Immunization Awareness Month, COVID vaccine encouraged

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated. August is Immunization Awareness Month. 

"This surge is not causing mild symptoms. It's putting people in the hospital and will soon cause a rise in deaths as well," said Dr. Ben Weston. 

The City of Milwaukee is in the "extreme transmission" category for COVID-19 cases. 

According to the Milwaukee Health Department, only 51% of adults are fully vaccinated, while vaccine hesitancy continues to circulate across the country. 

"Vaccine hesitancy and vaccine skepticism aren’t new," said Rachel Bergstromg, associate biology professor, Beloit College

Bergstrom focuses on emerging and infectious diseases and said doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine do not surprise her. 

"Especially for the new mRNA vaccines," said Bergstrom. "So the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, that people are concerned about the vaccines changing their DNA."

But Bergstrom said that's not possible. 

"None of the vaccines are capable of changing DNA. Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, and mRNA is genetic material, but it’s genetic material outside the nucleus," said Bergstrom. "The nucleus has some very tight regulation that keeps things from going in and out when they’re not supposed to, so this mRNA will stay outside the nucleus within the cell."

Bergstrom said other concerns include the vaccines leading to potential infertility. 

"Currently, there is absolutely no evidence that the vaccine is going to cause infertility," said Bergstrom. "When we look at the number of people who’ve been vaccinated over the past nine months, we haven’t seen a real decrease in fertility rates in the U.S."

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Bergstrom encouraged people to make sure information they read about the vaccine is up to date, peer-reviewed and provides cited sources. 

"Reach out to that friend or relative who is not yet vaccinated. It may seem like an awkward conversation to start, but it's critical. Share your experience with the vaccine. Tell your story," said Dr. Weston. 

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