More than 18 months after the pandemic began, myths and misinformation surrounding COVID-19 are causing hesitation among people who would otherwise be protected by vaccinations, placing them in danger of contracting the virus.
The vaccine rate in the region has stalled, with nearly 53% of people in the Fox Cities area having received at least one dose. In Shawano County, that number is even lower, with 42% in the county receiving one dose.
As hospital rates increase with the spread of the more highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, the stark truth is that the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S are among those who are unvaccinated.
“The Delta variant, which also is proving to be more severe than earlier COVID-19 variants, creates even more urgency around getting vaccinated,” Dr. Angela Divjak, Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. “It’s vital for patients to protect themselves and the community, because we’re not through the pandemic by any means.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, ThedaCare providers will tackle COVID-19 vaccine myths and misinformation. The topics will vary from myths around altering DNA to the vaccine causing fertility issues.
COVID-19 Vaccine Myth #4: It’s not safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day.
If you are currently trying to become pregnant or would like to get pregnant in the future, you may get a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause any fertility problems for either women or men, Dr. Divjak said.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that pregnant women should get the COVID-19 vaccine, strengthening past language that stated it was safe for them to get the vaccine.
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes any problems with pregnancy, including with development of the placenta.
“Research shows pregnant women who contract the COVID-19 virus are at greater risk for certain complications, including a greater likelihood of miscarriage, premature birth, or cesarean delivery,” Divjak said. “Additionally, pregnant women who have diabetes or other underlying conditions may be at greater risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.”
As with all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine is being monitored carefully for side effects.
Along with similar conversations, vaccinated mothers may safely breastfeed their infants.
“In fact, breast milk is the best way to help your infant both get the nutrition she needs as well as to protect the infant against many kinds of illnesses,” Dr. Divjak said. “It will help your baby to build stronger defenses overall.”
Early research indicates infants may receive some antibodies from breast milk that can help protect them from COVID-19, said Divjak.
Mothers who are not vaccinated should take extra precautions around their infants if they suspect they’ve been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, Divjak said. That should include mask-wearing and careful hand-washing and sanitizing any time the mother plans to touch the infant or express breast milk.
Another myth that is currently circulating is that a woman’s menstrual cycle can be impacted by being near someone who received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Your menstrual cycle can be impacted by a number of factors, including stress, infections, changes to your schedule or changes in diet and exercise, or sleep problems,” Divjak said. “Your cycle cannot be affected by being in close proximity to someone who is vaccinated.”
Myth: Men May Suffer from Erectile Dysfunction after COVID Vaccination
Men can safely get the COVID-19 vaccine without concern about erectile dysfunction. In fact, getting vaccinated may help protect men from problems with erectile dysfunction that have been observed after testing positive for the virus.
While the link between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction hasn’t been proven, the virus can cause blood vessel inflammation, lung damage that reduces oxygen in the blood, changes in sense of smell, and infection of testosterone-producing cells – all of which can lead to erectile dysfunction, she said.
“Stress-related mental health effects of the pandemic also can impact erectile function,” said Divjak. “The vaccine itself cannot cause erectile dysfunction.”
Additionally, erectile dysfunction after the COVID-19 virus can be an indicator of greater vascular damage that has been noted as a long-term impact in some people who have had the virus.
ThedaCare encourages all community members who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, do so. In addition to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, ThedaCare also encourages community members to adhere to masking recommendations from the CDC, stay home when you are feeling sick, get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and physically distance when you are with others outside of your household.
To ensure coordination and continue ThedaCare’s long history of delivering vaccines safely and effectively, the system will continue offering COVID-19 vaccines at select Primary Care and Pediatric Clinics, while continuing to offer doses at designated vaccine clinics.
For more information about COVID-19, schedule a vaccine, find a testing location, view online care options and community resources, as well as other important news and updates, please visit thedacarecovid19.org/.