December 14, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 70—COVID-19 vaccines

As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, many are eagerly awaiting the chance to receive a vaccine. But news of what is seen as the beginning of the end of the pandemic has also brought fear and misinformation around fast-tracked vaccines. Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, says one of the myths around the vaccine is that getting it will actually give you COVID-19. But that is not true. Because of the way vaccines work, Duszynski says people might have a false perception that a vaccine can give them the virus it's supposed to protect against. Additionally, some people may believe that as soon as they are vaccinated, they are protected from the disease. Duszynski says that also is not correct. When we get vaccinated, we have to wait for our body to recognize the vaccine contents as an invader and begin to ramp up its attack on the invader. This eventually leads to the development of antibodies that protect us from the virus. This process, Duszynski says, can take several weeks to 28 days, so if someone gets the COVID-19 vaccine and shortly after are exposed to the virus, they could still develop the illness -- leading to the perception that they got the disease from the vaccination, which is incorrect. As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, Duszynski says it is important for people to obtain information about the virus and the vaccine from reliable resources and to speak to their physician if they have any questions.

One of the biggest questions many Americans have around the vaccine is whether it will be required. Ross Silverman, a professor at public health law at IUPUI, says mandates should take a back seat to community outreach, transparent communication, and making access as easy as possible for everyone, especially vulnerable populations. But while a mandate may happen, it will likely not be from the federal government. In fact, President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have both said the vaccine will not be mandated. It is also unlikely that states will rush to adopt mandates for the general public. If mandates are proposed, Silverman says they most likely will show up in settings where people work or live that have higher risks for virus exposure, like health care environments, dormitories, and certain critical infrastructure jobs. What about employers who would like to mandate the vaccine for their employees? Silverman says the best strategic approach to promote vaccination is to maximize communication and minimize barriers. Public health authorities, employers and healthcare leaders should ask themselves: what can we do to make this as easy as possible for people to say yes to? Silverman says the best approach in the near term is engaging communities by answering questions, letting people know what the benefits and risks are, where they’re going to be able to get access and that there are no costs associated with getting the vaccine.