To the Editor:
There is a lot of misinformation circulating in the community and online about COVID-19 and its vaccines. As a local science educator, I’d like to take the time to address a few of these here.
One common misconception is that children or younger healthy adults are not at risk from COVID-19. It is true that children fare better than adults. It is also true that younger adults fare better than the elderly in terms of death risk. However, it is not true that they are unscathed. There is increasing evidence that people can develop long-term issues after even mild COVID-19 infections. This includes children. In a small study out of Italy, more than half of the children they followed reported lingering issues. In adults there are estimates that 20 percent or more people report lingering health issues more than three months after infection. It is inaccurate to only look at death as a long-term risk factor from COVID-19. Many people labeled as recovered do not have the life or health that they had before.
Another piece of misinformation is that the vaccine will not prevent infection. It is true that the vaccine trials looked only at how well the vaccines reduce symptomatic COVID-19 infection. Since then, though, there has been increasing data showing that these vaccines also reduce asymptomatic COVID-19 infection. There have now been 10 papers unrelated to the clinical trials that have demonstrated reduced overall infection with COVID-19 vaccination. Additional evidence also shows that the vaccines will help reduce how contagious someone is if they do get infected. Combined, this means that the vaccines will not only protect, you but also those around you.
The CDC recently implemented a policy for vaccinated people that indicated they could avoid quarantining if exposed as long as they were within three months of vaccination. This is not due to protection only lasting that long. Instead, it makes the policy consistent with their guidelines for those who have recovered from COVID-19. It was about a year ago when the first human patients got vaccinated as part of the early trials; we still see evidence of protection in those individuals. Guidelines will be updated once more is known.
Another common concern is regarding ADE, which stands for antibody dependent enhancement. This is when antibodies generated after a vaccine actually make infection with the real virus worse. There is zero evidence this is a concern with the currently used COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, in trials, those who got COVID-19 after being vaccinated were protected from hospitalization and death. We are also seeing this play out as more individuals are vaccinated worldwide. If ADE was a concern, we’d see these patients faring worse, not better.
I hope this information helps alleviate some concerns within the community. It is true that nothing we do, including getting a vaccine, is 100 percent risk–free. However, we do know that severe risks of vaccines are extremely rare. Especially when compared to the long–term risks of COVID-19.
Elisabeth Marnik, Ph.D.