Recently, everyone 16 years of age and older in Wisconsin became eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. This is good news. The bad news is that they are being bombarded by misinformation on the vaccines.

Detecting erroneous information (myths) regarding these vaccines can be a challenge, but there are ways to detect it, according to Ajay Sethi, PhD, MHS, associate professor of population health sciences and faculty director of the Master of Public Health Program, who focuses his educational mission on addressing public health misinformation, and has been tracking vaccine myths.

“Sometimes misinformation sounds like well-intentioned advice,” Sethi said. “Always question the source of information you receive about vaccines; did it originate from a scientific or medical authority?”

Ajay Sethi
Ajay Sethi

Common myths include:

Myth: I had COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine.

Sethi’s response: “Everybody is recommended to get the vaccine for COVID-19. If you’ve had COVID-19 before, you’re still eligible. In fact, the vaccine will be very helpful for you. It’s important that when you get the vaccine you don’t have any symptoms lingering from the disease, and that you’re fully recovered and are no longer required to be in isolation. At that point you can make an appointment to get the vaccine, and it would be very important that you do so.”

Myth: I don’t need the second dose because I either got COVID-19 after my first dose or because I heard one shot is good enough

Sethi’s response: “For the two dose vaccines, the science shows that after one dose you do get reasonable protection, but that’s not going to last forever. The vaccines are designed so that the second dose is able to boost the first one that you received and even if you had COVID-19 in between the first and second dose, you should still get that second dose — but the timing is important. You should not be getting the second dose if you have any symptoms for COVID-19. And it’s got to be at least 10 days after you first had symptoms in order for you to be able to go out make the appointment to get the vaccine.”

Myth: The vaccines were rushed to approval and are not safe as a result

Sethi’s response: “The science behind the vaccines wasn’t rushed at all. The trials were conducted under rigorous standards and were evaluated at each step to the point where everybody was comfortable that these vaccines are safe and effective.”

Sethi recommends relying on credible sources of information to answer question about the vaccine, such as your healthcare provider and certain websites from agencies like the CDC, and state and local health departments. “These websites have very credible information on there, and they keep it up to date,” he said.