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(Photo credit: Pexels/Gustavo Fring.)
Joseph Keaweʻaimoku Kaholokula

This article by Joseph Keaweʻaimoku Kaholokula, professor and chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine, was was first published in Ka Wai Ola on August 25.

Kaholokula addresses 10 fears and rumors about the vaccine currently circulating in the community. Early in the pandemic, a member of his ʻohana died from COVID-19. He talks to people every day to help them understand the facts about COVID-19.

#1—“I don’t trust the government.”

  • That’s okay because the government did not create the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The vaccines were developed by independent pharmaceutical companies—some of the same companies that produce the medicines many of us are already taking to treat conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
  • Many people do not trust the government, but that shouldnʻt stop you from receiving a vaccine that could save your life. Instead, speak to your family doctor and take their advice about whether or not you should get vaccinated.
  • The government’s involvement in vaccine distribution is just to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are available to all citizens free of charge in order to help stop the spread of a virus that has already killed more than 4.4 million people.

#2—“I’m waiting for the vaccines to be FDA approved.”

  • On Aug. 23, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
  • FDA approval of the Moderna vaccine is expected by October. FDA approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will probably be several months behind Moderna. The timing has to do with when the pharmaceutical companies formally “apply” to the FDA for full approval. Pfizer was the first to formally submit their application in July.
  • A concern for some people has been the “emergency use authorization&rdquo (EUA) of the vaccines versus full approval from the FDA. The reason that the vaccines initially only received EUA was because early last year, not enough time had passed to determine how long they will remain effective.
  • FDA vaccine approval normally includes a multi-year study to help determine how long the vaccine will be effective. But this step only comes after the vaccine’s safety has been confirmed. All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in America went through the same level of review and scrutiny to determine their safety. No steps were skipped.
  • The only uncertainty about the COVID-19 vaccines is not whether they’re safe, but how long they will be effective, and whether booster shots will eventually be needed.

#3—“I’m afraid of long-term side effects.”

  • Adverse side effects from vaccines are extremely rare and almost always show up within the first two weeks and certainly within the first two months. In the entire 225-year history of vaccine creation, side effects related to those vaccines appeared within six weeks of vaccination.
  • The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered 10 months ago (December 2020) and since then, about 5 billion people all over the world have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. If there were serious or widespread health problems or side effects associated with the COVID-19 vaccines, it would be reported via mainstream media outlets worldwide and everyone would already know about it.

#4—“There is some scary stuff on the internet about the vaccine changing our DNA, making people magnetic or being used to inject microchips into our bodies to track us.”

  • When reading about the vaccine on the internet it is really important to consider the source—nānā i ke kumu! If the information is not from a legitimate medical website (e.g.,, WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, etc.) you should be extremely suspicious.
  • There are a lot of internet “rolls” who deliberately put false information on the internet just because they can, and because it makes them feel powerful to do so and to watch the fallout online as people freak out.
  • Other people are attention-seeking and have used social media to claim (without providing proof) that they have been harmed by the vaccine. Some are even trying to exploit the sympathies of others to raise money for themselves via platforms like GoFundMe. For the record:
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. The vaccines help your cells build protection against the virus that causes COVID-19, but do not enter the nucleus of the cell where DNA is kept.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not contain metals or any ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field. You can test this by holding a magnet against a friend or family member who has been vaccinated. If the magnet falls when you release it, the person is not magnetic.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not include microchips, period. That is completely false. If the government wanted to track you, they could just use your cell phone to do that.
    • COVID-19 vaccines do not “shed” or release any of their components. Vaccine “shedding” can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus, but none of the vaccines authorized for use in America contain a weakened version of the virus.
    • Because the vaccines approved for use in America do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

#5—“I’m concerned about infertility.”

  • There is no evidence that people have lost fertility because of the COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, there is no evidence that any existing vaccine causes infertility.
  • On the other hand, pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness if infected, so women who want to become pregnant are being advised to get vaccinated.
  • While the vaccine does not cause infertility, catching COVID-19 could cause infertility—especially in men. There is some evidence that COVID-19 can affect the male reproductive system, as it can adversely affect testicular function and sperm production.

#6—“I’m pregnant or nursing and I’m afraid the vaccine will hurt my baby.”

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine are now recommending that all pregnant women get vaccinated based on studies showing the safe use of the COVID-19 vaccine in tens of thousands of pregnant women over the last several months.
  • Also, new research strongly suggests that nursing mothers who are vaccinated are providing some level of protection against COVID-19 (in the form of antibodies delivered through their breast milk) to their newborns. A study by immunologists at the Providence Cancer Institute provided promising results of a potential immune benefit for infants by nursing mothers who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

#7—“Young, healthy people don’t need to get vaccinated.”

  • Although young people do not usually die from COVID-19, many young, healthy people who catch COVID-19 have turned into COVID-19 “long-haulers” suffering chronic fatigue, chest pains, shortness of breath, and brain fog for months after being infected. In fact, 30% of people who have been infected with COVID-19 still had symptoms nine months later.
  • With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading, more children, teens, and young adults are being hospitalized with COVID-19. As of early August, nearly 30,000 people in America younger than 50 have died from COVID-19. Of these, about 400 were children under the age of 18.

#8—“I already had COVID-19, so I don’t need to be vaccinated.”

  • Even if you’ve had COVID-19 you should still think about getting vaccinated because the immunity you get from vaccination is stronger, and will last longer, than the immunity you got from being infected.

#9—“My faith in God will protect me.”

  • Ke Akua has given human beings the ability to think and reason and has gifted some people with the ability to heal others.
  • If you seek medical treatment when you become sick, why not accept medical treatment that can prevent you from becoming sick in the first place.
  • God does heal, but He often uses scientists and doctors to be His hands and feet. If you are unsure, pray about it and specifically seek God’s will for your life regarding vaccination, as you would for any other important decision.

#10—“I can’t afford to get vaccinated.”

  • The COVID-19 vaccination is FREE. Medical treatment for people who are sick with COVID-19 is not free.
  • If finances and medical insurance coverage is a concern, you cannot afford to be unvaccinated.

Find a free COVID-19 vaccination site near you.

More about Kaholokula

Kaholokula grew up in Makiki, Oʻahu and is involved in the Hale Mua o Kūaliʻi. He is a co-lead of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response, Recovery, Resiliency (NHPI 3R) Team for Hawaiʻi. NHPI 3R was established in May 2020 to improve the collection and reporting of accurate data, identify and lend support to initiatives across the Hawaiian Islands working to address COVID-19 among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and unify to establish a presence in the decision-making processes and policies that impact our communities. More than 60 agencies, organizations and departments comprise the NHPI 3R Team.

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