Anyone who misses gambling at casinos or betting at retail sportsbooks is in luck. More Americans are getting vaccinated each day. Each day brings us closer to going back to sports bars and betting in person. We could even get back to normal this summer.
However, one factor could singlehandedly postpone normalcy by six months to a year. If too many people are unwilling to get the vaccine, businesses won’t be able to reopen. That means no casinos, no retail sportsbooks, and no sports bars. Unless bettors want to continue wagering exclusively from bed, they’ll need to get the vaccine.
But myths about the vaccine are getting in the way of COVID-19 inoculation. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the vaccine–whether you need to be convinced or someone you know does.
How The Vaccine Works
Many of the myths and fears surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine stem from misunderstandings about how it works. The vaccine works because of a recent technological development: the mRNA vaccine.
mRNA is messenger RNA. It delivers instructions to DNA, then the mRNA breaks apart. The mRNA is gone, but its instructions remain. The mRNA in the COVID-19 vaccine instructs our DNA to create coronavirus spike proteins. They act like practice dummies for our bodies’ immune systems. The mRNA disappears, but our immune response to the coronavirus remains. “It’s almost like a Snapchat,” says Dr. Eric Weinberg, Vice President of Medical Education at PM Pediatrics. “[The mRNA] sends the message, it makes it, and then the message is deleted and it’s over.”
That means our bodies won’t keep making coronavirus proteins for years to come. It’ll only create enough to teach our immune systems to neutralize the virus. Once our immune systems can bind antibodies to the coronavirus, it can render the virus useless. It transforms from a deadly virus into a bubble that can’t replicate.
Vaccines Make Infections Less Severe
If the virus can’t attach itself to cells, it can’t infect you. However, any virus that slips past the vaccine defense can prevent severe illness, too.
“In the Moderna study, there was not one episode of severe illness in the group that got the Moderna vaccine,” says Dr. Weinberg. “So, that could be due to chance. But they did enroll a good percentage of people who were above 55 years old, so there were plenty of people there who were vulnerable and they didn’t get severe infections. So the Moderna one at least clearly blocked severe infection.”
So, these shots not only give patients a high chance of avoiding infection altogether. (Pfizer only had one severe COVID-19 case in its vaccination group.) These shots can also make any infections that slip through milder.
All because our immune cells a practice run before facing the real thing.
Common COVID-19 Vaccine Myths
Knowing how the vaccine works isn’t enough for some people. It’s easy to draw the wrong conclusions about the vaccine without a robust medical background. However, many of these myths are easy to dispel. Here are the most common ones.
Myth: The Vaccine May Have Long-Term Side Effects
Not only are long-term side effects from any vaccine rare. Any long-term side effects are identified in the first six weeks after injection.
“No vaccine has had a serious long-term adverse event attributed to it that was identified years later,” says Dr. Christina Johns, Vice President of Communications and Senior Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics. “In other words, have there been people who’ve had significant catastrophic events from vaccines? I think that is the case. It’s very rare, but has that happened? [Yes.]”
“However, all of those occurred within the first six weeks. If you look at other vaccines–I’m not talking about COVID–they have all occurred within the first six weeks of the vaccine. We have data now for twelve weeks after the [coronavirus] vaccine and have not identified anything that is of long-term concern.”
After 10 million doses, 90-day data, and ongoing monitoring, doctors still have not identified a long-term side effect from the coronavirus vaccine. The coronavirus vaccine isn’t going to make people grow another head, get cancer, or die years after getting it.
Myth: The Vaccine Has Dangerous Side Effects
The Florida doctor who died 16 days after getting the COVID-19 shot has made headlines and stoked vaccine fears. However, the vaccine has not been definitively linked to his death, and investigations are ongoing. But this shouldn’t deter people from getting vaccinated.
“The risk of any bad outcome is negligible compared to the risk of COVID,” says Dr. Gary Gerlacher, Vice President of Business Development and Vice President of Clinical Operations for PM Pediatrics. “Essentially nobody is dying of the vaccine and 4,000 people are dying of COVID. Which one is a bigger risk? There have been a few allergic reactions, all of which have been treated without problems. But that is normal for any vaccine.”
As of this writing, the United States has administered 10 million doses. One death out of 10 million is a better set of odds than even the lowest-risk groups exposed to COVID-19. Don’t let the worst-case scenarios scare you or anyone other eligible people from getting the vaccine.
Myth: The Vaccine Can Give People COVID-19
“You cannot get COVID from the vaccine. It’s impossible. There is no COVID virus in the vaccine,” says Dr. Gerlacher.
The vaccine contains mRNA that gives our cells instructions to create coronavirus spike proteins. They’re practice dummies for our immune systems. Free-floating spike proteins can’t hurt us, and mRNA can’t change our DNA. mRNA is a messenger that dissolves hours after delivering its message. That’s all it is.
Myth: The Vaccine Was Rushed
Before COVID-19, the fastest vaccine developed took four years. The coronavirus vaccine was developed in seven months, shattering the previous record. That speed has led to concerns about cut corners and questions about how we could achieve this monumental feat so quickly.
“The short answer is [vaccine development] went through all the same steps,” says Dr. Gerlacher. “But it went quicker because [the pharmaceutical companies] had unlimited funding from the government. So, much like when we decided to build the atomic bomb or go to the moon and we had unlimited funds, we did the impossible in a short amount of time.”
But Moderna and Pfizer needed more than money. They also needed tens of thousands of volunteers for their Phase 3 trials. “Usually it takes years to recruit enough Phase 3 subjects to prove that the vaccine is effective,” says Dr. Weinberg. “But given that we have a worldwide pandemic that is bursting at the seams, we had plenty of subjects very very quickly.”
Between the money, volunteers, and mRNA technology, many scientists were able to come together and develop safe and effective vaccines. They went through the same process they normally would. They just didn’t have to wait for different pieces to slowly fall into place. Everything came together to streamline a proven vaccine development method.
Myth: The Vaccine Is Dangerous For Pregnant Women
There’s currently no reason to withhold the vaccine from pregnant women. The American College of OBGYN and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine both argue that pregnant women should have the COVID-19 vaccine available to them. (The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine also advocates for pregnant women to be included in vaccine studies. They’re often excluded, to the detriment of pregnant women everywhere.)
“They will not come out and overtly say all pregnant women should get this vaccine because, in these particular studies, pregnant women were not included as study participants,” says Dr. Johns. “But based on the science, there’s no reason to think that it would be a risk to pregnant women. Now anecdotally, because many healthcare workers have been vaccinated, many pregnant women have been vaccinated. No problems so far.”
Myth: The Vaccine Makes People Infertile
The internet outdid itself with this one. Outlandish as it sounds, it’s based on one fact.
But it launches off that single fact into crazy-town.
“That [myth] came about because there is a protein on the surface of placental cells called Syncytin-1. And Syncytin-1 is a similar-ish spike protein that shares a few of the amino acids as the coronavirus spike protein. They are sufficiently different, however, in genomic coding, and our body is not tricked that easily. Our body can very easily tell the difference between what our placental protein is and what the coronavirus protein is. So, this is false. This concern is unfounded.”
One Thing Doctors Want People To Know About The Coronavirus Vaccine
Myth-busting is going to be an ongoing project throughout the vaccine rollout. But medical opinions about the vaccine will remain aligned with our best interests. Here’s one thing each of the doctors we interviewed wanted readers to know about the vaccine.
Dr. Eric Weinberg
“It’s the ticket to a normal society again. If people want to go to concerts, want to go to a bar, want to hug Grandma…you want to see your friends again, you want your kids to go to school full time, you want to stop wearing masks, the vaccine is the only way to do it.”
“If we do not, it will take several years for enough people to get infected to do that. I would prefer to get the vaccine and do it this year as opposed to 2024, which is how long it would normally take. So beyond that, this is the only way to do it. It’s the only way.”
Dr. Gary Gerlacher
“The vaccine is safe, and it is going to be what allows us to return to our normal lives.”
“And it’s the only pathway to returning to our normal lives.”
Dr. Christina Johns
“A couple of thoughts. Number one, it’s safe and effective so get it when it’s your turn. And what is coming out, they are all going to be safe and effective. We have a process that ensures that happens. So it’s not a fast-food restaurant. You don’t pick, “Should I get Moderna or Pfizer?” Don’t do that. Don’t try to game the system because you think one is better. That is not accurate. You should just get what you can get.”
“So when it’s your turn, don’t miss your opportunity. When your chance comes up, take it.”
Editor’s note: Dr. Gary Gerlacher is author Chris Gerlacher’s father. Their relationship did not influence Dr. Gerlacher’s responses in any way.