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Fact vs. Fiction: Dispelling myths about COVID vaccines

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Injury Claims
Posted at 1:39 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 13:39:32-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Mind controlling microchips and permanently altered DNA are two widely shared conspiracy theories about what the COVID-19 vaccine might do to anyone who takes it.

An infectious disease expert at the University of Arizona says neither one of those things are true. She's so confident, in fact, that she already took the first dose of Pfizer's vaccine.

"This is one of the most fantastic things I've ever seen in my medical career," said Dr. Elizabeth Connick, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Arizona.

She is talking about the two COVID-19 vaccines now being given to front line workers and those in long term care facilities.

"Not one, but two home runs. Nobody could have imagined that we would be so lucky to have this success," Dr. Connick said. "These are Nobel Prize-winning achievements."

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines have gone from design to emergency approval in just 10 months. That has led to some questions about safety.

"The vaccine was developed very quickly, but there have been no shortcuts in terms of the approval process," said Dr. Connick. "The data were very seriously scrutinized by the FDA panel. They vaccinated 30,000 people in each vaccine study. That's phenomenal."

There were a handful of vaccine trial participants who suffered side effects, including Bell's Palsy; a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. The rate of Bell's Palsy was not significant according to Dr. Connick.

"The frequency was very low and there's no evidence that it's more frequent in the vaccinated people. It's a pretty rare event," she said.

Another concern about the COVID vaccine involves people with underlying conditions and their fear of getting the vaccine.

"People with underlying conditions should get the vaccine because they're more likely than other people to die from COVID-19," Dr. Connick said. "There's no risk. There's no live virus in these COVID-19 vaccines. There's no risk to people who are immune-compromised or have other medical conditions."

There are also several myths circulating about the COVID vaccine. One says the vaccine will change your DNA.

"That's completely untrue. There's no DNA involved with these vaccines. They're RNA vaccines. RNA will briefly get into your cells and provide a template to produce an immune response, but the RNA rapidly degrades. It does not become a permanent part of your genome. There's no DNA involved whatsoever," Dr. Connick explained.

Another false myth circulating on social media says the COVID vaccine contains a microchip, planted by the government to track Americans.

"That's just silly. There's no microchip in the vaccine. Microchips are much bigger than the syringes that are being used to inject people with the vaccine," said Dr. Connick.

A much more valid concern involves those who've already had the coronavirus. Should they receive the vaccine?

"It's generally recommended that people who've had COVID wait for three months before they get vaccinated. But the guidelines now recommend that they get vaccinated to make sure that they have good, high levels of protective antibodies."

Dr. Connick is confident that the two COVID vaccines will still be effective against the new UK strain of the coronavirus.

This story was first published by Pat Parris and Brooke Long at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering