Debunking Myths and Addressing Conspiracy Theories: An Employer’s Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccine

While employees want to know if they should get the COVID-19 vaccine, some employees are hesitant for various reasons.

To address some of the myths and conspiracy theories, we looked to the World Health Organization (WHO), The Center for Disease Control (CDC), and Mayo Clinic.  Here is the most current information as of the date of this article.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe because of its rapid development and testing.

Because of the pandemic’s global impact, many pharmaceutical companies invested significant resources into quickly developing vaccines. The emergency situation warranted an emergency response, and companies didn’t bypass safety protocols or perform inadequate testing.

I already had and recovered from COVID-19, so I don’t need to get the vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reinfection is possible. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the possibility of reinfection, vaccination is highly recommended.

I won’t need to wear a mask after I am vaccinated.

Continuing to wear a mask and physical distancing remains beneficial. Though the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it’s unclear whether it keeps you from carrying or transmitting the virus to others.

Precautions, such as wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting travel, improving ventilation and barriers, and procedures limiting close and sustained contact (as well as capacity/density) may change as more is understood about the vaccine’s efficacy.

My immune system is better than vaccines.

According to Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, while COVID-19 spares the vast majority of people it infects, its after effects will cause long-term suffering for tens of thousands of people.

The vaccines have severe side effects.

Mild and moderate short-term reactions to the vaccine that resolve without complication or injury are normal. The Mayo Clinic reports about 15% of people developed short-lived symptoms at the injection site.

From chills and headaches to muscle pain, fatigue or fever, side effects are common and indicate that your immune system responds to the vaccine.

The vaccine contains a microchip or “nanotransducer.”

Professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a COVID-19 vaccine researcher, Thomas Hope, says the technology does not exist. Even if the technology did exist, the microchips would have to find their way into multiple vaccines created by different companies.

COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or miscarriage.

No evidence exists to confirm the suggestion that a side effect of any vaccine results in fertility problems. According to experts, it is also unlikely that COVID-19 vaccines pose a short- or long-term risk to anyone trying to become pregnant. While pregnant women are at higher risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, the rate of miscarriage has not increased.

I am allergic to eggs, so I shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

No eggs were used in the development and production, and therefore no eggs are contained in the PPfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Everyone receiving the vaccine is encouraged to stay for some time following inoculation for observation to monitor for allergic reactions.

Preservatives in the COVID-19 vaccines are the reason for storing them at extremely low temperatures.

Both Pfizer and Moderna report their vaccines do not contain preservatives. Storing vaccines in ultracold environments keeps them stable and safe because of the messenger RNA (mRNA), which can break down easily within the vaccines.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus-based strand of DNA, and as DNA is less fragile than RNA, the J&J vaccine does not need to be stored in the same low temperature environment.

The vaccine will alter my DNA.

The PPfizer/BioNTech, Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which teach our cells how to develop an immune response but never interact with our cells’ DNA. The body’s natural defenses work with the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to safely develop immunity to disease.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus DNA spike that enters into the COVID-19 cells and replicates itself. The DNA is not human DNA, and the vaccine can enter cells, but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness.

The vaccine will give me COVID-19. 

The COVID-19 vaccines are incapable of infecting someone with COVID-19 because the vaccines don’t use the coronavirus, live or dead, according to Dr. Emily Landon, infectious diseases expert at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Some vaccines, such as measles, mumps, and chickenpox, do use live but weakened viruses to stimulate an immune response. Dead influenza viruses are used in flu shots.

There is no virus involved in making the COVID-19 vaccines, which is part of the reason why they can be made faster than traditional vaccines.

After receiving the vaccine, I’ll test positive for COVID-19. 

That depends. According to the CDC, the answer is “no” for viral tests. Viral tests reveal if you have a current infection. With some antibody tests, the possibility exists that you may test positive if your body develops an immune response — which is the vaccine’s goal. Antibody tests point toward you having a previous infection and may have some level of protection against the virus.

As an employer, I can require all of my employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Initially published in 2009 in response to H1N1 influenza and updated March 21, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ‘s stance is, “Generally, ADA-covered employers should consider simply encouraging employees to get the influenza vaccine rather than requiring them to take it.”

An employee may be unable to receive the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons.

Barriers to receiving vaccines should be eliminated as much as possible — scheduling flexibility may be an option to consider.

Employers who want to mandate vaccines or provide incentives are encouraged to proceed with caution. Review our COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace FYI and reach out to Employers Council Employment Law Services if you have any questions or concerns.