Dr. Manuel Gordillo speaks about vaccine myths, truths

Dr. Manuel Gordillo

As state agencies expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination, it’s possible for millions to get effective protection against novel coronavirus.

Dr. Manuel Gordillo, who leads Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control Unit, said the challenge is getting shots in those eligible arms, to safely reach herd immunity, return to “normal” living and put an end the global pandemic. Many local adults are still reluctant to roll up their sleeves and get the shot.

The Daily Sun reached out to Gordillo with questions about myths behind COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and vaccines for children and young adults.

Some are hesitant because they don’t trust the vaccine science or medical community or believe the vaccines are unsafe, or they simply don’t feel vaccination is necessary. Why?

Misinformation and fear.

Do healthy, younger people need to get vaccinated?

Unless they want to get sick, everybody needs the vaccine. We also need everyone vaccinated to end this pandemic. Healthy individuals may be less likely to die from COVID-19 infection, but there have been numerous cases of previously healthy adults hospitalized with severe cases, even dying. Studies indicate adults 18 to 39 who developed COVID-19 found 30% now suffer from ‘long-hauler’ symptoms — including fatigue, brain fog and loss of taste or smell. Many young adults had only a mild case of COVID-19 when they were first infected.

The vaccines don’t really prevent COVID-19, so why bother?

COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be very effective, in both clinical trials and in studies of those who’ve been vaccinated since the public rollout began. The mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) are 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in real-life conditions, according a federal study of healthcare workers vaccinated outside of clinical trials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that of the 2,479 fully vaccinated participants, three developed confirmed infections; in comparison, 161 developed COVID-19 infection among the 994 people who weren’t vaccinated.

Can the vaccine prevent pregnancy or harm an unborn baby?

There’s no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. There’s no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines do not alter the recipients’ DNA; as a result, they cannot cause any genetic changes to mom or the unborn baby.

Was there misinformation about pregnancy and the COVID-19 virus?

Yes, a sophisticated disinformation campaign falsely claimed that antibodies to the vaccines’ COVID-19 spike protein will bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy. This is a classic example of purposefully misleading the public for nefarious reasons. There’s no evidence of increased miscarriage rates. Antibodies created by the immune system after vaccination are the same as those the body generates during a COVID-19 infection. If COVID-19 affected fertility, we would already see an increase in miscarriage rates among women infected with COVID-19.

Can one get COVID-19 from the vaccine?


You cannot get COVID from a vaccine. No authorized vaccines in the U.S. contain live virus. Inside the vaccine is a genetic code for your body to make one of 25 different proteins that the virus has. One protein doesn’t make any virus. You need the other 24 working together to give you the disease.

Were COVID-19 vaccines developed too fast to be safe? However, is it true the vaccines were in the works for years, but the funding wasn’t there until last year when President Donald Trump authorized millions needed to allow for vaccine production?

The vaccines were not rushed and no corners were cut in their development. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which are not new. Scientists have been working on mRNA vaccines for decades for a variety of illnesses, which gave them a head start when it was time to work on COVID-19 vaccines. Increased collaboration and ample funding meant vaccine developers could work more quickly during the pandemic to create incredibly effective and safe vaccines. The vaccines underwent rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. The vaccines were tested with no shortage of cases and with thousands of heroic volunteers willing to participate in large clinical trials required. It’s a problem that slows vaccine development in non-pandemic circumstances.

Are the possible long-term side effects too risky since we don’t know what they are yet?

With any vaccine, side effects typically show up within six weeks after the injection. Vaccines don’t have long-term side effects. Some, like the smallpox vaccine, are very old, and none have really had long-term side effects that are seen 10 or 20 years later.

Are people with allergies at risk?

“Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been rare, averaging two per 1 million vaccinations with the Moderna vaccine and five per 1 million vaccinations with the Pfizer. To put that in perspective, anaphylaxis to penicillin occurs in one in 25,000 recipients. Talk to your doctor and plan to wait 30 minutes for observation after getting your shots. If you are severely allergic to any vaccine ingredients, you shouldn’t be vaccinated. People with allergies to certain foods, insects, latex and other common allergens, however, can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do the vaccines contain unsafe toxins or microchips?

COVID-19 vaccines have none of these. Microchips are not injected into anyone, it’s physically impossible. Microchips are located on the vaccine packaging so physicians can track doses and ensure they are not expired or counterfeit. The vaccines’ ingredient list includes mRNA (which is destroyed by the body in a day or two), cholesterol (in amounts much lower than is already consumed by people) and non-toxic fatty molecules.

Will the vaccine will alter my DNA?

No. Current vaccines and those in the works are not going to alter your DNA. In both vaccine platforms, the messenger molecule is destroyed in a day or two.

Once there’s a vaccine for children, should parents trust it?

Yes. Vaccines for children will go through an exhaustive and thorough review by FDA and the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices from the CDC, just like the adult counterparts did. A study of the Pfizer vaccine shows it’s safe and very effective for children 12-15. Similar studies — designed especially for children — are being conducted for other vaccines. Parents should speak to their pediatrician with any concerns.

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