HOUSTON - This week, pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. announced they were calling off two vaccine trials and reallocating resources to COVID-19 treatments.
Soon after, a claim began to circulate on social media that the reason behind this change was that the company concluded it would be better to catch the virus, and recover, then get vaccinated.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Jennifer Whitaker with Baylor College of Medicine says that appears to be a misinterpretation of the Merck press release.
"I think maybe where people might be confused was they said that in there phase 1 trials, when they have a small number of people who they are giving the vaccine to and then a measuring the immune response, they didn’t see sufficiently strong immune responses," says Dr. Whitacker, who is currently involved in COVID-19 vaccine trials. "They saw the level of antibodies was not as high as people who had the infection, so it’s just one measurement that might show maybe their vaccines didn’t make a very strong immune response."
"It would never be a good idea to tell people they should just be infected [with COVID-19] because we do know some people who get infected can get very sick," Dr. Whitacker warned.
What about the immune response some people experience after getting their COVID-19 vaccine? We asked whether there have been cases of people experiencing vaccine reactions that rival the health issues COVID-19 causes.
"No," she bluntly clarified. "There have been cases of people who have a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, but those are quite rare."
She says getting infected with COVID-19 poses a much greater likelihood of having severe symptoms than having an immune response to the vaccine.
Dr. Whitaker says one of the biggest misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines is that you can catch the virus from receiving your vaccine shots. She emphasized that this is not true.