Experts bust six myths about COVID-19

In a growing atmosphere of tension and mistrust over COVID-19 and public health restrictions, and some who are still against getting vaccinated for COVID-19, Ponoka News spoke with some experts to help bust some common myths and misconceptions about the virus and COVID-19 vaccines.

1) COVID-19 is just a flu.

“Despite the early misinformation that likened COVID-19 to nothing more than ‘a flu’, the virus has proven itself to be far more harmful and deadly than the seasonal flu. While both are contagious respiratory illnesses, and there can be difficulty in differentiating the two based on symptoms alone, the increased rates of severity and death set the two apart. According to a recent study, the mortality rate related to COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than that of the flu. And the differences don’t stop there. While the viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, COVID-19 is much more contagious among certain groups than the flu. We’re also finding that those affected by COVID-19 are experiencing many more long-term effects of the infection such as weakness, shortness of breath, and trouble focusing, as well as kidney and heart problems.” – Peter Glazier, executive vice president, Lung Health Foundation.

(In a recent press release The Lung Health Foundation announced its partnership with Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats to provide Canadians with evidence-based, timely information on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, infectious respiratory diseases and other public health measures.)

2) Healthy people don’t need to worry about COVID-19 as it’s only fatal to those with underlying health issues.

“Healthy people should be vaccinated just like everyone else. You can have COVID and spread it to other people without even knowing you are sick or before you have symptoms. If you are immunized, the infectious particles the body releases when you cough or sneeze are greatly reduced meaning you are far less likely to infect someone you love. And some people with no health conditions are ending up in hospital with COVID or dying from COVID. Albertans talk a lot about rights but some people seem to forget they have a responsibility to do what they can to help stop this pandemic. Getting immunized is the best tool to help get life back to normal.” – Dr. Gregory Sawisky, Battle River Medical Clinic, Ponoka.

3) It’s all a conspiracy to take over our lives!

“Scientists are not certain how the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 came to infect humans. These viruses usually infect bats, but they sometimes pass to humans through an intermediary host. In the case of SARS in 2003, a coronavirus passed from bats to civets to humans. In the case of MERS (an outbreak in Saudi Arabia in 2012), it passed from bats to camels to humans.

“In this outbreak, we have two main theories of origin. The first is that it passed from bats through an animal species that we have not yet discovered. The second theory is that the virus escaped from a virology lab in Wuhan. Biden announced on May 27, 2021 that he’d directed the American intelligence services to investigate the possibility.

“Here is what we know for sure: whether the virus evolved naturally or escaped from quarantine, it is not a biological weapon. It may be deadly, but it’s not military grade. How can we be certain that a malign government force was not behind the outbreak? Given the great potential for blowback, it would be a foolish villain who would choose a pandemic to try to take over the world.

“Conspiracy theories are so compelling because we need someone to blame, and that is precisely what makes disasters like this one so dangerous for governments. We look to our public authorities for leadership, and they are the first to feel our wrath when governments fail in their responsibilities. Consider Donald Trump. He was cruising to a second term in the Oval Office until he mishandled the pandemic. Likewise, here in Alberta, Jason Kenney has gone from popular premier to provincial pariah in the space of a year.”

“Governments will battle the economic and political fallout from the pandemic for years to come. Beating the virus will require a great deal more public money, cooperation, and new technology. Whether it turns out to be an evolutionary fluke or a terrible accident is almost beside the point. Almost, but not quite. We are all very interested in what the CIA may find in the next few months.” – Marc Froese, professor of political science/director, International Studies Program, Burman University.

READ MORE: Biden orders more intel investigation of COVID-19 origin

Ponoka resident Graham Boyes, whose areas of expertise include insurance and identifying scams, also weighed in on this point.

”When we feel isolated because we’ve been unable to see our friends for months on end, worried about how we’re going to feed our families, or inconvenienced because we have to wear an uncomfortable mask, it’s reasonable to want to blame someone. When there is no one to blame, then politicians and the privileged elite, who surely must not face the struggles we do, seem like a good target. Whether or not they are actually responsible is not relevant. We want someone to pay for how we feel, because if we think we can’t change our situation, then someone else suffering consequences for it must be the next best thing,” said Boyes.

4) Getting a vaccine can give you COVID-19/ you can ‘shed’ the virus from getting a vaccine. “An individual cannot get COVID from any of the vaccines because none of them contain the live virus as any component of the ingredients. As a result, you cannot spread COVID from the vaccine.” – Jamil Rawji, owner/pharmacist of Ponoka Professional Pharmacy.

5) COVID-19 vaccinations can change your DNA.

“It’s quite common that people ask if any of the Covid vaccines can change your DNA. That may be because these RNA based vaccines are relatively new in wide use although they’ve been studied for a long time. RNA is very different than DNA – RNA is a very temporary message within cells that carries cell instructions. ( It is so temporary that it is is hard to work with in the lab because it breaks down so quickly!)

“All of the vaccines that we are using deliver a small piece of RNA, that has the instructions for our own selves to make part of the virus spike protein. This is only made for a short time but it is enough to train our immune system to recognize the COVID-19 virus and train our immune defenders against it. We don’t have the machinery to put the RNA into our own DNA, and it never even enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is. The RNA stays outside the nucleus and it’s ‘recipe’ is used to make viral spike proteins for a short time. Then the RNA ‘recipe’ breaks down and disappears.” – Dr. Lynora Saxinger, infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Alberta.

6) The PCR test is not accurate.

The PCR test (Polymerase chain reaction) are the most widely used in Canada and are considered the best method of determining whether a person has COVID-19. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, almost all positive results are true positives, and false negatives are far more common.

A false negative test can occur when a test is done too early to detect the disease or when sample collection is poor. Approximately 98 per cent of cases tested zero to two days from exposure will not be detected.

Whether you believe it’s a fair or reasonable approach or not, the Government of Alberta’s plan to ease restrictions for the summer is now largely dependent on the percentage of Albertans who receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, not just active case numbers or hospitalizations.

If you are medically able to do so (i.e. don’t have a history of bad reactions to vaccines, aren’t immunocompromised or allergic to any ingredients of the vaccine, etcetera) please choose a vaccine that works for you and get vaccinated.