Mythbusters

Updated on May 10, 2021

 

Why is it important to battle misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccine is a critical tool that will help slow the spread of the coronavirus, prevent infection and ultimately build herd immunity to the disease. Vaccine manufacturers, governments, regulators and health care workers across the world are speeding up the work of developing and deploying new vaccines and medicines, after ensuring their safety and effectiveness, to reduce morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19. However, misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccines is posing to be an impediment in the upcoming nationwide vaccination drive. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health. Vaccine hesitancy —the phenomenon of people refusing to get vaccinated despite the presence of a safe and effective vaccine— is complex and driven by several factors. It is necessary that people are made aware of the vaccine through an authentic and authorized channel. More critical, it is important to build confidence in vaccines to promote their adoption.

Here are some facts debunking the misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines in India:

FACT: It is NOT true that the COVID-19 vaccine contains any pig fat/pork gelatin.

Gelatin derived from pigs is used in some live vaccines as a stabilizer to protect live viruses against the effects of temperature, however the COVID-19 vaccines developed and approved in India do NOT contain any pig fat.

FACT: It is NOT true that the mRNA (Messenger RNA) COVID-19 vaccine will alter human DNA.

mRNA is found in all living cells. mRNA isn’t the same as DNA, and it cannot combine with our DNA to change our genetic code. The mRNA vaccines vaccines work by introducing a messenger RNA molecule into your body, which causes cells to produce a protein that resembles one of the viral proteins that make up SARS-CoV-2. The immune cells then recognize this viral protein and generate an immune response against it, primarily by generating antibodies that recognize the viral protein. They do not alter the human DNA in anyway.

FACT: It is NOT true that radiation from 5G lowers our immune system, making us more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.

5G is a mobile-network technology and there is no scientific evidence that phone signals will either transmit or reduce our defenses to COVID-19.

FACT: It is NOT true that non-human DNA introduced by COVID-19 vaccine will enable humans to pick up traits of animals.

There is no scientific evidence that the mRNA vaccine will introduce non-human/animal DNA into human bodies.

FACT: It is NOT true that doctors encourage COVID-19 vaccine injections through male genetalia.

It is also NOT true that the COVID-19 vaccine will make men infertile. These are baseless claims that bear no merit.

FACT: It is NOT true that the COVID-19 vaccine will cause sterilization in women.

The vaccine trials are also being tracked by the World Health Organization and it has found that none of these potential vaccines differentiate between male and female test subjects.

FACT: It is NOT true that owing to higher recovery rates in some countries, there is no need for COVID-19 vaccines.

Although SARS-Cov2 virus has been on a consistent decline in India and the case recovery rate has been high, this does not imply that India will not require a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating the population will make sure that people do not develop the disease when exposed to the virus, thus, preventing hospitalizations and death.

FACT: It is NOT true that India is the only country to announce a free COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Governments of other nations such as the US and UK are inoculating their citizens with COVID-19 vaccine free of cost.  As per statements by Union Health Minister of India, in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination in India, free vaccine shall be provided across India to the most prioritized beneficiaries that includes over 1 crore healthcare and about 2 crore frontline workers. Several states have announced that they would provide free vaccination in their respective states.

FACT: It is NOT true that only five countries in the world, including India, have developed an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine.

While India has developed an indigenous vaccine named COVAXIN (by Bharat Biotech), many countries are in the process of developing indigenous COVID-19 vaccines.

NEW FACT: It is NOT true that alcohol impairs the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.


Here are some facts debunking the myths regarding COVID-19 in India:

NEW FACT: It is NOT true that camphor prevents COVID-19 and increases oxygen levels.

Using Camphor cannot  prevent COVID-19 and cannot  increase oxygen levels. Camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol may help in soothing symptoms of respiratory illnesses. Studies have shown that camphor, eucalyptus or menthol have no effect on breathing but the cold sensation gives you a feeling of temporary relief. This is why camphor is used in products like Vicks Vaporub in a low concentration (<5%).

Camphor is toxic if applied inside the nose or accidentally swallowed, and can be especially dangerous for children. Hence, products such as Vicks Vaporub are applied on the chest.

Camphor, ajwain or lavang cannot be used to improve oxygenation in patients with COVID-1. On the other hand, proning (sleeping on the tummy) can improve oxygenation.

If you have mild symptoms continue staying at home, wearing a mask, and washing hands (will link to care at home graphic). Contact your doctor or visit the hospital if symptoms worsen.

Sources: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00016488309132886 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3862467/

FACT: It is NOT true that antibiotics can prevent or treat COVID-19.

Antibiotics work only against bacteria, not viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and therefore antibiotics should not be used for prevention or treatment. Some people who become ill with COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a complication. In this case, antibiotics may be recommended by a health care provider.

FACT: It is NOT true that cold weather and snow can kill the new Coronavirus

There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C (97.7°F to 98.6°F), regardless of the external temperature or weather. The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or washing them with soap and water.

FACT: It is NOT true that spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body can kill the new Coronavirus.

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations. They cannot be ingested.

FACT: It is NOT true that eating garlic (and other foods commonly used as home remedies for flu and common cold) can help prevent infection with the new Coronavirus.

Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic (or other foods for that matter) has protected people from the new coronavirus.

FACT: It is NOT true that regularly rinsing your nose and gargling with saltwater or saline can help prevent infection with the new Coronavirus.

There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.

FACT: The new Coronavirus CAN be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.

The COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather.

FACT: Drinking warm water and getting enough sunlight are NOT primary ways to protect against COVID-19.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 can be killed at higher temperatures. Drinking warm water and getting enough sunlight may have other health benefits. For example, sunlight is good to get Vitamin D, but too much exposure to sunlight may also lead to sunburn.

FACT: It is NOT true that taking a hot bath can prevent COVID-19.

Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C (97.7°F to 98.6°F), regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

FACT: It is NOT true that hand dryers are effective in killing the new Coronavirus.

Hand dryers will not protect against COVID-19. To protect yourself, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using towels or a warm air dryer.

FACT: It is NOT true that vaccines against pneumonia can protect you against the new Coronavirus.

Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, and the World Health Organization is supporting their efforts. Although vaccines against pneumonia are not effective against COVID-19, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

FACT: It is NOT true that the new Coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites.

To date there has been no evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

FACT: The new Coronavirus affects people of  ALL ages.

People of ALL AGES can be infected by the new coronavirus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.


More on these and other myths about the new coronavirus can be found here:


This material was curated by Viswanath Lab of Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) with the help of the Health Communication Core  of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC). These are  not the official views of Harvard Chan  or DFCI. For any questions, comments or suggestions reach out to rpinnamaneni@hsph.harvard.edu.