Episode #24 – Vaccine myths vs science

Vismita Gupta-Smith

There are a lot of rumors and myths around vaccines and COVID-19. In Science in 5 today, we’ll try to explain the science and facts related to these rumors. Welcome to Science in 5, I’m Vismita Gupta-Smith and this is WHO’s conversations in science. Answering your questions today is Dr. Katherine O’Brien. Welcome, Kate. 

Dr. Katherine O’Brien

Thanks so much, pleased to be with you today.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Kate, one of the rumors that we hear a lot is about infertility and vaccines. What is the science behind that? 

Dr. Katherine O’Brien

The vaccines we give cannot cause infertility. This is a rumor that has gone around about many different vaccines and there’s no truth to the rumor. There’s no vaccine that causes infertility. 

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Kate, another rumor is about the vaccine somehow changing the DNA. What is the science and facts about that? 

Dr. Katherine O’Brien

Yeah, we’ve heard this rumor a lot. We have two vaccines now that are referred to as mRNA vaccines, and there’s no way that mRNA can turn into DNA. And there’s no way that mRNA can change the DNA of our human cells. What mRNA is, it’s the instructions to the body to make a protein. Most vaccines are developed by actually giving a protein or giving a small, tiny component of the germ that we’re trying to vaccinate against. And this is a new approach where instead of giving that tiny little part, instead, we just give the instructions to our own bodies to make that tiny little part and then our natural immune system responds to it.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Kate, another persistent rumor about vaccines is about their composition, the chemicals in them harming the person who gets the vaccine. Can you please explain the science and the evidence behind this rumor?

Dr. Katherine O’Brien

This is a myth. The vaccines that we have are safe vaccines. All the components that go into vaccines are heavily tested to be sure that everything that is in there, at the dose that is in there, is safe for humans. The vaccines do contain a number of different elements and each of them is tested. Before they’re ever given to a human, they’re tested in animals and they’re tested for any kind of problem in the animal. And only then do they go into humans where we test in clinical trials with tens of thousands of people receiving the vaccines eventually before they’re authorized for use in the general public. And safety is the most important part of those clinical trials. Every single vaccine goes through a safety evaluation to be sure that it’s safe before it’s used in the general public. In addition to that, the manufacturing of the vaccines has a constant oversight of quality so that every single ingredient that goes into the vaccine is assured to be of the highest quality and safe for use in humans.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Thank you, Kate. That was Dr. Katherine O’Brien. If you have more questions about the vaccines, about COVID-19, please put them on our timelines, on various social media channels, and we’ll do our best to get to them in the next few episodes. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science.