Answering questions about COVID-19 vaccine, doctors confident that it is safe

Posted at 11:08 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 14:08:59-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With anything new comes uncertainty. With uncertainty, can also be coupled misinformation. And as some Americans have expressed concern for safety from the quick turnaround of the vaccine, healthcare professionals locally have weighed spoke with 23ABC to set the record straight.

"I feel pretty confident that this vaccine is safe. What we don't know is how long it's going to last. Will we need a booster show or will it last a lifetime? We don't know that," said Dr. Hemmal Kothary with Dignity Health Bakersfield.

But here's what we do know: almost 44,000 patients have tested the vaccine prior to its distribution, the effectiveness 95 percent after two doses. Adventist Health Bakersfield spokesman Kiyoshi Tomono said this is a larger sample size than previous vaccines, balancing out the emergency-authorization timeline.

"If that's at all a reassurance for people at home that the doctors themselves on the frontlines are willing to get it, I hope that it's encouraging," said Tomono.

MYTH: The vaccine will cause infertility:

Dr. Kothary said the vaccine so far has not negatively harmed the dozens of pregnant women from the trials but adds that Dignity Health won't vaccinate anyone that is pregnant.

MYTHS: The vaccine will alter your DNA or even give you COVID-19:

"It's not an actual virus at all being injected with this vaccine. It's a molecular material that elicits a response to a protein, those proteins at the ball of the virus. That's what the MRNA is specific for, and your body produces a response to those and recognizes it as foreign, and you build an immunity," explained Tomono.

"They did have a few cases of people who did get the virus, but they were minimal symptoms," said Dr. Kothary.

MYTH: The vaccine will cause severe side effects:

"You will get some arm soreness. That's the most common side effect that most people had," said Kothary.

Dignity Health and Adventist both won't administer their vaccines all on the same day in case anyone does experience common vaccine side-effects and side effects from the trials like headaches and body aches.

"With any vaccine like the flu vaccine, you may feel puny the next day, but that's a normal part of the immune response your body is building," added Tomono.

MYTH: Vaccinated individuals don't have to wear a mask anymore:

Dr. Kothary explained this is not the case: mask-wearing, social distancing, proper handwashing, all safety measures the CDC has been saying all along, he believes we should follow.

"If we all do our part, we can prevent something that I believe could be really disastrous for the month of January."

In an interview with KSHB, Dr. Matt Gratton, associate chief medical officer at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, addressed some of the other common myths.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine has a microchip that will allow the government to track those who get it:

"That is definitely not true, I mean I’m not really sure how I can prove that, but it's not true," Gratton said. "If it helps I got the vaccine yesterday, and so I would not let somebody plant a microchip into my body, I think that is something that the vast majority of Americans would find incredibly hard to believe."

MYTH: You don't need to get the vaccine if you've had COVID-19:

Gratton said the CDC does recommend someone who has had COVID-19 to still get the vaccine, but there is some question about what the best timing is.

"Because the vaccine is fairly rare at the moment there’s just not that much of it to go around, there is the recommendation from some experts that you might want to wait for 90 days or so and let other people who have not had COVID get a vaccine," Gratton said.

Gratton said this is the approach Truman Medical Center is taking with workers who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days. Ultimately, he said everyone will get the vaccine at some point.

"There’s still some science to be worked on, but there is some evidence that perhaps the vaccine will give better immunity than natural COVID," Gratton said. "That’s not definitively determined, but I think everyone agrees at some point you should get the vaccine even if you have had COVID."

Dignity Health and Adventist Health conducted surveys and found that about half that those that participated would not take the vaccine in the first distribution. While more would be willing in the second round.

Dr. Johnathan Dario told 23ABC that the mixture in responses was due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus. So some will take it because of its potential to alleviate this pandemic, others will wait and see how the first trial goes.

Dr. Kothary said that any Dignity staffer who does not want to take the vaccine in this first distribution is not required to.