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With COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) continuing to spread quickly, researchers raced to create a vaccine to help keep people safe.
Although creating a new vaccine can sometimes take years, many pharmaceutical companies were able to advance research and clinical trials quickly, allowing local communities to already begin distributing the vaccine to the most at-risk populations, such as health care personnel and older adults.
However, many people, including those in our Black communities, feel skeptical about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Research shows that skepticism surrounding the vaccine is the highest among Black Americans. This, explains Alric V. Simmonds Jr., MD, AdventHealth General Surgeon, Chief Health Equity Officer and Chief Medical Officer, is not surprising.
“The term ‘justified skepticism’ sums it up perfectly. People of color in this country have received intentional malady from government officials, and the community remembers that,” says Dr. Simmonds. “We have to understand that is where they begin their journey and explain that it’s ok that this vaccine developed rapidly.”
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed quickly compared to other vaccines. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. Let’s take a look at this and other common coronavirus myths.
Myth: The vaccine development process moved too fast and skipped important safety factors.
Truth: Because COVID-19 is considered a public health emergency, vaccine manufacturers chose to submit a request for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) before receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Technology has advanced, and this messenger RNA vaccination is one of those advances. The mRNA technology has allowed the companies who manufactured the vaccine to move at a much quicker pace in their development,” explains Dr. Simmonds.
To issue an EUA, it needs to be proven that the vaccine may be effective in preventing a serious or life-threatening condition, and that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits can outweigh its known and potential risks.
“I am the chair of our scientific review committee for COVID-19, so we’ve had ample opportunity to really look at the scientific data — to look at the efficacy and the risk/benefit profile of this vaccination,” Dr. Simmonds explains, adding, “Quite honestly, I did have some initial hesitancy (about the COVID-19 vaccine), but I am a scientist, and I believe in the science.”
Myth: The vaccine will give you COVID-19.
Truth: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), none of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development here in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
When someone gets vaccinated, it’s possible that they may experience a reaction or symptoms, such as a fever, because the goal of the vaccine is to teach the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus. It usually takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination.
“Vaccinations help populations of people survive grave illness,” Dr. Simmonds explains. “If you’ve gone to school, if you’ve played team sports, you’ve been vaccinated for measles, mumps, chickenpox, etc., so our bodies tolerate these things very well and they keep us safe.”
Myth: If you’ve already had COVID-19, the vaccine won’t make a difference.
Truth: People are advised to get a vaccine even if they have already been sick with COVID-19 because of the severe health risks and the possibility of re-infection.
Without extensive research, it’s yet to be determined how long someone is protected from getting coronavirus again after they’ve already had the virus once. The natural immunity someone builds after having COVID-19 can vary from person to person.
It’s best to get the vaccine when it is your turn to do so, as there is not enough data to say for sure how long someone is immune.
Myth: The flu vaccine can help protect against coronavirus, too.
Fact: Getting a flu shot will not protect you against coronavirus.
Getting your flu shot is more important than ever since the flu vaccine will help protect you from getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The flu and coronavirus symptoms look similar in a lot of cases, so knowing you can protect against one of these illnesses may make diagnosis and treatment easier.
Staying Safe Until a Vaccine Is Available
Until a vaccine is more widely available and the majority of our population has been vaccinated, basic steps like social distancing and wearing a mask are the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you. Also, continue to practice the safety steps you already know, like:
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily
- Getting your annual flu shot
- Staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone outside your household
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or using sanitizer often
- Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others
We’re Here to Keep You and Your Family Safe
As more information on COVID-19 treatments becomes available, we’ll keep you informed. Stay up to date by visiting the Coronavirus Resource Hub.