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No, vaccinated people are not a threat

While more and more Americans are now vaccinated against COVID-19, the pace of vaccinations has slowed as the effort to end the pandemic runs up against what is being called “vaccine hesitancy” — the proportion of the population who are leery of getting a shot. Hesitancy is one thing. Wild rumors that have no basis in fact are something else again.

This is not another editorial attempting to convince the skeptics who doubt the vaccine’s effectiveness or who are concerned about adverse reactions. The effectiveness of all three vaccines being administered in the United States has been well established, and the incidence of serious reactions has been infinitesimal compared with the number of shots given. We’re not likely to convince anyone who denies these true statements.

But we do hope to help stamp out the truly unhinged rumors circulating on social media alleging that unvaccinated women can suffer disruptions to their reproductive cycles or have miscarriages simply by coming into contact with a vaccinated person.

Yes, you read that right. Somehow, people have become convinced that vaccinated persons might shed vaccine material to those around them.

The truth: It is scientifically impossible for any of the vaccine ingredients to leave the body once injected.

Yes, in the past, vaccines that contained live viruses — polio, for instance — could affect unvaccinated people. But none of the COVID vaccines contain the virus itself or any active virus. They work by instructing the body’s cells to make a replica of the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus so the immune system can recognize the virus and mount a defense against it. The immune system then eliminates the spike protein, so there is nothing to “shed,” even if that were possible. The protein in question is not even from the virus itself, it just looks like it is, so your immune system will recognize the virus if it encounters it.

Why does this rumor involve women and their reproductive cycles? Because some women have reported changes in their menstrual cycles after receiving the vaccine. That can happen for many reasons, and so far there is no evidence these changes were caused by the vaccine. Researchers are looking into the reports, of course. But even if it turns out there is some connection, it still doesn’t mean anything can be transferred from a vaccinated person to an unvaccinated one.

Don’t take our word for it. Epidemiologists and CDC experts say so.

Emily Martin, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, explained it to the New York Times this way: “It’s not like it’s a piece of the virus or it does things that the virus does — it’s just a protein that’s the same shape,”she said. “Transferring anything from the vaccine from one person to another is not possible. It’s just not biologically possible.”

That doesn’t stop gullible folk from reading such claims on the internet and taking them seriously. The connection to reproductive cycles apparently stems from a protein that is necessary for the placenta to remain attached to the uterus. False internet posts have claimed the vaccine could cause the body to block that protein, leading to infertility.

Nina Shapiro, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who specializes in debunking medical myths, writes on the Forbes magazine website that “while the COVID-19 spike protein shares several amino acids in common” with the placental protein, “it is not similar enough (in fact, it’s not even close to similar enough) for the antibodies to recognize and block this critical placental binding protein.”

In fact, the FDA recommended that pregnant women and those wishing to conceive be among the first health care workers to get the vaccine. Why? Because it’s contracting COVID — not getting vaccinated — that poses a real risk to pregnant women.

More than 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly a third of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, the CDC reported Friday.

Don’t let dangerous misinformation stop you from joining them.