HEALTHY LIVING: Dispelling myths about the covid-19 vaccine

Published on Monday, 11 January 2021 17:31
Written by Dr. Virginia Bieluch

Hospital of Central Connecticut

The arrival of the first covid-19 vaccine in Connecticut is a historic scientific breakthrough. It promises to help control the pandemic, minimize loss of life and restore a sense of normalcy to our daily lives.

At Hartford HealthCare, we’ve dedicated months of work to testing and treating state residents for covid-19, and now we await the opportunity to protect you and your family against the virus.

“Hartford HealthCare and our state have done a great job in terms of the rollout of the vaccine,” said Virginia Bieluch, MD, chief of infectious diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.

Many of you have questions - and we have taken your questions to our experts. Bieluch is helping to provide answers and dispel myths that are circulating online and on social media.

Should I be concerned about the new covid-19 variant that’s being reported and will the vaccine be effective against it?

The vaccine is expected to be effective against the new variant that we’re seeing in the United States and other parts of the world. Seeing different variants of a virus is normal because viruses have to copy their own genetic code and when they do that, they often make mistakes. So far we’ve seen no difference in illness with these variants - the symptoms in patients aren’t less mild or any more severe.

Is one vaccine better than the other?

I would say it’s important that you get whatever vaccine is offered to you. The side effects are very similar in both vaccines and essentially the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are the same type of vaccine - there’s really no significant difference in terms of side effects or efficacy. Having a mild reaction like a sore arm, fatigue or a slight fever are signs that your immune system is reacting appropriately. Some people won’t have any of those symptoms, and that’s ok too.

Once my close family, friends and I are fully vaccinated, can we be around each other?

We are still recommending the same social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene for everyone until they’re told otherwise. We are still waiting on data about how effective the vaccines are at decreasing the amount of virus in your respiratory tract. For example, if you are vaccinated you may still have the virus in your nose, but won’t get sick and could give it to someone else who has not been vaccinated. Scientists are still trying to determine the effect of vaccination on whether or not people can still carry the virus and potentially infect others. So there may still be the potential for spread from person to person. We are hopeful that with widespread vaccination our lives can return and be even better than before.

Will the covid vaccine alter my DNA?

These are RNA vaccines, which deliver the instructions for our bodies to make a protein called “spike protein” found on the virus that causes covid-19. Our bodies recognize this protein as foreign and make antibodies so that when our body encounters this virus it will not be able to make us sick. RNA does not get into the nucleus of our cells where DNA is located and cannot alter your DNA.

Is it true that the vaccine can cause infertility or pregnancy loss?

This is not true. There is a minor portion of the covid spike protein, which is similar to a protein found on the human placenta. This similarity is not enough for antibody aimed at spike protein to cause an immune response against the human placenta. More than 50,000 pregnant women have had covid-19 and even though their bodies reacted against the virus there has been no evidence of an increase in early pregnancy loss.

If I had covid already, do I need to get the vaccine?

We know natural immunity to covid lasts at least three months, but we don’t know for how long this immunity lasts. We still recommend that people who had covid get vaccinated. The vaccine actually provides better immunity.

When will the general population be able to get the vaccine?

Right now Connecticut is in the 1a phase of vaccine distribution, which is healthcare personnel, residents at long-term care facilities and first responders. The next phases will be based on where people work and their age. Vaccines will continue well into the summer and the fall. People should be checking the state website or Hartford HealthCare’s website for phases and eligibility to get the most up-to-date information because plans are always subject to change.

To ensure you are ready when the vaccine is available, be sure to create a MyChart account. You can do that here: https://hartfordhealthcare.org/mychart

Dr. Virginia Bieluch is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For more information about the vaccine and the phases of distribution, visit https://hartfordhealthcare.org/health-wellness/coronavirus/vaccine



Posted in New Britain Herald, General News on Monday, 11 January 2021 17:31. Updated: Monday, 11 January 2021 17:34.