Hair loss is the most outlandish vaccine myth Katie Davis has heard so far as a COVID-19 vaccinator, she said.
Davis, a nurse manager at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said she didn’t know how to respond to patients concerned about post-inoculation baldness.
Although that one was remarkable, hearing worries about the COVID-19 vaccine is common for Davis and other vaccinators.
Along with managing the complex work of delivering vaccines to more than 300,000 people, give or take, in the county, health officials also are working to identify and address worries and myths that might keep people from being inoculated.
There are many, and some of the most common are that COVID vaccines cause the flu, that one vaccine is better than the other and that neither of the vaccines is effective.
Davis has mostly heard criticism about the vaccines’ composition and concerns the vaccines cause the flu, she said.
“The vaccine is not a live virus,” she said. “We are not injecting COVID-19 into people.”
There are no viruses, neither flu nor coronavirus, in the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, according to the medical branch. The vaccines are composed of salts, sugars, messenger ribonucleic acid — called mRNA — and lipids, which are fat or oil particles that protect the mRNA, according to the medical branch.
The mRNA in the vaccines is a synthetic copy of SARS-CoV-2’s mRNA, the virus that causes COVID-19, and not the actual virus, according to the medical branch.
Some mild side effects of the vaccines, however, can cause flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, headaches and in some cases fever and chills, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Data from the trials shows the side effects were more common after the second dose, according to the clinic.
Health workers injecting people with actual COVID-19 is the most ridiculous myth Galveston resident Antrese Singleton heard, she said. She didn’t feel any side effects after receiving either of her shots, she added.
Singleton, who heard more negative than positive information about the vaccines, wasn’t worried about being inoculated, she said. She was ready for it after she and her husband recovered from COVID-19 and her mother died from COVID-19-related issues.
“There wasn’t a doubt I would take it,” Singleton said. “COVID-19 showed me I wanted whatever is out there to get rid of this thing.”
Another concern is a belief one brand of vaccine is more effective than another, Davis said. She has had patients cancel appointments because they couldn’t get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine they initially wanted, she added.
Both vaccines are authorized and recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main difference between the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines is Pfizer is stored at a colder temperature than Moderna, said Bethany Gomez, medical assistant at the medical branch.
Some patients just don’t trust the vaccines, Gomez said.
“Some people think the vaccine was rushed,” she said. “They think scientists didn’t study it well enough or do enough trials.”
Moderna proved to be 94.1 percent effective in its clinical trials and Pfizer 95 percent, according to the CDC.
Seabrook resident Carlesha Johnson still feels great a month after taking her second vaccine shot on Jan. 8, she said. The only side effect she felt was soreness in her arm after the first shot, she said.
Some myths she’d heard before taking the vaccine were that it was a cure, that scientists tested it on front-line workers and that billionaire Bill Gates, co-founder of MicroSoft Corp. wanted to use vaccines to implant microchips in people, she said.
But Johnson was more worried about her and her children catching COVID-19 than the vaccine myths, she said. She was wary of the vaccines’ side effects but felt more confident after speaking with her doctor, she said.
Some patients think they don’t need the COVID-19 vaccine or say they’d rather become immune by contracting the virus, said Dr. Megan Berman, associate professor of internal medicine at the medical branch.
Immunization is always better, however, Berman said. The main difference between vaccination and a natural infection is the consequences, she said. Without immunization, the impact of an infection could be more severe, she said, adding the immune system doesn’t know the difference between a vaccine and a natural infection.
The more common side effects of the vaccines are soreness and fatigue, Davis said. Reactions to the vaccine rarely are severe enough to put patients in the hospital but can make them feel nauseated.
But, overall, the whole vaccination experience has been positive for patients, she said.
“The overwhelming majority of people are excited about getting the vaccine,” Davis said. “They’re excited to think about what they’re going to do after they get it.”