By Dr. Ebony Hilton
This piece originally ran in the Virginian-Pilot.
Black and Brown Americans are dying of COVID-19 at roughly three times the rate of their white peers.
Despite this tragic loss, many people of color, especially younger ones, aren’t planning to get vaccinated. In a National Foundation for Infectious Disease poll, 41% of Black adults ages 18-44 said they wouldn’t get a vaccine. Another 21% were undecided. Many respondents – no doubt reacting to the myths and misinformation they’ve seen online – expressed concerns about safety and side effects.
These vaccines are some of the safest, most effective ever invented. It’s a message I stress with all of my patients. But I also know from talking with patients that it’s going to take more than telling them the vaccines are safe. It also requires dispelling myths about them so that we can finally end this pandemic.
Here are just some of the myths I hear on a regular basis along with the facts that everyone should commit to memory.
Myth: The vaccines offer little added protection against COVID-19.
Fact: All available vaccines are virtually 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
Myth: The vaccines were rushed into distribution.
Fact: Contrary to internet rumors, these vaccines went through all the standard safety testing required for FDA approval. Clinical trial administrators pointedly refused to rush the process.
Myth: Vaccinations can spread the infection.
Fact: None of the vaccines use live versions of the virus, so it is impossible for the vaccine itself to give people COVID-19.
Myth: Vaccines cause infertility and are unsafe for pregnant women.
Fact: No one spreading these claims has produced a shred of evidence of any vaccine impact on pregnancy or fertility. The vaccines are safe for pregnant women. The CDC actually recommends that states prioritize vaccinating pregnant women because COVID-19 can cause potentially deadly complications during pregnancy.
Myth: Healthy young people have little to gain from getting vaccinated.
Fact: Vaccination is the best way for people to protect their loved ones. Although healthy young people are at a low risk of severe COVID-19, they can still carry the disease and spread it to older adults or people with underlying health conditions.
Myth: The side effects of the vaccine are more dangerous than COVID-19 itself.
Fact: So far, over 160 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The overwhelming majority have experienced nothing worse than normal and mild side effects such as arm soreness or fatigue. Medical professionals and health care regulators continue to monitor the vaccines as they are being administered, and are exercising abundant caution at every phase.
The COVID-19 death toll remains highest in minority communities. Let’s not allow myths and misinformation to guide our decisions. Get the facts and take the shot. The best way for young Black and Brown people to protect their friends, family members and themselves is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.