COVID-19 vaccine: Fact vs. Fiction

Lead hospital epidemiologist addresses vaccine safety, dosing, immunity, availability

Now that the long-awaited vaccine has arrived in Bexar County, questions are flooding in about safety, dosing and where everyone can eventually get vaccinated.
Now that the long-awaited vaccine has arrived in Bexar County, questions are flooding in about safety, dosing and where everyone can eventually get vaccinated.

SAN ANTONIO – Now that the long-awaited vaccine has arrived in Bexar County, questions are flooding in about safety, dosing and where everyone can eventually get vaccinated.

A brand new vaccine crafted in a new way was bound to come with questions and misconceptions.

To address those questions and misconceptions, KSAT consulted Dr. Jason Bowling. He is the lead Hospital Epidemiologist for University Health System and also works with UT Health San Antonio.

FACT #1: The COVID-19 vaccine does not and cannot cause COVID-19.

“That’s really important to recognize. This comes up with vaccines all the time. This does not contain live virus. It will not turn into COVID-19 infection,” Bowling said.

FACT #2: The mRNA (messenger RNA) used to create the vaccine does not alter your cells or your DNA.

“This mRNA does not go into our cells and integrate into our cells. You body degrades it quickly. It just helps to encode for a protein in the virus so your immune system can recognize it,” Bowling said.

Last week in a KSAT explainer, epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Berggren explained how the vaccine works and what mRNA does to help teach the body to defend itself against the spiked coronavirus.

FACT #3: Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two separate doses, and both are equally important.

“This first vaccine that’s coming out -- you get the first dose, and then 21 days or 3 weeks later, you get the second dose. It’s important you complete both of those so you can get the full protection of the vaccine,” Bowling said.

The approved Pfizer vaccine is already being used all over the country, including in San Antonio. The Moderna vaccine is set to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week.

Both vaccines have an efficacy rate of about 95%.

FACT #4: You cannot mix and match the vaccine doses.

“Very important that if you get the Pfizer vaccine to start off with, you finish with the Pfizer vaccine. Same thing with Moderna,” Bowling said.

FACT #5: There will soon be many approved sites where you can get your vaccine.

Bowling confirmed what KSAT has reported in the past. He says most of the population will likely have to wait until spring or summer 2021 to get the vaccine.

By then, he said there will be approved administration sites throughout the region.

“Health care facilities have to apply to receive the vaccine, apply to be a vaccine administration site, and by doing that they have to demonstrate they have the facilities to store the vaccine and that they have people that are properly trained to provide it and follow up on the reporting that’s required too,” Bowling said.

Bowling said he expects people will eventually be able to be vaccinated at their local pharmacy.

FACT #6: Around 70% of the population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

“I think one of the advantages is people will be able to see this first wave. They’ll see health providers receiving in and see how they do. People are going to be transparent. It’s important we have transparency about the symptoms,” Bowling said.

In a story this week, KSAT spoke with local researcher Dr. Fred Campbell, who has both worked on the vaccine research and been a vaccine study participant. He explained why he believes so strongly in the vaccine’s success.

Bowling is reaching out to people who may be wary, saying, “Young healthy people are going to have the best responses to vaccines in general. Sometimes they’re less inclined to get the vaccine because they feel they’re going to be less sick if they get the actual virus, but they will really be doing community civic service by getting the vaccine. They’ll be protecting older people, people with immune system issues that may not be able to respond as well.”

KSAT will be closely tracking all angles of vaccine coverage over the coming months. It will be the main focus of our nationwide Trust Index team, dispelling myths and bringing you the facts.

If you have any claims you’d like us to look into, submit them on the KSAT Trust Index website.


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.