Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines persists

Anyone who has wandered the internet has undoubtedly read erroneous messages claiming that COVID-19 vaccines pose a health threat.

One of the most widely debunked myths is that mRNA vaccines cause cancer because they contain “chimpanzee adenovirus.”

Such myths were heard last year at a U.S. Congressional hearing on vaccine injuries, but health authorities in both North America and Europe stressed that there was no evidence. of a causal link between COVID-19 vaccines and cancer or that mRNA vaccines could modify human DNA.

Apiramy Jeyapalan, a policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, laments that misinformation can hinder the deployment of proven treatments.

“Misinformation can make you more hesitant before getting vaccinated; it can delay the administration of treatment. »

The fact that cancer patients and other patients are exposed to this misinformation spread on the internet and elsewhere is very worrying. The medical and scientific community cannot ignore this, says medical literacy expert Cheryl Peters.

People receiving cancer treatments are in a very vulnerable position, particularly those who are overwhelmed and might be receptive to information from questionable sources.

“We need to know that these things are circulating. We need to know that our friends and loved ones can be exposed to these conspiracy theories that can harm them if they listen to them,” emphasizes M.me Peters.

She has noticed that critics of vaccines blame them for all sorts of problems, from heart disease to sudden deaths. When we read that vaccines explain the higher rates of cancer among younger people, we must be more wary of these rumors.

“Just because we have been exposed to a vaccine or something else once does not mean it will have a negative influence on our health. This is not how our biology works,” says M.me Peters.

Aaron Schimmer, the director of research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, believes misinformation about COVID vaccines has decreased, but acknowledges it still exists.

“A number of patients who were diagnosed with cancer around the time vaccines began will say the illness was caused by vaccines. From a biological point of view, this is false. These cancers must have grown slowly over many years,” he says.

The Dr Schimmer says none of his own patients have raised anti-vaccine and cancer conspiracy theories. “I have definitely cared for patients who had concerns about vaccines and their safety. They wondered if the cancer was caused by the vaccine. »

Irony: mRNA vaccines had been tested to treat cancers long before the COVID-19 pandemic, he notes. The theory is that mRNA trains a patient’s immune system to target specific cancer cells.

“It was the research undertaken to understand how mRNA could treat cancer that allowed us to produce a vaccine against COVID so quickly,” emphasizes D.r Schimmer.

Cheryl Peters believes that mRNA vaccines hold great promise for the future, but she questions whether the scientific community has adequately communicated their potential to the public.

“It’s a somewhat existential question for science in general,” she says.

Samara Perez, from the Center for Evaluative Health Research at the McGill University Health Center, says that, based on figures, a large majority of patients consider doctors and health professionals to be the safest source of information.

Although patients may react differently to a cancer diagnosis, the DD Perez doesn’t believe they are particularly vulnerable to misinformation.

“I believe that people who were already receptive to misinformation before having cancer will be just as receptive to it during the illness. »

Mme Peters says doctors, scientists and public health officials need to explain the rare, but real, side effects of vaccines. It is this transparency that helps establish trust.

According to her, myths and misinformation currently play a greater role in people’s choices than in the past. “We have unlimited access to information,” she says. And some people are trying to spread bad information on the internet so they can promote their own supposedly miraculous cure.

“This phenomenon will not disappear anytime soon,” emphasizes M.me Peters. People suffering from cancer and others with chronic problems really need support. »

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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