PROVO, Utah — Experts say we need enough people to get the COVID-19 vaccine to get herd immunity and stop the pandemic. They say in order to do that, we need to correct myths about the vaccine, and people who are hesitant to get a shot must understand it better.
COVID-19 vaccine availability is expected to open to all Utah adults on April first.
BYU associate professor of bio-chemistry Josh Andersen holds a Ph.D. in molecular virology and has researched viruses, immunity and molecular biology. He explained to KSL Newsradio how COVID-19 vaccines work, and debunked some myths and misconceptions.
Vaccine: Myths or Facts?
Andersen says the most important thing to know, is that vaccinations stop transmission. Therefore, enough adults need to get vaccinated in order to stop the pandemic.
“Everyone who is immune is essentially a dead-end to the virus. It’s super important that even these lower-risk groups get the virus, because they are often the ones who transmit it the most. They are the most social and out in the community,” he said.
Andersen says there are no bad or sinister ingredients in the vaccines, and they cannot give you the virus or change your DNA.
The Pfizer and Moderna brands are mRNA vaccines, meaning they use a piece of the spike protein to send a message to your body to watch for the virus and stand up and fight it. When compared with the placebo group in the trials, the two shots of these vaccines were 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.
“If you limit the analysis to only include severe cases of COVID-19, the vaccines are essentially 100% effective,” said Andersen.
The Johnson & Johnson brand uses a different delivery system. It’s only one shot, and the trials showed it is 66% effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations.
“We can’t think about it just as protecting ourselves, the higher purpose here is as a society we have to step up and block transmission. This is the way to do it. Masks are helpful, but vaccines are by far the best weapon,” Andersen said.
Andersen says no deaths were attributed to the vaccine among hundreds of thousands of participants in the trials.
“Deaths are always going to occur in a population that large, but are the deaths attributed to the vaccine, and the answer is no. You can see that in the placebo group. Basically, the same number of people died in the placebo group,” he explained.
He says the vaccines as they are now will work against the variants, because they stop transmission of the virus, and therefore stop it from mutating.
Even if you did get COVID-19, and feel you are immune, you should still get the vaccine to make sure you cannot still transmit the virus to others.
“Ultimately we have to block transmission to end the pandemic. And by far the most powerful tool to block transmission is this vaccine,” he emphasized.
Andersen said the vaccines were developed by scientists and researchers who dropped everything else during the lockdowns and only worked on this together. They collaborated and shared information in unprecedented ways. He says the whole process has been open, and Utahns can trust it.
You can read more from Dr. Andersen in a Q&A here.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Wear a mask.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
- Get vaccinated.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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