(L-R) SIUE Miranda Wilhelm, PharmD, clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy’s (SOP) Department of Pharmacy Practice, and Jennifer Rosselli, PharmD, clinical associate professor in the SOP and clinical pharmacists at SIHF Healthcare.EDWARDSVILLE – As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues nationwide, misinformation is swirling, leaving individuals confused and concerned about its administration. Now, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy (SOP) experts are dispelling common myths and easing concerns.

“Vaccination is an important tool to protect oneself and others from the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Miranda Wilhelm, PharmD, clinical professor in the SOP Department of Pharmacy Practice. “Information about the new vaccines is coming out daily, making it difficult for individuals to stay up-to-date. It is important to know which sources can be trusted and debunk myths that are circulating. Pharmacists are a trusted source of information and can provide vaccine education. Additionally, pharmacists can administer vaccines and pharmacies are providing the COVID-19 vaccines.”

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“A vaccine will not get us back to normal, vaccinations and public health and social measures will,” said Jennifer Rosselli, PharmD, clinical associate professor in the SOP and clinical pharmacists at SIHF Healthcare. “I am optimistic that we will return to our pre-COVID routines. We can get on the other side of this pandemic quicker if everyone acts responsibly by accepting the vaccine when it is available to them and persistently following public health measures.”

Wilhelm and Rosselli offer the following facts debunking common myths swirling throughout the nation.

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Myth: The vaccine can give me COVID-19.
Fact: None of the COVID-19 vaccines that have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) contain the virus that causes COVID-19. This means the vaccine cannot make anyone sick with COVID-19. The side effects people experience after receiving a vaccine (sore arm, headache, muscle aches and low-grade fever) are the body’s immune response to the vaccine. This means the vaccine is working.
Myth: The vaccine was developed too quickly.
Fact: Although the COVID-19 vaccines have been developed more quickly compared to other vaccines, no steps in the development, testing or manufacturing processes have been skipped. Years of vaccine research and technological advances in vaccine development, along with the collaboration of worldwide organizations and the U.S. Operation Warp Speed provided an unprecedented amount of resources to develop a safe and effective vaccine. This allowed for the phases of testing and mass manufacturing of the vaccine to occur simultaneously. These clinical studies took about the same amount of time as with other vaccines. Never before have there been so many scientists, research dollars, and manufacturing resources dedicated to the development of a single vaccine.
Myth: The vaccine is going to alter my DNA.
Fact: All of the COVID-19 vaccines available teach the body how to make a spike protein like the one on the Coronavirus. This triggers the body to make an immune response that is ready to attack the virus and fight off COVID-19 if the need arises. The vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell, where the DNA is found. This means the vaccines cannot interact or change DNA in any way.
Myth: I have already had COVID-19, so I do not need the vaccine.
Fact: The exact length of time that natural immunity lasts after recovering from COVID-19 is unknown, and it is possible to be re-infected with the virus. The CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 receive the vaccine after the isolation period is over. It is reasonable to wait up to 90 days to allow other people to receive the vaccine.
Myth: I will test positive for COVID-19 after I receive the vaccine.
Fact: None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the virus that causes COVID-19. Viral tests, to see if someone has a current infection, look for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. Because the vaccines do not contain the virus, a person cannot test positive. If the body develops an immune response from a vaccine, the body will make antibodies. Antibody tests look for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. This would mean a person could test positive on an antibody test.
Additional concerns that the pharmacy experts have heard from patients relate to the vaccination’s effect on pregnancy, questions of its ineffectiveness, exposure potential in lines and timeliness of second doses. To those, they offer the following guidance as evidence-based reassurance.

Concern: The vaccine may cause infertility and should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines teach the body to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevents getting sick in the future. There is no evidence that this immune response causes any problem for women who are trying to become or are currently pregnant and/or breastfeeding. There is evidence that pregnant women are at risk of getting severely sick with COVID-19 and may end up in the hospital.
Concern: The vaccine may not work.
Fact: The effectiveness of the three available COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen) in U.S. populations ranges from 72% to 95% for reducing the risk of developing COVID-19. Most importantly, each of these vaccines is highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death.
Concern: I will be exposed to COVID-19 while I am in line to get the vaccine and around other people.
Fact: Providers of the vaccine screen each person and require individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or a possible exposure to reschedule their appointment after the recommended isolation period. People receiving the vaccine should follow public health measures (mask wearing, physical distancing, handwashing/sanitizing) to minimize virus exposure, and healthcare workers administering the vaccine wear personal protective equipment such as masks, eye protection and gloves.
Concern: I won’t be able to get the second dose in a timely manner
Fact: The U.S. government and manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines are working to increase the availability of vaccines. At the time of the first vaccination, most vaccine providers are scheduling appointments for recipients of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to receive the second dose. If a delay in receiving the second dose occurs, it may be administered up to 6 weeks after the first dose. The authorization of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine provides an effective one-dose vaccine option that alleviates the burden of needing a second dose.
Finally, Wilhelm and Rosselli underscore that despite some opinions that masks do not need to be worn after an individual is vaccinated, the full immune response after being fully vaccinated does not happen immediately.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to completely respond and provide protection against the virus,” Wilhelm noted. “People who have received the vaccine and are exposed to the virus may still become infected without symptoms or, rarely, with mild to moderate symptoms.”

“It is unknown if someone who has received the complete vaccine series can still spread the virus,” Rosselli added. “It is important to continue to wear a mask, wash hands and stay six feet apart from others to help end the pandemic.”

Today’s pharmacists improve patients’ lives through the medication and education they provide. Dedicated to developing a community of caring pharmacists, the SIUE School of Pharmacy curriculum is a model that offers students a unique combination of classroom education, research, community service and patient care. The School of Pharmacy’s areas of excellence include a drug design and discovery core; pediatric practice; chronic pain research and practice; and diabetes research and practice. As the only downstate Illinois pharmacy doctorate program, the SIUE School of Pharmacy is providing highly trained pharmacists prepared for the rapidly changing healthcare environment.

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