What spreads faster: the coronavirus or rumors about the disease and the vaccines to fight it? On the internet there are all sorts of misinformation about both.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department addressed concerns and untruths at its second COVID-19 virtual town hall, which took place Jan. 19. Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez, MD, director of the department’s cardiovascular and school health, addressed the science behind the vaccine.
Developed in record time, many people have questioned the safety of the vaccines.
“The vaccines developed for COVID-19 were done according to the highest medical standards with our safety in mind,” Gonzalez said. “However, just as the coronavirus can easily spread if we’re not immunized and protected, rumors can spread fast across social media and across the street if left unchecked.”
Gonzalez addressed a myth that the COVID vaccine contains cells from aborted fetuses.
“The truth is that no fetal cells have been used to make any COVID-19 vaccines now in use,” Gonzalez said. “The two vaccines we use from Moderna and Pfizer developed their vaccines through a new process commonly referred to as an mRNA process, which is a more efficient method of producing mass quantities of vaccine.”
Some believe COVID-19 is a “plandemic,” meaning it was intentionally created by the government or a political group to reduce the populations of certain groups.
“This is not true,” Gonzalez said. “This virus, like a lot of other viruses that have spread around the world over centuries, is simply part of nature. Viruses of all kinds exist in our world and can turn deadly, like Ebola. Influenza is a virus. Polio is a virus. SARS-CV-2, which causes COVID-19, is also a virus.”
“Another myth is that the vaccine rollout is intentionally slow so that more people will die before they can get vaccinated as a means of population control,” the doctor continued. “The truth is that vaccination rollout has been significantly slowed by a number of factors including the need for refrigeration of mRNA vaccines. That refrigeration is not always available at many traditional vaccination locations.”
Another piece of misinformation still out there is that COVID-19 is no more lethal than the flu—“that the media or government is making a bigger deal of it for whatever reason.” According to Gonzalez, “I think the evidence is pretty clear. At this point, COVID-19 is many times more lethal than the flu. Before COVID-19, in 2018, LA County had 98 deaths from the flu. So far, we have lost more than 13,000 people in LA County to COVID.”
Gonzalez also addressed the issue of undocumented Angelenos.
“Another question we hear from the Hispanic community is, ‘If I go get a vaccine will I be deported or face the consequences of the public charge rule?’ The bottom line is, everyone needs to get vaccinated. Your health is too important,” Gonzalez said. “The federal government announced over the summer that immigrants can get tested and immunized without fearing any consequence of the public charge rule [which states that immigrants are not eligible for any government assistance].”
“Right now, the Latino population in Los Angeles County is suffering from the highest ratio of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” Gonzalez stated. “That must stop. There are many organizations in LA County that are reaching out to Latinos to help get them vaccinated for free without fear.”
Further concerns from minority communities were addressed.
“Much on social media has spread fear that the vaccine has not been tested on Black people. The stakes for Black and Latinx residents of LA County are very high,” the doctor acknowledged. “There are historical reasons for the Black and Latinx communities to fear being singled out. The concern is justified because people of color and marginalized groups have in the past been coerced and subjugated to participating in drug trials and medical procedures without informed consent, patient protections or ethical practices.
“That’s not the case here,” Gonzalez continued. “Black and Latinx communities have not been singled out to get the vaccine, but groups are being offered the vaccine based on the risk factors faced by the people in the group.”
Gonzalez stressed: “I encourage people to read about the vaccine from reliable sources and talk to well informed people you trust like your doctor.”
More information on the vaccine roll-out and how to check your eligibility or enroll for an appointment is available here.