Experts dispel myths about the COVID-19 vaccine

Los Angeles communities with higher case rates seem to have lower percentages of people vaccinated against COVID-19, data shows.

Video Transcript

DENISE DADOR: Urban legends be gone. There are a lot of rumors when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. We are on "Vaccine Watch." and we spoke to experts to dispel the myths and give you the most up-to-date information. Myth, when you get the vaccine, you need to have a doctor present in case there are reactions. So you shouldn't get it anywhere other than a medical center or doctor's office.

DR PRIYA SONI: You can only get the vaccine in a place where a health care provider is there to administer and monitor for any allergic reactions. And those allergic reactions typically happen within the first 15 to 30 minutes after the shot is given. And so the plan in the future is to have a roll out with vaccine providers offering the vaccine in doctors' offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and other federally qualified health centers.

DENISE DADOR: People prone to severe allergic reactions should consult their doctor. But the latest findings show, even with an allergy history, the risk of an anaphylactic reaction is still very rare. Myth, you don't need to wear a mask if you get the vaccine because you're protected.

DR PRIYA SONI: With certain populations getting the vaccines and others not, we're in a very interesting place right now. So even if you've gotten the vaccine, you should still continue to wear your masks, continue to socially distance, and use good hand hygiene. These are our first lines of protection against this virus. And we should continue to do those things, even with the onset of vaccines now available to health care providers.

DENISE DADOR: The CDC says continue with all safety protocols including wearing a mask. Would it be possible for a vaccinated person to get infected and not have symptoms? And could they be silent spreaders? These are all questions researchers are still studying. It was a scientific feat to develop these vaccines so quickly. But for some, it seems too good to be true. Myth, the development and testing for the vaccine was rushed. And the results can't be trusted.

DR PRIYA SONI: The science behind the vaccination was not rushed at all. People in infectious disease, we know that scientists have been developing this technology for decades. And because the viral sequence was released early on in the pandemic, researchers were able to make this vaccine in record time and prove that it was safe and effective. No shortcuts were taken in the clinical trials for this vaccine.

DENISE DADOR: Dr. Priya says another reason why the vaccines appear to have gotten here so quickly is because the government cut through a lot of red tape to get them authorized for emergency use. Other vaccines in the pipeline include those by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. They're expected to apply for authorization next. Myth, I've already had COVID-19, so I don't need the vaccine.

DR KENNETH KIM: If you already had COVID, your body has probably developed an immune response. I would recommend getting the vaccine. Because even if you had COVID, because your immunity will probably wane, we don't know when that would be. We don't know whether we're going to need to be using the vaccine on an annual basis as a booster. So these are all questions that we're going to have to actually determine with clinical trials.

DENISE DADOR: Many people say, especially young people, that they fear the vaccine more than the infection. Myth, the side effects from the COVID vaccine are worse than actually getting it. I'm young, healthy, and I'm not concerned about getting infected.

DR PRIYA SONI: The side effects of the vaccine are actually not as bad as getting actual COVID-19 infection. We're learning more and more about this infection every day and how it kind of affects different organ systems. It's a much better idea to go ahead and get the vaccine than to subject yourself to getting this infection that is very unpredictable.

DENISE DADOR: Doctor Soni says we're learning about so many cases of people having lingering and debilitating symptoms long after they've recovered from COVID-19. So in her opinion, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. Myth, getting the vaccine increases your risk of getting COVID, just like getting the flu shot can give you the flu.

DR KENNETH KIM: First of all, most of the flu vaccines that are given are inactivated flu. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Similarly, all the COVID vaccines that are being studied, they are actually coding for just small pieces of the virus. They are not in any way possible that you can get-- 0% possibility you can get the COVID virus from the vaccines. So definitely false.

DENISE DADOR: The two vaccines currently authorized, Pfizer and Moderna, only carry a genetic recipe to help your body mount an immune response. There is no actual virus in these vaccines. Future vaccines being studied will carry inactivated pieces of the virus, similar to the common vaccines already widely used. There are so many rumors when it comes to the vaccine. So we're on "Vaccine Watch" to dispel the myths and give you the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Here's one that's gained some traction. Myth, the vaccine was developed as a way to track the general population and includes either a microchip or some kind of nano-sized trackers.

DR KENNETH KIM: Definitely false. This really falls into the anti-vaxxer world of being paranoid the government is is trying to track us or trying to put in crazy microchips to follow the population. There's no basis for reality in this.

DENISE DADOR: Now there are some smart chips that are being placed in the boxes of vaccines, so that public health agencies can keep track of where the vaccines are being shipped. But there are no microchips being injected into anybody. Myth, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed using fetal cells or fetal tissue.

DR PRIYA SONI: No fetal cells or fetal tissues were used in the development of these vaccines. The vaccines contain mRNA, which is essentially a recipe for your body to then make the spike protein that's found on the surface of COVID-19 virus. And then your body forms these antibodies and protects you. But no fetal cells are used in the process of this vaccine.

DENISE DADOR: Just to emphasize, experts say there are no fetal cells or tissue in this vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna did perform confirmation tests on fetal cell lines in the lab to ensure the vaccines worked. These cell lines are descended from fetal cells used in science from the 1970s. The Vatican issued a statement saying it's morally acceptable to get this vaccine.

A lot of people are making parallels between the COVID vaccines and the flu shot. We're on "Vaccine Watch" dispelling myths and bringing you the most up-to-date information. Myth, I'm allergic to eggs. So I shouldn't get the vaccine.

DR KENNETH KIM: Some influenza vaccines are cultivated in eggs. So that is a legitimate concern for those who are egg allergic. The current coronavirus vaccines, Pfizer, the Moderna, the AstraZeneca, which is not on the market yet, or the Janssen, none of those are cultivated in eggs. The issue is is that people can develop a allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol, which is called PDG, which is actually found as preservative in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine but not in the AstraZeneca or the Janssen vaccine.

DENISE DADOR: While some experts say the risk of an anaphylactic-like reaction is higher with these vaccines, Dr. Kim, who's an allergist, says the risk is still very, very low. Myth, the reason the vaccines have to be stored in supercold freezers is because they contain preservatives. And they may contain preservatives that are linked to diseases like autism.

DR KENNETH KIM: False and false. First of all, the reason why supercold freezers are being used is, particularly with the Pfizer vaccine, which requires minus 70 degrees, the Pfizer vaccine requires this because they are surrounding a messenger RNA with a lipid particle, which is relatively unstable and will not stay together if it's kept at regular refrigeration.

There was this myth of autism, which spawned a whole anti-vax movement. But the data for vaccines causing autism has been debunked. And currently, there's absolutely zero data that the coronavirus vaccines cause autism.

DENISE DADOR: Dispelling vaccine myths one at a time, doctors say if you have any more questions about the vaccine because of your current health status, it's always a good idea to have this discussion with your health care provider. I'm "Vaccine Watch," I'm Denise Dador.