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Ontario university professor debunks COVID-19 vaccine falsehoods

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Will curfews curb the spread of COVID-19? Doctor answers our COVID-19 questions.

Canadians are now receiving both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in an attempt to push the nation past the coronavirus pandemic.

Naturally, in the current age of disinformation, a number of falsehoods have started to pop up alongside these news vaccines.

Read more: Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine contender: Medicago’s breakthrough, ties to Big Tobacco and warnings a pandemic was coming

 

A University of Waterloo professor is attempting to debunk some of the more common falsehoods in a release provided by the school on Monday morning.

Kelly Grindrod, who is a professor at Waterloo’s pharmacy school, is also a drug expert and the Canadian pharmacist of the year for 2020.

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One of the most common myths she and other professors at the school have been hearing about are that the vaccines will change a person’s DNA.

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Grindrod says that is simply not true and explained how they work.

“The vaccine has a short amount of code to build the spike protein from the virus,” she said in a release while comparing them to a post-it note.

“You see the note, remember it, and throw it out. The note doesn’t change you, it just gives you some information to remember.

“Similarly, the mRNA vaccine gives the body information to recognize a piece of the virus. The body then gets rid of the note but keeps the memory. When your body sees the virus in the future it’s ready to fight it.”

Read more: Ontario cabinet to meet Monday to consider new COVID-19 pandemic measures

Others have said that there are dangerous ingredients in these vaccines but Grindrod says they are, for the most part, preservative free.

“They have the mRNA, which is wrapped in a fatty layer for protection,” she said while discussing the ingredients. “There is also a common ingredient called polyethylene glycol (PEG) which helps to make the fatty layer, and salts, sugar, and water. There are no blood products, fetal cells, mercury, or formaldehyde.”

Another falsehood which the school says has been making rounds is that the vaccines were developed too quickly but Grindrod says that once the world’s focus turned to developing vaccines, that sped up the process immensely.

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“The slowness is largely due to delays in funding and in coordinating the various stages of research,” she explained. “COVID vaccine research has been much faster because of incredible cooperation, coordination, and investment around the world.”

Grindrod said that it became easier to recruit people for testing while also pointed to the fact that there was plenty of spread in the community already which also made it easier to conduct research.

She noted that many of the vaccines that have been developed or are in development were already being studied to treat other illnesses such as the ebola virus, zika virus and cancer.

“The technology could be quickly adapted to COVID-19,” the professor stated, adding, “mRNA vaccines are also much faster to manufacture than traditional vaccines that typically have to be grown in a lab.”

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Read more: Canadian company sees positive results in early coronavirus vaccine tests

Finally, some people have expressed concerns over how little long-term data has been collected on the vaccines and their potential effects but she said they are safe and the clinical trials addressed those worries.

“Vaccine side effects usually occur within days of a vaccination, but some rare side effects may occur up to six weeks after the vaccination,” Grindrod said. “At the time of approval, both mRNA vaccines had at least six weeks of data in most participants.”

She said the next step is to identify any side effects that may occur in one-in-a-million situations.

“With millions now receiving the vaccine, there have not been any major concerns, but regulators continue to monitor adverse event reporting programs around the world,” Grindron said.

One thing that remains unclear is how long the vaccines will protect people and whether they can continue to spread the virus or not.

“While we know the vaccine protects most people in the short term, we still need data to know how long that protection lasts (months or years), and if the vaccine will continue to be effective when the virus mutates,” she said.

“The ongoing trials will help us answer these questions.”

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