COVID vaccine misinformation is out of hand. Let's examine some of the most common myths.

As the U.S. ramps up its vaccine production and distribution, misinformation and myths about the vaccines are ramping up as well. There are the whackadoodle conspiracy theories, of course, but there's also a lot of genuine confusion out there. Some confusion is due to the constant deluge of rapidly evolving (and sometimes changing) information, some of it's due to how scientists communicate what they know and don't know, and some of it is because people don't know who to trust for reliable information.

For example, some of the myths below originated from people with "Dr." before their names. And there will assuredly be people in the comments sharing screenshots and Bitchute links to talks from scientists, doctors, and nurses who have been booted from social media for spreading misinformation. It's an epidemic at this point.

While an individual's credentials matter, they're not enough to make someone a trustworthy source of information. There are people with multiple degrees from elite institutions who are steeped in conspiracy thinking, addicted to attention, grifting for profit, or just genuinely kooky. Scientific skepticism is healthy, to a point. But if a medical professional makes a claim and 100 medical professionals refute it, the majority consensus is the logical way to go. (I know, I know. Galileo. But we aren't living in the 17th century anymore and discredited findings are a real thing.)

Rather than relying on individual doctors or scientists, I look to well-respected medical institutions and professional medical associations for the most accurate information. That's where most of the information here comes from. Everything in blue text is a link to a source, which I recommend clicking and reading.

This list is by no means exhaustive. And I'm not even going to address the super whackadoodle stuff. If you really think Bill Gates is injecting you with a microchip, or that these vaccines have anything to do with 5G or the mark of the beast, facts probably aren't going to help you.

That said, here we go:


MYTH #1: "The vaccine isn't really a vaccine."

This myth appears to trace back to a man named Dr. David E. Martin who said this on a podcast. He's not a medical doctor; he's CEO of a financial analyst firm. He doesn't specify what his Ph.D. is in, but it's clearly not in any field related to immunology.

According to the CDC, a vaccine is "a product that stimulates a person's immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease." That's exactly what all three of the COVID vaccines in use in the U.S. do. The mRNA vaccines do so with a different mechanism than traditional vaccines, but the basic premise—getting the immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease—still stands. That's why every professional medical institution uses the word "vaccine" to describe these injections.

MYTH #2: "The mRNA vaccine is gene therapy" and/or "The mRNA vaccine changes your DNA."

No, it's not gene therapy and it does nothing to your DNA. mRNA doesn't go into the parts of the cell where your DNA actually exists. "Unlike gene editing and gene therapy, mRNA technology does not change the genetic information of the cell, and is intended to be short-acting," reads the Moderna website. In fact, mRNA research was launched decades ago as an alternative to DNA-based gene therapy, precisely because it doesn't change your DNA.

Though super simplistic, this video depicting how mRNA vaccines work earned high praise from immunologists for showing what the vaccine is actually doing in your body. The mRNA goes in, gives your body instructions for making the spike protein that exists on the outside of the coronavirus, prompting your immune system to create the weapons needed to destroy it. The mRNA itself gets destroyed by your own body shortly thereafter. No genes altered. No genetic material left in you. Just nice, shiny immunity.


MYTH #3: "The vaccines were rushed and haven't been around long enough to know they're safe."

Yes, these are new vaccines. Yes, they went through the development and testing processes in record time. It's understandable that people would be hesitant for this reason. But there are two issues at play here.

1) People are assuming that fast = rushed = skipped steps. But does the evidence bear that out? No. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has a well-laid-out, concise explanation of the various phases of normal vaccine development and how they were able to safely speed them up with these vaccines. (In a long nutshell, our knowledge about vaccines, decades of mRNA research, a decade of mRNA vaccine research specifically, and base knowledge about coronaviruses gave us a solid foundation to start from. Then, having thousands of volunteers sign up quickly, building facilities ahead of time, combining phases—which is not the same as cutting corners—having enough viral spread to get the necessary results quickly, and having all hands on deck at every level combined to give us these vaccines in record time.)

Do we know the long-term effects of the vaccines? No. Is there any scientific or biological reason to anticipate that there will be any, based on the decades of research we have under our belts? No.

2) The risk ratio heavily favors the vaccine, even without long-term data.

One thing people don't seem to realize is that these vaccines have been around almost as long as the virus itself has—just a few months less. (The first Moderna vaccines were injected into trial volunteers on 3/16/20—over a year ago.) So we've had almost the same amount of time to observe the effects of both.

We know the risks with COVID are real, both short-term and long-term. Obviously, death is a big one. Severe illness is another. But even recovered people who initially had mild symptoms can have ongoing health problems. Some people with more severe COVID may have permanent organ damage. And those are just the health effects we know about so far.

We know that the risks with the vaccine so far are teeny tiny. More Americans have gotten the vaccine than have gotten the virus at this point, and what have we seen? A small number of severe allergic reactions, out of tens of millions of doses. Lots of expected temporary side effects shortly after injection as the body's immune system does its thing. That's it. And while we don't know if there are any long-term side effects, there does not appear to be any scientific reason to believe there will be.

Everything carries some risk. The risk ratio here for the vast majority of us is clearly in favor of vaccination.

MYTH #4: "The vaccine doesn't keep you from transmitting the virus, it just lessens symptoms."

This myth began because scientists simply didn't have the evidence to show whether or not the vaccine prevented infection and transmission, and they said so. But "we don't have evidence at this point" doesn't mean "doesn't." It just means there wasn't enough data to know yet, and scientists (thankfully) try not to speculate, but rather go by what the data shows.

As of this week, we've seen enough real-world evidence to be able to say that yes, at least the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do prevent infection—including asymptomatic infection—by 90%. The CDC officially announced it. That's amazing news. Shout-it-from-the-rooftops kind of news.

MYTH #5: "The vaccine isn't even approved by the FDA."

Technically, this is true—the FDA has not approved the vaccines for licensure per their normal processes. However, the FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorization, which is the best they can do in the limited time frame of an out-of-control global pandemic. It's not like the FDA is hesitant about these vaccines. You can go right to the FDA website and read all about their recommendations and the authorization process, including all of the documentation from the three authorized vaccines here.

MYTH #6: "The vaccine could make you infertile."

This one's easy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Unfounded claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility have been scientifically disproven. ACOG recommends vaccination for all eligible people who may consider future pregnancy."

Considering the fact that OBs are the main medical professionals who actually want women to be able to get pregnant so they can continue to have a job, I trust their professional take on this.

MYTH #7: "The vaccine is messing with women's menstruation."

As far as menstruation goes, there is some evidence that COVID-19 infection can mess with the volume and duration of a woman's menstrual cycle. So it's not like there aren't questions about how the coronavirus itself might impact your reproductive system.

There have also been some anecdotes from Israel of a small number of women reporting irregular menstrual bleeding after receiving the vaccine, which the health ministry is monitoring. However, it's a handful of reports out of millions of vaccinations, and women's cycles can be impacted by all kinds of things, which makes the causal connection not particularly convincing.

Which leads us to the next myth...

MYTH #8: "There are reports of people dying not long after they get the vaccine, which means they're risky."

It's true that some people are going to die after they get the vaccine, but that doesn't mean they're dying from the vaccine. We are administering 2 to 3 million vaccine doses per day. One in 45,000 Americans die each day. Statistically, that means 40 to 60 people will die the day they get their vaccine, no matter what. And naturally, some of those deaths will be random heart attacks, brain aneurysms, and other unexpected and sudden causes of death.

"These medical events occur every single day, including unexplained illnesses," Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told ABC News. "The question really is, do they occur at a greater rate in the vaccinated population than they do in the general population?"

It's not like doctors just assume someone's death wasn't caused by the vaccine. They investigate it each time it happens. And so far, no evidence that the vaccines are killing people.

MYTH #9: "The virus has a 99% survival rate so a vaccine isn't necessary."

There are lots of percentages floating around about survival rates, but there is no official number because we don't truly know how many people have been infected. Case fatality rates—meaning how many have died out of confirmed cases—are all over the place, ranging from 0.1% in Mongolia to 21% in Yemen. (In the U.S. it's 1.8%. In Mexico, 9.1%. Seriously, all over the map.)

However, even if we go with a 99% survival rate estimate, that sounds low until you calculate what that would mean if every American got infected with the virus. Are we ready to see more than 3.5 million Americans die from a disease we have an effective vaccine for? That seems cruel.

Not to mention, the longer we let the virus spread, the more chance it has to mutate into more contagious and deadlier variants. Widespread vaccination is the only way we're going to mitigate the pandemic without millions of deaths and prolonged economic and social hardship.

MYTH #10: The vaccines use aborted fetal tissue.

Here's where we get into some confusing science, but the short answer is no. No fetal tissue is used in the making of these vaccines.

What is used are what's called fetal cell lines, which are basically cellular descendants of fetal tissue taken from elective abortions in the 1970s. They are not fetal tissue now, and no fetal tissue is used in any of these vaccines. The North Dakota Department of Health has a clear explanation of what role fetal cell lines play in COVID-19 vaccines.

Worth noting that the famously anti-abortion U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has given their approval of the vaccines, stating: "receiving a COVID-19 vaccine ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good...Given the urgency of this crisis, the lack of available alternative vaccines, and the fact that the connection between an abortion that occurred decades ago and receiving a vaccine produced today is remote, inoculation with the new COVID-19 vaccines in these circumstances can be morally justified."

MYTH #11: "Once you're vaccinated you can go about life as you did pre-pandemic."

Not yet. Now at least we know that the mRNA vaccines drastically reduce transmission, which should give us some peace of mind. But drastically reduced doesn't mean eliminated, and most Americans still aren't vaccinated. In public, we still need to observe pandemic protocols until our numbers really drop for a while.

If you're vaccinated and the people you're with are vaccinated, have a ball. But around the general public, keep the distancing and the masks up for a while longer.

MYTH #12: "The vaccine will trigger autoimmune diseases in the body."

There has been speculation about vaccines causing autoimmune diseases for many years, with no evidence to show that the concerns are founded. The same goes for the COVID vaccines. This myth may originate from a viral video from a nurse practitioner claiming that the mRNA vaccine could make the immune system attack the body, but that has been debunked by experts.

Again, I like to go to professional medical associations for this kind of thing, as non-profit organizations dedicated to maintaining high standards in their fields. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recently released this recommendation on COVID vaccines for people with autoimmune conditions:

"Although there is limited data from large population-based studies, it appears that patients with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are at a higher risk for developing hospitalized COVID-19 compared to the general population and have worse outcomes associated with infection," said Dr. Jeffrey Curtis, chair of the ACR COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Guidance Task Force. "Based on this concern, the benefit of COVID-19 vaccination outweighs any small, possible risks for new autoimmune reactions or disease flare after vaccination."

MYTH #13: "We don't even know what's in these vaccines."

We actually know a ton about these vaccines, including what's in them. The FDA has all of that information available on their website, though it does take wading through some long documents to find them. But the reality is that the ingredients list won't be all that meaningful to the average person. Here's the list for Pfizer:

"The vaccine contains a nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine also includes the following ingredients: lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2- hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose."

If that makes you feel better, more power to you.

MYTH #14: "We just need to eat well and take care of our health and our immune systems will save us."

I am100% in favor of optimal health, so by all means, eat well, exercise, take vitamins, and reduce stress. But the idea that a strong immune system is sufficient for battling the novel coronavirus simply isn't true.

One thing that makes COVID-19 such a problem is that it's new so no one's immune system knows how to fight it. Yes, a robust immune system can be helpful—but it can also backfire. A healthy immune system can go into overdrive, causing what's known as a cytokine storm. It's what kills young and healthy people with the flu sometimes as well. Not super common, but it happens.

The vaccines are like a personal trainer getting your body ready for the COVID battle. If you were going to compete in a decathlon, you'd hone the skills and strength you need for those 10 specific events. You wouldn't just rely on being in great shape in general. Same idea.

MYTH #15: "The vaccine only lasts three months."

We don't actually know how long immunity will last with the vaccines yet. That's one of the things researchers are observing in the ongoing studies. The initial vaccine trials indicate that immunity lasts at minimum three months. A new study from the U.S. military indicates that vaccine immunity remains strong for at least seven to nine months. It could be that it ends up lasting a year or 10 years. We just don't know yet. We may end up having to get a booster, or a yearly shot like the flu shot. But there's no evidence that it only lasts three months.

Hope that helps.

People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

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People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."