--- title: Myths about COVID-19 vaccination tags: live-v0.1.2, misinformation permalink: https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_myths --- {%hackmd GHtBRFZdTV-X1g8ex-NMQg %} # Myths about COVID-19 vaccination :::warning This page is about misinformation specific to the COVID-19 vaccines. For misinformation about vaccines in general, visit [this page](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_antivax). ::: [TOC] ## Where does misinformation come from? YouTube has been a significant source of misleading information during previous public health crises, including the Ebola and Zika outbreaks ([Li et al., 2020](http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002604)). In March of 2020, a search of YouTube revealed that more than one quarter of the most-viewed videos contained misinformation, whereas videos from reputable sources remained underrepresented ([Li et al., 2020](http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002604)). :::info An in-depth scholarly analysis of how misinformation and other attributes of the online environment, and how it challenges citizens in a democracy can be found in [Kozyreva et al. (2020)](https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1529100620946707). A detailed report on the overarching relationship between technology and democracy that was prepared for the European Commission can be [found here](https://sks.to/techdem). ::: A quantitative analysis of the COVID-19 "infodemic" has shown that unreliable information predominated online before infections started rising in February and March 2020, but was then replaced by reliable information and content shifted towards more reliable sources ([Gallotti et al., 2020](https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-00994-6)). Unfortunately, misinformation about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccinations is sometimes also spread for political reasons. We explore this aspect in a separate page on the [politics of COVID-19 vaccinations](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_politics). ## Facts against common myths ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: It is physical impossible to undo the COVID-19 vaccine. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: There are ways to remove the vaccine once it is administered.* <span style="color:green"> If someone recommends a bath with baking soda, epsom salts and the [cleaning agent borax](https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/borax-sodium-tetraborate) to "detox" your vaccine, please do not follow this recommendation. First, it can irritate your skin and eyes. And second, it will not remove the protection that a Covid vaccine offers. In [an interview NBC News](https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/covid-vaccine-mandates-push-holdouts-get-shot-detox-rcna4859) Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and adjunct professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, described why you cannot remove the vaccine once it is administered. The vaccine works quickly to start training your immune system to recognise the virus so your body can protect itself. Once the immune response is triggered, the vaccines rapidly break down and [leave the body](https://theconversation.com/no-covid-vaccines-dont-stay-in-your-body-for-years-169247). <span style="color:green"> Anti-vaccine groups on social media posted several methods that claim to "remove" the vaccine. Aside from the fact that there's no reason to do so---since a vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19---none of these methods reverse the vaccine's protections. The “detox bath” is one of the more harmless methods, but other recommendations are actively harmful. ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine has lipid solvents, not Lucifer <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine “glows” and there is a link between the vaccine and Lucifer.* <span style="color:green">A former Pfizer employee once again caused a [stir](https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-pfizer-vaccine-luciferase-newsmax/31546045.html). She claimed that the Pfizer vaccine glows because it contains SM-102 and graphene oxide, and that SM-102 is called Luciferase. Other variants of this myth target the Moderna vaccine. <span style="color:green">[All of these claims are untrue](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-moderna-luciferin-idUSL1N2MT265). First, the vaccines can't glow in the dark. [Here](https://www.fda.gov/media/151707/download) you can find a list of all ingredients. Indeed, the Moderna vaccine does contain [SM-102](https://hackmd.io/@scibehC19vax/misinfo_myths#-FACT-The-Moderna-vaccine-contains-SM-102-not-chloroform). But SM-102 is actually a [lipid expedient](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169409X07003195) (to help dissolve ingredients that don't dissolve in water) and doesn't glow, whereas Luciferase is an enzyme. <span style="color:green"> This misinformation was trying to target religious groups thanks to the word similarity between "Luciferase" and "Lucifer"---a name which some people interpret as that of the devil. Anti-vaccination groups thus tried to draw a very tenuous link from Lucifer to Luciferase to vaccines, and none of this holds up. In fact, Luciferase was not actually named after Lucifer. The [name](http://www.cultus.hk/Latin_vocab/noun3/lux.html) come from Greek or Latin and is derived from the Latin words for “light” (lux) and to bring/carry (ferre). <span style="color:green"> If you want to know more about Luciferase [this video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odN92KbH8Bo&t=40s) could help you. ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine has reduced the chances of being hospitalised from an infection. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: There are more vaccinated people in the intensive care units of hospitals.* <span style="color:green"> Maybe you have already heard the argument that there are also vaccinated people in the intensive care units of hospitals. And yes, the COVID-19 vaccine does not guarantee against infection. Nevertheless, vaccination reduced the risk of infection and even more so, it reduces the risk of severe disease if you become infected. <span style="color:green"> COVID-19 case rates are higher in the unvaccinated population than in the fully vaccinated population. For example, a [report from the Washington State Department of Health](https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/data-tables/421-010-CasesInNotFullyVaccinated.pdf) shows that the case rates are at least 5 times higher in the unvaccinated population than in the fully vaccinated population. The report also shows that the hospitalization rates are at least 11 times higher in the unvaccinated population than in the fully vaccinated population. <span style="color:green"> But some official sources report the rates in a way which may leads to misunderstandings. For example, the German authority RKI reported [early December](https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Situationsberichte/Wochenbericht/Wochenbericht_2021-12-09.pdf?__blob=publicationFile) that 41.1% of the COVID-19 patients over 60 years of age on the intensive care units are vaccinated. Here it is important to clarify that in this age group, already more than 85% are vaccinated. Thus, the proportion of unvaccinated individuals on intensive care units comes from a much smaller population. Our page on [argument quality](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/argumentquality#25-Statistical-fallacies) explains more about similar statisttcal fallacies. ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: COVID-19 vaccines are not infectious. Vaccinated people do not harm unvaccinated ones. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: Vaccinated people transmit the vaccine to unvaccinated ones.* <span style="color:green"> Some online posts claims that the Covid vaccine is a self-spreading vaccine, so that vaccinated people could infect unvaccinated ones. But there are several reasons why the Covid vaccine can't do this. <span style="color:green"> First, none of the COVID-19 vaccines are capable of replicating and infecting their host because they do not use live viruses. The mRNA vaccines do not contain any viruses that can be shed. They only contain instructions to produce the spike protein. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is based on a deactivated adenovirus which is incapable of reproducing. Moreover, [the vaccines disappear](https://theconversation.com/no-covid-vaccines-dont-stay-in-your-body-for-years-169247) from recipients’ bodies within a few days. <span style="color:green"> You can find some more information [here](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-vaccines-transmission/fact-check-covid-19-vaccines-are-not-infectious-you-cant-transmit-the-vaccine-to-an-unvaccinated-individual-idUSL1N2MR1VU) and [here](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-covid19vaccine-reproductivepro-idUSL1N2MG256). <span style="color:green"> Second, researchers [have not developed self-spreading vaccines for humans yet, not even experimental ones](https://thebulletin.org/2020/09/scientists-are-working-on-vaccines-that-spread-like-a-disease-what-could-possibly-go-wrong/). While it would solve many logistical challenges to spread protection as well as the disease spreads, researchers are still wary of the risks and unintended consequences that could occur. ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: The spike protein from vaccines is harmless. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: The spike protein from vaccines kills or damages cells.* <span style="color:green"> Some people shared online the false statement that the spike protein in COVID-19 vaccines is cytotoxic, i.e., it kills or damages cells. But there is [no scientific evidence](https://health-desk.org/articles/what-do-we-know-about-the-toxicity-of-spike-proteins-made-from-covid-19-vaccines) available that suggests that spike proteins from the COVID-19 vaccines are toxic or damaging our organs. <span style="color:green"> The spike proteins are an important component of the COVID-19 vaccination because they train the immune system to protect the body from COVID-19. When you are vaccinated, the spike proteins remain at the cell surface around the injection site and do not travel to other parts of the body. Only 1% of the vaccine enters the bloodstream. This part is destroyed by liver enzymes. <span style="color:green"> Furthermore, [Pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller](https://twitter.com/SabiVM/status/1399471265459499009) explained that the spike protein in COVID-19 vaccine is not comparable to the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2. The one in the vaccine has been modified to be harmless. <span style="color:green"> You can find some more information about this on [Reuters Fact Check](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-vaccine-cytotoxic-idUSL2N2O01XP). ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: The Moderna vaccine contains SM-102, not chloroform. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: The Moderna vaccine contains SM-102 which could cause health complaints such as cancer.* <span style="color:green"> Yes, the Moderna vaccine contains the [ingredient “SM-102”](https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download#page=2). SM-102 is a [lipid expedient](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169409X07003195), which means it helps dissolve ingredients that are not soluble in water. For that reason, it is useful in a number of products, including those used in more hazardous ways. For example, SM-102 is a solvent for chloroform. This doesn't mean that chloroform is in the vaccine. Think of it this way: water is mixed with antifreeze in your car engine. This doesn't mean other things containing water are unsafe! <span style="color:green"> More information about this topic can be found on the websites [REUTERS](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-sm102-moderna-idUSL2N2NE20S) and [FULL FACT](https://fullfact.org/health/SM-102/). ### <span style="color:green"> FACT: One unusual period is no cause for alarm. <span style="color:green"> *MYTH: The Covid-19 vaccines may affect menstrual cycles and fertility.* <span style="color:green"> On Twitter you can find anecdotal reports of women with changes in the menstrual cycle shortly after their COVID vaccination. This is certainly possible, and [scientists are indeed looking at why this may occur](https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n2211). <span style="color:green"> But [one unusual period is no cause for alarm](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/23/covid-vaccines-periods-menstruation-changes-data-experts?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other). Furthermore, [Dr. Jen Gunter](https://vajenda.substack.com/p/the-covid-19-vaccine-is-a-vaccine), an obstetrician-gynecologist and pain medicine physician said “No, the Covid-19 vaccine is not capable of exerting reproductive control via proxy. Nothing is. This is because it is a vaccine, not a spell.” <span style="color:green"> Nonetheless, Dr. Jen Gunter listed [several possibilities](https://vajenda.substack.com/p/the-covid-19-vaccine-and-menstrual) why you might observe a change in your menstrual cycle shortly after COVID vaccination. Menstrual irregularities may be erroneously attributed to the vaccine because people are paying closer attention to their periods after the vaccine. If you find getting vaccinated stressful, that could also affect your period. Another explanation could be because [immune cells in the uterus also respond with the rest of the immune system](https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/imm.13136). All of this is part of the immune response stimulated to protect you from COVID-19. <span style="color:green">There is [no data](https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/downloads/slides-2021-02/28-03-01/05-covid-Shimabukuro.pdf) to support any impact on fertility or miscarriages from any COVID-19 vaccine. Also [a study](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1472648320305253) from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology showed that the COVID vaccine could affect menstruation, but sex hormone concentrations and ovarian reserve did not change, thus fertility remained the same. ### FACT:The COVID- 19 vaccine do not have side effects that appear only after a long time. *MYTH:The COVID-19 vaccine may have side effects that appear only after a long time.* Vaccine hesitant people often argue that the COVID-19 vaccine may have side effects that appear only after a long time. This people are afraid of unknown side effects because the COVID-19 vaccine as an mRNA vaccine is relatively new. But this fear is unfounded. mRNA vaccines were already being researched before the pandemic. For example CureVac already developed and successfully tested a [mRNA rabies vaccine](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28754494/) in 2017. The COVID-19 vaccines are sufficient [tested](https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/FAQs/EN/coronavirus/safety-efficiency/2-coronavirus-vaccine-covid-19-how-many-people-tested-before-authorisation.html) with a large sample. The tests also included the safety after vaccination which covered a period of up to two months after the final dose. From December 2020 to November 2021 [more than 50% of the world population](https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations?country=OWID_WRL) has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. It is almost impossible for there to be undetected side effects. Furthermore, side effects may occur as long as the vaccine stay in the body. In case of the mRNA molecules used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the limited window of side effects is day or so. Read more about this topic [here](https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/vaccines-are-highly-unlikely-to-cause-side-effects-long-after-getting-the-shot-). ### FACT: Life insurance companies recognize that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against COVID-19 *MYTH: COVID-19 vaccinations disqualify you from taking out or receiving life insurance* The life insurance industry couldn't be clearer. Here is a statement by the [Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA)](https://www.clhia.ca/web/CLHIA_LP4W_LND_Webstation.nsf/page/CFFB22AA8524D58385258692004DDFFC!OpenDocument): “receiving a Covid-19 vaccine will have no effect on the ability to obtain coverage or benefits from life insurance or supplementary health insurance. ... Canada’s life and health insurers stress that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from serious illness and death from Covid-19.” And the British counterpart, the [Association of British Insurers (ABI)](https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/topics-and-issues/coronavirus-hub/life-insurance/), is equally succinct: "Receiving a vaccination against COVID-19 will not impact your insurance cover, be it life insurance, private medical insurance or other forms of insurance." So why are these statements necessary? Because some random dudes on Twitter claimed that your life insurance would not pay up if you had a COVID-19 vaccination. No, that is entirely fabricated. ### FACT: Serious side effects after the COVID-19 vaccine are extremely unlikely *MYTH: Thousands of vaccinated people are suffering from adverse side effects or even death* After receiving the [COVID 19-vaccine](https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html) you may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection, but they should go away in a few days. Serious side effects are extremely unlikely. Platforms like VAERS or Eudravigilance collect self-reports of vaccine side effetcs. Some social media users posted screenshots from these platforms to claim that thousands of vaccinated people are suffering from adverse side effects or even death. But this database cannot be used to find reliable informations about the side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine. The information in the database includes self reports, and the reported side effects are not confirmed to have been caused by vaccination. You can find a fact check about these databases [here](https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/fact-check/european-union-reports-millions-injuries-related-covid-19-vaccines?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1630297310-2). :::warning A faked photo of a purported UK government website listing deaths and side effects from the vaccines has been circulating on Facebook. [This is a fake](https://fullfact.org/health/yellow-card-fake-website/). It is often advisable to be skeptical of photos on Facebook especially if they make outlandish claims. ::: ### FACT: The Delta variant of the coronavirus cause higher viral loads. *MYTH: Vaccinated people shows a higher viral load than unvaccinated ones.* A [study by the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU)](https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3897733) on the transmission of the Delta variant among vaccinated healthcare workers in Vietnam found that the viral load among delta infected healthcare workers (who had been vaccinated), was 251 times higher than in unvaccinated health workers infected with the original strain of the virus in March/April 2020. It's important to note, that the differences between the groups causes from the variant of the corona virus. The delta variant is more infectious and because of that it leads to higher viral loads. The study don't compared vaccinted people with unvaccinated ones. To correct the misreporting of their results the the authors of the original OUCRU paper wrote a [rebuttal](http://www.oucru.org/our-preprint-article-transmission-of-sars-cov-2-delta-variant-among-vaccinated-healthcare-workers-vietnam/). ### FACT: COVID-19 vaccinations do not contain magnetic material *MYTH: The vaccine will make you magnetic* Sorry, you won't become the next Uri Geller. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic metals. Even if you injected an extremely magnetic particle into your arm, they would be so small, they would not provide enough force to attract magnetic material. Our skin's surface oils can provide a good surface for external items to stick (remember the old 'stick a coin to your forehead' trick we tried as kids?). Whilst the so-called 'magnet challenge' has been circulating on social media, it is good to remind yourself that social media doesn't always reflect reality. In fact, several video creators have spoken out to correct that their videos were intended as a 'joke' and had simply produced the effect by licking the magnet or through other means. The BBC has a [great video](https://www.bbc.com/news/av/57207134) you can watch that debunks this phenomenon. ### FACT: Approved COVID-19 vaccines and booster jabs are effective *MYTH: Booster jabs show that the vaccine is not effective* Approved vaccines are highly effective including against existing variants such as delta. Current evidence shows that the recommended two-dose system provides strong protection against the virus, severe symptoms and even death. Third doses may be offered to people whose immune system didn’t respond as well to the initial two doses, or for those who may be immunocompromised. Several countries around the world are now in the process of or are planning to roll out third doses – commonly referred to as ‘booster jabs’. Primarily, boosters are initially being offered to older aged people and those with underlying health conditions, but it is likely this will be expanded as the programmes continue. Booster jabs are not new. Seasonal flu vaccines, for example, are recommended on an annual basis. Influenza, like COVID-19, can evolve rapidly, with new variants emerging that your previous vaccine may not be equipped to handle. The composition of the vaccines are regularly updated to keep up with these changes. Your antibodies can also decline over time, meaning your immune system needs a gentle reminder to continue giving you the best protection. ### FACT: Approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe *MYTH: “I've heard the vaccine can be harmful or dangerous”* All approved COVID-19 vaccines have undergone rigorous safety testing measures, and are continually monitored. Millions of people have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19. The primary side effects of the vaccine include low-grade fever and pain or redness at the injection site - these typically resolve within a few days. Severe side effects are extremely rare. Regulatory bodies across various countries consistently monitor reports of any side effects after the vaccine is used, regularly publishing safety updates. When scrutinising the data, it is important to distinguish between the proportion of hospitalised patients who are vaccinated and the absolute number of hospitalised patients. While it may be true that the percentage of vaccinated patients in hospital is high, this does not mean that vaccines are not working – only that a greater proportion of society has been vaccinated and that this therefore reflected in hospital admissions. What is important, however, is that the absolute number of these hospitalisations will be much lower than they would have been had there been no vaccine. ### FACT: Vaccines are still the safest way to be protected against COVID-19 *MYTH: The development of new COVID-19 treatments will mean we no longer need vaccines* Let’s explore this using a common example. Say you choose to drive without a seatbelt. If you crash, you are likely to be injured and require medical treatment. If you are lucky, your injuries may be less severe, and the treatments you’re given return you back to health. If you are not so lucky, you could end up with lifelong injuries or even die, regardless of treatments to try and save your life. Seatbelts are not 100% effective at preventing injuries in the result of a crash, but you are far more likely to be protected and have fewer serious injuries. Think of your vaccine like your seatbelt. It gives you the best way to protect yourself against getting sick from COVID-19. For those who are unfortunate enough to contract the virus, researchers are working to develop and provide the best treatments available to mitigate the serious complications that come with it. But it is far better to have added protection to prevent the virus in the first place, than hope that you are lucky enough to respond to treatments in the event that you do. ### FACT: EMA’s vaccine approval process is independent and apolitical, driven by scientific best practices, availability of data and concern for citizens’ safety. *MYTH: The approval of the vaccine Sputnik V is politically-driven.* EMA’s vaccine approval process is independent and apolitical. It is driven by scientific best practices, availability of data and concern for citizens’ safety. The approval process can take a long time because Sputnik V’s application is subject to the same rigorous assessments as other vaccines. The same high standards are to be applied consistently to Sputnik V. That's the reason why Sputnik V is still waiting for the approval. There are no political reasons. ### FACT: The official Sputnik V Twitter account is spreading misinformation about other vaccines *MYTHS*: See report [linked below](https://euvsdisinfo.eu/uploads/2021/04/EEAS-Special-Report-Covid-19-vaccine-related-disinformation-6.pdf) for a list Sputnik V is a Russian vaccine that is currently [seeking EMA approval](https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/human-regulatory/overview/public-health-threats/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/treatments-vaccines/covid-19-vaccines). Unfortunately, the official Twitter account of Sputnik V has been found to spread misinformation about the Sputnik vaccine itself and also about its competitors. The tweets tend to unduly exaggerate the success of Sputnik V while misleadingly inflating the side effects of competing vaccines. A detailed overview and refutation of the specific claims made by Sputnik V was [reported in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard](https://www.derstandard.de/story/2000126226847/die-manipulative-twitter-propaganda-von-sputnik-v). [Professor Carl Bergstrom](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Bergstrom) has provided an analysis of Sputnik disinformation [in English in a Twitter thread](https://twitter.com/ct_bergstrom/status/1387152608318480385?s=12). The [European External Action Service](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_External_Action_Service) released a report on vaccine disinformation covering December 2020 to April 2021 in which Sputnik V’s channel was singled out as a source of disinformation. The [report contains a detailed analysis and numerous examples](https://euvsdisinfo.eu/uploads/2021/04/EEAS-Special-Report-Covid-19-vaccine-related-disinformation-6.pdf) of misleading claims by the Sputnik account. ### FACT: The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits outweigh its harms *MYTH: The Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine is unsafe because it causes blood clots* Although there now appears to be a link between blood clot events and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination, these side effects appear to be very rare. While various countries suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in March and April 2021 while investigating side effects, the European Medicines Agency [reaffirmed its support](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYmP02SIQNI) for the AstraZeneca vaccine after reviewing the evidence. Similarly, the [WHO Europe continued to recommend](https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-europe/who-europe-urges-countries-to-keep-using-astrazeneca-covid-vaccine-idUSKBN2BA14G) use of the vaccine on 18 March to save lives. With a few exceptions, European countries have followed the EMA and WHO recommendations and have resumed vaccinations. However, because the rare blood clots seem to occur primarily in younger people, many countries have advised against use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in people below a certain age, with that age varying between countries. For example, in the UK, the [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)](https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jcvi-advises-on-covid-19-vaccine-for-people-aged-under-40) on 7 May 2021 "advised a preference for adults aged 30 to 39 without underlying health conditions to receive an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated. This follows the decision on 7 April to offer a preference for adults aged under 30." Reuters provided a [list of age restrictions for different countries](https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/some-countries-limit-astrazeneca-vaccine-use-eu-findings-jj-shot-expected-2021-04-20/) on 12 May 2021.</span> :::success Our [side effects page](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/sideeffects) is following the latest information on vaccine side effects, including more information about AstraZeneca and the blood clots. ::: ### FACT: The AstraZeneca vaccine is effective for all age groups *MYTH: The Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine has 8% efficacy among the over 65s* The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, and millions of people around the world—and in particular in the UK—have taken it. A [recent study (3 March 2021)]( https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3796835) found a single shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be 80% effective in elderly, frail patients. Nonetheless, earlier this year numerous media reports, mainly in Europe, claimed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is of limited effectiveness in people 65 and over. This appears to be the result of an unfortunate combination of outright misinformation and misinterpretation of an—otherwise well-intentioned—decision by the German national vaccine committee. The outright misinformation was published by the German newspaper Handelsblatt (a publication roughly equivalent to the Financial Times) on 29 January 2021, in an [article that claimed that the efficacy of the vaccine in people over 65 was only 8%]( https://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/deutschland/pandemie-bekaempfung-corona-impfstoff-diskussion-um-wirksamkeit-von-astra-zeneca-vakzin-bei-senioren/26849788.html?ticket=ST-12695425-b5nkzQgPAxaCV5L9Lqzc-ap6). This figure was incorrect, as shown in an [analysis published by the British Medical Journal]( https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n414) (theBMJ), but it soon spread around the world. The false information coincided with an initial decision by the German national vaccine committee (28 January 2021) to [limit approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 65]( https://www.pharmazeutische-zeitung.de/astra-zeneca-vakzine-nur-fuer-juengere-123351/). The German committee instead recommended use of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for people 65 and over. This decision did not imply that the German vaccination commission believed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be ineffective. At the time of the initial decision, the AstraZeneca trial (described on our [fact page here]( https://hackmd.io/@scibehC19vax/c19vaxfacts#The-Oxford-AstraZeneca-vaccine)) had included relatively few elderly people. As our team member, [Professor Adam Finn explained in the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/26/should-we-worry-about-claims-astrazeneca-jab-has-8-efficacy-in-over-65s): >“Elderly people were recruited to the UK phase 3 relatively late and were relatively well shielded, so there were few cases of Covid that had occurred at the time of submission of data to MHRA for approval.” But few people does not mean low effectiveness: the two numbers have nothing to do with each other. However, having few participants does translate into greater uncertainty. Thus, the German vaccination commission simply argued that in the presence of alternatives that are known to work for over-65s (because the trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for example, included more elderly participants), the AstraZeneca vaccine should be preferentially administered to younger people where its efficacy had been established. Accordingly, the German vaccination commission updated its recommendation on 4 March 2021, and is now [recommending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for elderly as well](https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/Kommissionen/STIKO/Empfehlungen/AstraZeneca-Impfstoff.html). The [European Medicines Agency had already approved](https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/ema-recommends-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca-authorisation-eu) the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups on 29 January 2021. Other misinformation narratives around the safety of COVID vaccines include those made by unverified sources on behalf of the notorious infowars host [Alex Jones, claiming that he is saying](https://www.newswars.com/watch-live-covid-lockdowns-will-never-stop-unless-the-people-wake-up/) that scientific data on brain damage from vaccination has been suppressed. As far back as 2018 fact checkers have been contesting [Alex Jones’s scepticism](https://www.vaccineconfidence.org/latest-news/usa-alex-jones-top-10-health-claims-and-why-they-are-wrong) on vaccines. ### FACT: It takes two doses and time for the vaccine to reach its maximum efficacy *MYTH: The vaccine doesn't prevent people from getting COVID* As we show on our [fact page](https://hackmd.io/@scibehC19vax/c19vaxfacts#The-Pfizer-BioNTech-vaccine), the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine takes two doses and time for immunity to build up to reach the full efficacy of 95%. Indeed, the data show that for 10 days after the first dose, the vaccination group did not differ from the placebo group---it was only after those 10 days that the vaccine group developed partial immunity, and only after the second shot 21 days later that it reached its full efficacy. It is therefore unsurprising that when many people are vaccinated, _some_ will be infected with COVID-19 after the first shot. This has happened in Israel, where [2,000,000 people had been vaccinated](https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-data-shows-50-reduction-in-infections-14-days-after-first-vaccine-shot/) by the middle of January 2021. Unfortunately, [4,500 people contracted COVID-19](https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/294794) after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and [based on hospitalization data](https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/294794) it appears that most of those were infected during the first week after the shot. ### FACT: Sadly, old, frail, and vulnerable people sometimes die *MYTH: "Vaccines are killing people in Norway/Gibraltar/UK"* If we vaccinate 10 million people and the vaccine _had no side effects whatsoever_, then over the following two months [we can nonetheless expect that](https://sks.to/c19vax): * 4,025 of those vaccinated will have a heart attack. * 3,975 will have a stroke. * 9,500 will have a new diagnosis of cancer. * 14,000 will, unfortunately, die. Each death is a tragedy. But is the tragedy due to the COVID-19 vaccine, if the person who died has previously received the vaccine? There have been repeated rumors circulating on social media about a series of deaths from the vaccine. In all cases, those rumors were based on partial knowledge, distortion of events, or lack of awareness of statistics. We expect those rumors to continue to emerge and to remain baseless every time. The Social Observatory for Disinformation and Social Media Analysis ([SOMA](https://www.disinfobservatory.org/covid-19-vaccines-and-related-deaths-a-journey-through-european-disinformation-narratives/)) reports that these stories take two forms: The first create fictional cases of people immediately dying after taking a vaccine, while the second points to real deaths following vaccination but misrepresents the circumstances of the deaths and thereby confuses correlation and causation. Here are some rebuttals of the most common myths: * In February 2021, it was reported that 15 elderly people in the Netherlands died following their vaccinations, and it was [later clarified](https://nltimes.nl/2021/02/08/fifteen-elderly-died-within-days-receiving-covid-19-vaccination) that they suffered from underlying health conditions or died due to medical complications. This showcases the confusion between correlation and causation: compare this to a base rate of 200 nursing home residents who die from COVID-19 out of an average of 750-800 weekly nursing home deaths. * In late January 2021, it was claimed that 53 people in Gibraltar died after receiving the vaccine. This number [is wrong and seems to refer to the total number of deaths](https://fullfact.org/online/gibraltar-covid-vaccine/) from COVID-19 reported by the government. Although 6 people have died who have received the vaccine in Gibraltar, these were mainly elderly carehome residents (aged 70 to 100) who appear to have contracted COVID-19 before their vaccination. [None of the deaths were linked to the vaccine](https://fullfact.org/online/gibraltar-covid-vaccine/). * In January 2021, up to 33 Norwegians died "after receiving the vaccine." Those who died were all older than 75 years and they included terminally ill patients anticipated to have only weeks or months to live (i.e., palliative care had already been initiated). These deaths have been extensively investigated [by the WHO](https://www.who.int/news/item/22-01-2021-gacvs-review-deaths-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-bnt162b2) and other health agencies, which concluded that the deaths could not be attributed to the vaccine, and that the risk-benefit balance in the elderly [favours the vaccine](https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-18/what-to-know-about-vaccine-related-deaths-allergies-quicktake). Given that the deaths in Norway represented less than 1 in 10,000 of a highly vulnerable population, whereas the death rate from COVID-19 among the elderly can be as high as 1 in 20 or 1 in 10, the risk from the vaccine was 1,000 times _lower_ than the risk from the disease. On average, [400 people die each week](https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/norway-vaccine-deaths/) in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Norway. On 29 January 2021 the European Medicines agency [released an updated report on the side effects](https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update-comirnaty-january-2021_en.pdf) of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which also concluded after detailed review that the deaths in Norway were not connected to vaccinations. ### FACT: Safety syringes retract after an injection *MYTH: "Video proves that Kamala Harris never got the vaccine shot"* Needles are sharp (obviously!) and can cause injury to healthcare professionals. To avoid that possibility, injections are now often administered using [safety syringes](https://retractable.com/Products) that retract automatically once the plunger handle is fully depressed. This safety feature virtually eliminates exposure to the needle and thus risk of injury. You can watch a [manufacturer's video here](https://youtu.be/wC-uXq3uUdQ) that shows how the needle is automatically retracted once the injection has been delivered. A [patent for retractable needles](https://www.newsguardtech.com/special-report-top-covid-19-vaccine-myths/#syringes) was granted nearly 30 years ago, in 1992. Numerous politicians have been filmed while they were being vaccinated, including Kamala Harris. You can [watch the video here](https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-kamala-harris-covid-vaccina/fact-check-footage-shows-kamala-harris-receiving-covid-19-vaccination-idUSKBN29A2K7). Conspiracy theorists unfamiliar with safety syringes have latched onto the "disappearing syringes" to spin nonsense about those vaccinations being "staged". They were not staged, they were merely safe. ### FACT: COVID-19 vaccines have no impact on your fertility *MYTH: "Being vaccinated could make me infertile."* The myth that a COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility arose on a blog with a long history of promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation. It is based on the idea that the vaccine works by triggering an immune response to a [spike protein](https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Spike-Proteins.aspx) on the surface of the coronavirus. It is correct that a spike protein helps the virus enter cells, and it [is also one of the ways the human body recognises a virus and knows to let its immune cells attack it](https://fullfact.org/health/vaccine-covid-fertility/). However, this has nothing to do with fertility. The [guidance published by the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the British Fertility Society](https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n509) confirms that there is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. The myth was created based on the fact that there is overlap between a small number of component of the spike protein in the virus and in a placental protein. However, the overlap is too short to plausibly affect fertility. Indeed, if the virus was related to fertility, COVID-19 should affect the outcome of pregnancies, [which has not been observed](https://factcheck.afp.com/covid-19-vaccine-not-shown-cause-female-sterilization). Further rebuttals can be found at [Fullfact](https://fullfact.org/health/vaccine-covid-fertility/) and [Snopes](https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/covid-vaccine-female-sterilization/?mc_cid=639a39a608&mc_eid=38e9f8ee6f), and in a particularly interesting and readable [article in _The Conversation_](https://theconversation.com/covid-19-vaccines-do-not-make-women-infertile-153550). <!---<span style="color:green"> Since the emergence of new narratives about the Moderna vaccine last week featuring distorted accounts of testing the safety of the vaccine for children, we have seen an increase in scare stories about sinister experiments on children. While the initial round of these stories misrepresented the normal process of testing vaccine safety on minors, the latest round of stories takes the narrative in extreme directions with claims about experiments on foetuses. We have seen attempts to link anti-vaccination sentiment to religious concerns with stories about vaccines leading to miscarriages, playing on anti-abortion sentiments. This latest variant pushes in a similar direction with an unverified source even publishing a supposed sermon by an Italian priest on the link between abortions and vaccination.</span> ---> ### FACT: COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19 *MYTH: "The COVID-19 vaccine contains a live version of the virus, so you can actually get infected from the virus."* None of the current approved COVID-19 vaccines contain the live version of the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccines basically provide an instruction manual to our body's immune system to teach it how to recognise and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, so should it ever come into contact, it can get to work neutralising it. Neat, eh? Sometimes this process can cause symptoms that appear to mimic the virus, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to build protection. Getting vaccinated means you are much less likely to contract COVID-19. However, no vaccine can be 100% effective, and a small proportion of people can still contract the virus despite being vaccinated. This comes down to our body's immune response and the antibodies we're able to make. However, if you do catch COVID-19, the vaccine will give you a significantly higher protection against the severity of the illness, meaning you could have no symptoms, fewer, milder symptoms and a much faster recovery. Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Associate Professor and microbiologist at the University of Auckland, provides a [great explanation of this in her recent article.](https://thespinoff.co.nz/science/19-08-2021/siouxsie-wiles-why-vaccinated-people-still-have-a-small-chance-of-being-infected/) <span style="color:green"> A study from Subramanian and Kumar (2021) incorrectly stated that COVID-19 vaccination rates were unrelated to infection rates in several countries. There were some major methodological flaws in the study. They failed to account for other variables related to infection rates and some of the data used are unreliable. Melton and Sinclair published [a response to Subramanian and Kumar](https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355916680_COVID-19_Infection_Rates_Are_Related_to_Population_Rates_of_Vaccination_A_Response_to_Subramanian_and_Kumar) and correct their wrong results. Indeed, there is a relationship between the vaccination rates and the infection rates. [**Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work**](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/c19vaxfacts) at our dedicated fact page. ### FACT: COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 test *MYTH: "I heard that getting vaccinated causes you to test positive for COVID-19."* Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility that you may test positive on some *antibody* tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. However, the presence of antibodies is different altogether from having the disease itself. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results. [**Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work**](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/c19vaxfacts) at our dedicated fact page. ### FACT: People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated *MYTH: "If you've already had COVID-19 and recovered, there's no point getting vaccinated."* Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. We will not know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well it works. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about. In the course of the pandemic, there are some countries that have a high infection rate despite a high vaccination rate. However, the reason for the high infection rate is not that the vaccine gives you COVID-19. It is more about the transmissibility of the latest variants, than about the inefficacy of vaccines. The rate of infection would likely be even higher in these places without the high vaccination rate. The COVID-19 vaccines are still safe and effective although the transmissibility of the virus continues to be high. You can find a fact check [here](https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/oct/19/youtube-videos/harvard-study-found-vaccinations-alone-arent-enoug/). [**Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work**](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/c19vaxfacts) at our fact page. ### FACT: Getting vaccinated can help prevent getting sick with COVID-19 *MYTH: "There's no point getting vaccinated if there's still a chance that a vaccinated person can get COVID-19."* While many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness or they may even die. There is no way of knowing ahead of time how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications. COVID-19 vaccinations help protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience the sickness itself. [**Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work**](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/c19vaxfacts) at our fact page. ### FACT: Receiving an mRNA vaccine will not alter your DNA *MYTH: "mRNA vaccines like those from Pfizer and Moderna modify human DNA."* *mRNA* stands for *messenger ribonucleic acid* and can be most easily described as instructions to your cells for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body's natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease. <!--- [Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/vaxprocess#Are-the-mRNA-vaccines-for-COVID-19-really-safe)---> As explained in the [CDC website](https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/moderna/moderna-faqs.html): > COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. > > COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the immune cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. > > Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. > > At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19. **The _Snopes_ site has [another fact check of the false claim: "mRNA vaccines can alter your DNA"](https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mrna-alter-dna)** As indicated by a group of independent experts whose opinions were gathered recently in [metafact](https://metafact.io/factchecks/1716), the COVID-19 mRNA-type vaccines (produced by Pfizer and Moderna) are as safe as any vaccine normally is. In fact, * the mRNA vaccines are unable to get someone sick with COVID-19 since they are not 'live' vaccines and they only contain [one protein from the 25 needed to produce the whole virus](https://metafact.io/factcheck_answers/3202). * The mRNA vaccine technology is not new. mRNA vaccines have been tried out since the early 1990s, with countless rounds of troubleshooting, trial-and-error, and small steps of progress. The COVID-19 vaccine is the culmination of a 30-year scientific endeavour. * All the short-term side-effects seen so far in response to a COVID-19 vaccination are expected and well within the normal bodily reactions of the immune system being activated. We provide more information about [side effects on our dedicated page](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/sideeffects). ### FACT: Being gay is fab, but the COVID-19 vaccine will not change your sexual orientation *MYTH: An Iranian cleric suggested people who have been vaccinated are homosexuals (Because they have microchips and they have been genetically modified)* Err, [no](https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-iran-cleric-coroavirus-gay/31094316.html). Lest you think only Iranian clerics have unparalleled ideas about medicine, remember that an _American_ conservative news compendium site called WorldNetDaily proposed in 2006 that [tofu makes people turn gay](https://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/morford/article/Tofu-Will-Make-You-Gay-This-just-in-Soy-will-2658362.php). What [tofu](https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu) and vaccinations really have in common is that they are good for your health. <!--- _Impossible expectations_? Purveyors of disinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations are adept at using science denial strategies that have been perfected in their assault on climate science. For example, disinformation plays on people’s fears and misunderstanding of scientific uncertainty. As with climate modeling, infectious disease experts use uncertainty to express what is known and unknown, which actually enables them to have more confidence in vaccine testing. However, when members of the community hear about uncertainty in vaccination trials, they think that scientific experts are guessing [DOI: 10.1007/s11165-010-9196-z]. To discredit vaccines, deniers play on this fear of uncertainty to undermine trust in science. [DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-28059-2_8] _Logical fallacies ad hominem_ Spreaders of COVID-19 disinformation also exploit “political sectarianism”--a combination of hyper-tribalism and uber-politicization--to sow scientific distrust [DOI:10.1126/science.abe1715]. This damaging strategy was honed, in part, via organized climate change denial and uses three core principles to sow distrust: (a) othering, which fosters a view of opposing partisans as alien; (b) aversion, which casts opposing partisans as untrustworthy and unlikeable; and (c) moralization, which reinforces the ideas that opposing partisans are immoral and wicked. In the case of vaccination safety, disinformation paints infectious disease scientists as alien, untrustworthy, and immoral--similar strategies that have long been used against climate scientists. ---> ## COVID-19 Fact checkers across the globe This [page](https://covid19misinfo.org/fact-checking/covid-19-fact-checkers/) provides links to all fact-checking organizations about COVID-19 around the globe. It is a rapid response project of the Ryerson Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management. The project is funded by the Government of Canada via the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The aim of this project is two-fold: (1) put a spotlight on COVID-19 related misinformation and (2) to provide Canadians with timely and actionable information that we all can use to protect ourselves and our community. ## Further misinformation resources provided by _Newsguard_ - [Top Covid-19 vaccine myths spreading online](https://www.newsguardtech.com/special-report-top-covid-19-vaccine-m) - [Top Covid-19 myths spreading online](https://www.newsguardtech.com/covid-19-myths) - [Covid-19 Misinformation Tracking Centre (updated daily)](https://www.newsguardtech.com/coronavirus-misinformation-tracking-center) - [Europe's top COVID-19 misinformation "super-spreaders" on Facebook](https://www.newsguardtech.com/facebook-super-spreaders-europe) - [Twitter's COVID-19 misinformation "super-spreaders"]( https://www.newsguardtech.com/twitter-super-spreaders) ## Disinformation resources provided by governments and the European Union - [European Commission's page against COVID-19 vaccination disinformation](https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/fighting-disinformation_en) - [1-page guide by the European Parliament to spotting disinformation](https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_ATA(2017)599386) (in 25 languages) - <span style="color:green">[Information page by the Australian Government](https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccines-is-it-true)</span> ## Video resources to rebut misinformation and encourage critical thinking * Dr John Cook's series of videos about [critical thinking about COVID](https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1xbdG-NAkB2fbFElyylxfxO3TreX1rtM). First video in the series: {%youtube W7Zut_jPtqs %} * Dr Asher Williams debunking 12 common myths in just over 12 minutes: {%youtube MnEPqtwp3Uc %} For additional aids to debunking, visit our [further resources page](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/resources). ---- <sub>Page contributors: Victoria Louise Smith, Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Stefan Herzog</sub> {%hackmd GHtBRFZdTV-X1g8ex-NMQg %} {%hackmd TLvrFXK3QuCTATgnMJ2rng %} {%hackmd oTcI4lFnS12N2biKAaBP6w %}