As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more easily accessible and as more vaccines receive emergency use authorization from the CDC, BYU professor Josh Andersen is working to dispel myths and misconceptions behind their use.
Andersen, who has a Ph.D. in molecular virology, has researched viruses, immunity, and molecular biology in his professional endeavors and addressed some of the myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines and why people should look to get it when they can.
He said he was shocked at some of the myths that have been circulating, which include questions on the ingredients, the efficacy, and how safe it is.
With regards to the ingredients of the vaccines, Andersen was quick to point out that there are no strange ingredients or fetal tissue in the vaccines. The ingredients are even published and available to the general public.
Other myths involve people dying from the vaccine, something Andersen said is not true. When looking at the clinical trial data, Andersen pointed out that there has not been a single death due to the vaccine. This is the myth he pointed to as contributing the most to vaccine hesitancy.
Another popular one was about the safety of the vaccine relative to how quickly it was approved. Andersen said that this was due to the teamwork within the medical community to get it out to the public.
Labs were teaming together, whereas in the past they would have been competitors. The trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also involved about 700,000 people, which is a large number, according to Andersen.
Some 92 million people have received a vaccine shot as of Tuesday in the United States and Andersen said the safety of it looks fantastic right now, with the small risk of a possible allergic reaction.
Andersen added that the efficacy of all three of the vaccines is high when compared to others.
“Very few vaccines in the history of medicine are even close to these vaccines. The efficacy is astounding and just amazing,” Andersen said. “The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we talk about them being 95% effective at preventing COVID but they’re basically 100% effective at preventing severe COVID and that’s the key point.”
The vaccine turns COVID-19 into a mild cold and in Andersen’s eyes, would effectively end the pandemic.
The overall misinformation campaign against the COVID-19 vaccines has been frustrating and sad for Andersen.
“From inside the science community we see this incredible cooperation and really altruistic efforts to try and put the vaccine forward,” Andersen said. “To see it disparaged with conspiracies and misinformation, to me it’s really sad.”
These misconceptions need to be squashed as Andersen mentioned that about 80% or more of the population needs to have immunity to block transmission of COVID-19. He said that the only way to do this is through the vaccine, which could also help reduce the effects of variants as well.
The evolution of the variants is thanks to the lack of herd immunity, which could be achieved through widespread vaccinations.
“My hope is that by educating the public and shedding light on the vaccine, we can help them feel more comfortable about the safety of the vaccine and how effective it is,” Andersen said. “I hope people can appreciate the fact that it is almost a miraculously effective vaccine, it’s our ticket out of the pandemic, really.”
While these variants are concerning, Andersen pointed to ongoing studies that are proving the vaccines to be effective at lowering symptoms as well. The vaccine is making the light at the end of the tunnel get brighter, and it is getting closer as more people are inoculated, according to Andersen.