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Real or not? Putting COVID-19 vaccine claims through the Trust Index

HOUSTON – Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the information war has been abound with fake articles and misinformation. The latest target is about possible coronavirus vaccine but we still don’t have one. We used our Trust Index to look into this debate and help clear up some confusion about a potential vaccine.

In the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, there is a new spin to an old debate.

“It’s a huge misinformation campaign, coming from the anti-science and anti-vaccine groups,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, the notable vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s particularly strong here in Texas, where it’s taken this very interesting turn.”

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Many anti-vaccination groups worry that once developed, a COVID-19 vaccine will be required for school, work, or even to fly on an airplane. But it’s not just that. Now activists are demonstrating against wearing masks and even social distancing.

“It’s no longer an anti-vaccine movement, it’s an anti-public health movement,” Hotez said.

Hotez, who is also working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine, says he’s seeing increasing violent imagery being used. In one Twitter exchange, he even got a death threat.

Push for a calmer compromise

While every movement seems to have the extreme groups with radical members, Texans for Vaccine Choice say they’re the opposite of that. Members say they want a calmer compromise.

“We are not an anti-vaccine organization. Now more than ever informed consent is crucial,” said Jackie Schlegel, Executive Director, Texans for Vaccine Choice.

Texans for Vaccine Choice asked the Governor to promise that no one will be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine to go to work or school.

“What is crucial to our movement here is just having an informed consent, medical privacy, and the medical choice,” said Schlegel. “We will always fight for your rights to make those decisions for you and your family without consequence.”

Contrary to what people might believe, they say their group is not about no vaccines.

“We have a wide variety of support within our movement. We have those who fully vaccinate, we have those who partially vaccinate, we have those who just want to go to their doctor’s office have a good working relationship with them,” explained Schlegel. “If you believe that you have the right to make medical decisions with your chosen healthcare provider without state intrusion then you are a friend for Texans for Vaccine Choice.”

Vaccine questions put to the Trust Index

We used our Trust Index to look into common vaccine concerns.

First Claim: The vaccine is being fast-tracked, so it won’t be safe.

Hotez says that’s FALSE.

“I think you can be pretty confident that those vaccines, no vaccine is going to be out there unless it works or it is safe,” Hotez said. “We are not sacrificing safety, these are large phase three clinical trials that will begin.”

Claim: The first vaccine won’t work anyway

Hotez says, be careful about this one.

“We have to face the possibility that this is going to be a slowly evolving process,” he explained. “Our first vaccines may ultimately get replaced over time.”

“We’d like a vaccine to do two things, one to protect you from getting sick and going to the hospital or dying,” Hotez said, “and we also would like a vaccine that would be so highly protective that there would be no virus anywhere in your system.”

Claim: If I get the vaccine it might cause me to get coronavirus.

Hotez says that is FALSE.

“The whole reason you are taking the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID,” Hotez said.

COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready soon

As the debate heats up, it could be a while before we even see a COVID-19 vaccine on the market.

“So we are probably looking at the third quarter of the next year 2021 at the earliest and even then that would be a world speed record,” Hotez said.

There are several vaccines up for human trials. Hotez says while it may be a while before a vaccine is ready, there are other therapies that will happen in the meantime.

“I’m pretty optimistic about some of the antibody therapies I’m hearing about,” he said. “These can be used as treatments particularly if you are treated early to prevent you from getting sick. Also, they are short term antibodies that last for a couple of weeks.”

What is the Trust Index?

Trust Index is Graham Media Group’s initiative to combat misinformation and provide viewers and readers fact-checked information to share with others. Read more about it here and see other Trust Index stories here.