With SMH Infectious Disease Specialist Manuel Gordillo, MD
For most of August 2021, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has had a record-setting number of patients with COVID-19 requiring acute care. The majority of these patients — about 90% — were not vaccinated against the virus.
What can we do to help stem this COVID-19 spike in our community?
We can leverage the tools that have proven effective in slowing the virus’ spread:
- Get the shot: COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe and widely available in our community for everyone age 12 and older.
- Wear a mask: For everyone age 2 and older, national and local public health experts recommend wearing a face mask indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status.
- Hand hygiene and physical distancing: Avoid crowds, especially indoors, and wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer.
We can each work to repair the damage caused by vaccine myths and misinformation.
- Choose reputable sources for information on COVID-19 and the vaccines.
- Share these vetted facts with friends and family. Start by sharing the below info from Sarasota Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Manuel Gordillo, MD; the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) — all reliable, trustworthy sources. (Click here for a printable version of the Myths & Facts.)
COVID-19 Vaccine Fast Facts
Stopping the COVID-19 pandemic requires putting all available tools to use:
COVID-19 vaccines, mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing and avoiding crowded areas.
COVID-19 vaccines DO NOT use live virus
and cannot give someone COVID-19. Short-term side effects that may follow a vaccination are normal and show that your body is building protection against the virus.
COVID-19 vaccines do not alter recipients' DNA;
they cannot cause any genetic changes to a pregnant woman or an unborn baby.
Breastfeeding women are encouraged to get vaccinated. It protects the recipient and the baby when antibodies are passed through breastmilk to the child.
Getting vaccinated helps protect you and those around you from getting or spreading COVID-19.
COVID-19 Vaccines: The Facts
MYTH: Break-through infections prove the vaccines don’t work.
FACT: While mild breakthrough infections may be more common than once thought, the main goal of the vaccines is to prevent severe disease and death. That is something all of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines do really well. They prevent hospitalization and severe disease in 90% of those who develop COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated and get the infection, chances are you'll get very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
MYTH: The vaccine may prevent pregnancy or harm an unborn baby.
FACT: There is no evidence that vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy. The pregnancy prevention myth has been perpetuated by a sophisticated disinformation campaign that falsely claims antibodies to the vaccines’ COVID-19 spike protein will bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy. On the surface, it may seem based on science, but it is not true.
Reports suggest that pregnant and recently pregnant women have a higher risk of developing more severe COVID-19 than nonpregnant women, according to ACOG. The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and ACOG both recommend vaccination for pregnant women.
MYTH: I’ve already had COVID-19, so I have natural immunity and don’t need the vaccine.
FACT: Dr. Gordillo and national health experts all agree that people age 12 and older should be vaccinated regardless of whether you’ve already had COVID-19. We don’t know how long after recovering that natural immunity lasts, nor do we know how well it protects COVID-19 survivors from getting sick again. Having an infection does NOT guarantee a strong immune defense. Research indicates that immunity from vaccination is likely to be stronger than immunity following infection.
MYTH: I’m young / healthy, so I don't need to get vaccinated.
FACT: With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading, hospitals are seeing an increase in severe COVID-19 cases among younger populations, including healthy 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds. Studies also indicate that nearly 30% of adults age 18 to 39 who developed COVID-19 suffer from “long-hauler” symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog and loss of taste or smell. Many had only a mild case of COVID-19 when they were first infected.
Still hesitant to get vaccinated?
Please reach out to us with your questions and concerns:
MYTH: I should wait for a vaccine to get full FDA approval.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now has full FDA approval, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have emergency use authorization by the FDA. The Moderna vaccine is expected be fully approved in the coming weeks, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to go through the same steps in the coming months.
All have met the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. The vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials, and hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. have received the vaccines.
With the Delta variant spreading quickly, the CDC says it’s more urgent than ever to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and all of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
According to the CDC, the vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. The FDA has emphasized that it conducted a thorough scientific evaluation of each of the authorized vaccines and has assured the public that the vaccines meet its rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality.
MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines were developed too fast to be safe.
FACT: Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines were conducted with the same rigor applied to all vaccine trials; the results were reviewed and approved by multiple independent advisory panels.
Both the FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which are not new. Scientists have been working on mRNA vaccines for decades for a variety of illnesses — SARS, MERS, Zika, Ebola, newer influenza vaccines and even some seasonal coronaviruses; that gave them a head start when it was time to work on COVID-19 vaccines.
The other type of authorized COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) employs a weakened adenovirus, which also has been studied extensively in developing other vaccines. Additional reviews by the CDC and FDA have found the J&J vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 among anyone age 18 and older. Women under age 50 concerned about the very rare risk of a clotting disorder should consider the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
MYTH: We don’t know the possible long-term side effects of the vaccine.
FACT: With any vaccine, side effects will typically show up within 6 weeks of the injection. Vaccines have been studied over decades, and do not typically have delayed or long-term side effects. None have resulted in side effects 10 or 20 years later. Conversely, we don't know what the long-term effects of getting the virus are — and those are more likely to be problematic.
MYTH: The vaccines contain unsafe toxins and microchips.
FACT: Microchips are not injected into anyone. That is physically impossible. Microchips are, however, located on the vaccine packaging so that pharmacists and physicians can track doses and ensure they’re not expired or counterfeit. The vaccines’ ingredient list includes mRNA (which is destroyed by the body in a day or two), cholesterol (in amounts much lower than is already consumed by people) and non-toxic fatty molecules.
MYTH: I have allergies, so it’s not worth the risk.
FACT: Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the vaccines have been rare, averaging just 2.5 per 1 million vaccinations with the Moderna vaccine and 4.7 per 1 million vaccinations with the Pfizer vaccine. To put that in perspective, anaphylaxis to penicillin occurs in 1 in 25,000 recipients.
If you have concerns, talk to your doctor. If you are severely allergic to any of the vaccine’s ingredients, you should not be vaccinated. People with allergies to certain foods, insects, latex and other common allergens, however, can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
We’re hopeful this surge will flatten in the not too distant future, as the 2020 summer surge did last year.
We’re hopeful because we trust our community to do their part: Get the shot. Mask up. Wash up. Spread out. Tell a friend.
** NOTE: This content was updated Aug. 25, 2021, and was originally posted Aug. 9, 2021. Information related to the COVID-19 virus and vaccines is continually evolving. For the most up to date info, visit the CDC website.