While truck drivers have not yet been officially designated essential workers in the COVID-19 fight, there is no doubt they play an essential role in our economy. Not only do they interact with the public in various places as they maintain our critical supply chains, they face the unusual risk of having to suffer through the disease hundreds of miles away from home, should they become unable to drive.
Such risks can be mitigated, thanks to some of the greatest minds of our time who have created vaccines that are safe and effective against COVID. Although these vaccines are seeing widespread success, many commercial drivers are reluctant to receive them due to rumors they've heard about safety.
While rejecting a vaccine has no bearing on the medical certification for your CDL, the basic health risks are serious enough that you should be careful to separate truth from falsehoods. Here are the chief vaccine myths I hear from drivers through my practice.
Myth #1 – The vaccine was rushed and none of the side effects are known.
This is the myth that I hear most frequently. It is true that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technique with mRNA proteins to infer immunity. However, the basic process has been studied for decades and implementation of these types of vaccines has been in development for years.
The genetic sequence of the coronavirus was discovered very early, allowing researchers to input the new information into well-developed techniques. The researchers did not skip any steps, as many myths portray. Massive amounts of private and government funds were poured into this research allowing companies to overlap steps and effectively test vaccines on large, willing populations never seen before in such circumstances.
Since the process was so streamlined and resource-rich, vaccines were able to be rolled out almost instantaneously after approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This part of the process usually takes much longer.
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Myth #2 – The COVID-19 vaccine will alter your DNA.
I hear this frequently. It’s unequivocally false. The mRNA vaccines will enter your cells but will never enter the cell nucleus, where DNA resides, so there is zero interaction with DNA. Your DNA is not altered in any way by mRNA in any single cell inside your body.
The vaccine enters your cells, inducing your cells to produce a spike protein identical to the one included in the COVID virus. The rest of your body then learns these new spike proteins are enemy invaders. If you encounter these spike proteins later, your body knows they are foreign and will immediately destroy the virus they are attached to. This protects you from acquiring a COVID infection.
Myth #3 – I had COVID-19, so I don’t need a vaccine.
Unfortunately, COVID is not like a lot of diseases we’re familiar with. There is some natural immunity to becoming reinfected with COVID after an earlier infection, but we don’t know how long this lasts. We do know that being infected once does not give you lifelong immunity to it.
Many people have become reinfected with COVID within a year. Early studies show the antibodies your body makes will essentially wear off, so that natural immunity doesn’t last very long.
The natural course of a COVID case varies widely. I have seen young, seemingly healthy patients die from COVID, while older, unhealthy patients have had mild symptoms. So waiting around to get natural immunity from a COVID infection can be a deadly gamble. Diabetes, obesity and hypertension – conditions more common among truckers – contribute significantly to worse, often deadly outcomes in COVID infections.
Myth #4 – There are microchips secretly placed in the COVID vaccines.
This is perhaps the best-known of the conspiracy-related COVID myths. It, too, is unequivocally false.
The myth asserts that Bill Gates is using the vaccine program to implant RFID chips that would enable the recipients to be tracked. However, such technology doesn’t exist now. There are no microchips in the vaccines. There is no grand conspiracy to monitor the world’s population through COVID.
Unless you have had severe anaphylactic reactions to a previous vaccine, there is no reason for you not to take any of the COVID vaccines. When you get a vaccine, you protect not only yourself, but all those you come in contact with. I’ve known patients and family members of patients who have died from COVID. A simple injection can save lives. Get it.