will be able to stop wearing a mask. That’s because no vaccine is 100% effective. We also don’t know yet if the vaccine just protects you from getting sick, or if it also protects you from being contagious.

Claim: The vaccine will kill and harm people.

We will be watching the vaccine closely for serious side effects but at this point, COVID-19 is much more likely to harm and kill people than a vaccine. Tens of thousands of people have received the vaccines in clinical trials and so far, the vaccine appears to be safe and the benefits outweighs the risks. We will likely see some precautions emerge though, such as warnings for people who have a history of severe allergic reactions with anaphylaxis to avoid the vaccine until more is known. We also need research on the vaccine in pregnant women to know the vaccine is safe in pregnancy and the safety of the vaccine in children.