February 08, 2021

Overcoming Your Covid-19 Vaccine Fears

The rumors are everywhere. Perhaps you’ve heard about the guy who got the Covid-19 vaccine and dropped dead the next day. Or that the Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t work on the old strains, let alone the new. Some of us even believe the Covid-19 vaccination rollout is a ploy by Bill Gates to sterilize us all. 

Hey—no judgment. 

This is a new disease. It’s also the first time any living person has weathered a global pandemic. Some of the information we were given early on proved false—like that masks are ineffective, or that the primary means of transmission is through touching our eyes. What was first proffered as fact has become fodder for comedy. So, with respect to the vaccine in particular, how can we cull out truth from fiction? Let this article be a good start. 

Before are five common falsehoods about the vaccine, followed by a healthy dose of truth to combat each one. 

1. The Vaccine is Dangerous

As discussed above, many of us have lost trust in our government, with its changing health orders and inconsistent guidelines. But the Covid-19 vaccine was not developed by our government. It is born of the private sector and is the result of rigorous testing and cutting-edge technology. The truth is that this vaccine is as safe or safer than any vaccine in the history of vaccines. It represents the newest frontier of knowledge and excellence in epidemiology and medicine. This is innovation, not snake oil. It follows that if you’re comfortable being inoculated for chicken pox and hepatitis, you should be even more comfortable taking the Covid-19 vaccine. 

2. The Vaccine Will Give Me Covid-19

This fear represents what cognitive-behavioral therapists call an “arbitrary inference” error: an idea that states the conclusion not based on facts but on an arbitrary inference of risk where none exists. In fact, the vaccine contains no live virus; it is effectively impossible to contract Covid-19 from the shot. Moreover, the vaccine is certainly better than being infected with the novel coronavirus and actually developing the disease. So again: take the shot.

3. The Vaccine Will Land Me in Quarantine

First of all, this isn’t a totalitarian country. Much as some of us might like to see it happen, the government is not holding people in their homes against their will or shipping them off to military barracks until they test negative. So any quarantining you would experience if infected would be on the honor system, out of your own concern for your fellow human. But let’s back up a bit and end the inquiry right here: the vaccine will not cause a positive test result. The best decision is to take the vaccine. Period. 

4. The Vaccine Will Alter My DNA

The vaccine’s mechanism is as follows: The COVID-19 vaccine includes a copy of the COVID-19 virus’ chemical messenger molecule, RNA. There is no actual virus in the vaccine (isn’t that cool?)! The RNA teaches your body’s immune system how to react if it encounters the actual virus. Your own DNA has nothing to do with and is not affected by this simple chemical messenger process. So again: you should get the vaccine.

5. The Vaccine Doesn’t Work on the New Strains, and Doesn’t Fully Protect Against the Old

There is some evidence that the vaccine is less effective on the new strains. Sadly, when the news throws out this sensationalist tidbit, what they fail to tell you is that, in many cases, as with the Moderna vaccine, early evidence suggests the vaccine still has considerable efficacy even against new mutations. If you’re thinking to wait for a new vaccine that covers all existing strains of Covid-19, including newly identified mutations, you could be waiting months—during which you could even contract the original strains, for which there is protection. 

As for the so-called imperfect prevention rate of some of the vaccine offerings, regarding the vaccines that report lower protection rates, the Covid-19 vaccine is still incredibly effective in minimizing the effects of the disease. Even in the minority of cases where Covid-19 still appears, it has not resulted in hospitalizations, intubation, or death. It merely manifests itself like the common cold or good old-fashioned influenza—pesky but harmless. Wouldn’t you rather get the mildest form of Covid-19 and live rather than roll the dice on getting the deadly kind and not? For one emphatic, final time: you should get the vaccine. 

Our best shot at stopping this disease in its tracks is widespread inoculation. But there is another way to end the pandemic, and that’s for it to burn its way through the world population, killing huge numbers of people and producing herd immunity in those who survive. As the beneficiaries of modern science, we have a choice: to take a proven, safe, rigorously tested vaccine ratified by the most elite scientific institutions in the world—or to refuse, and, in turn, risk contracting this potentially deadly disease ourselves. 

As a psychologist, my hope is that this article will dispel the anxiety and fear you may be experiencing with regard to the Covid-19 vaccine. In sharing these facts—and you know I’m a sucker for evidence-based science—my hope is that you can make an informed decision that not only saves your life, but the lives of everyone around you.  

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