The amount of information surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine has made it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Knowing the facts, as well as common misconceptions, can help you make a more informed, confident choice as you consider getting vaccinated.
The vaccine will give me COVID-19: Fiction
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA (or messenger RNA) vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19, which gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. It does not include a live COVID-19 virus and cannot give you the disease.
The side effects of the vaccine show that your body is building protection against the virus, but your body is not infected by the virus due to the vaccine.
I have to get two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected: Fact
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective – Pfizer after 21 days and Moderna after 28 days.
You will need to get both doses to get the full protection from the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine trials show 95% effectiveness at 14 days after the second dose. The Moderna vaccine reports 94% effectiveness at 14 days after the second dose.
COVID-19 vaccines change your DNA: Fiction
These vaccines in no way alter your DNA. They use messenger RNA (mRNA) protein to give instructions to the cells of our body on how to fight the virus should they come into contact with it in the future.
mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
COVID-19 vaccines will affect my fertility: Fiction
This myth was started because the vaccines are meant to attack the COVID-19 spike protein, and there is a protein called syncytin-1 that is vital for the formation of human placenta. Aside from the fact that both are viral fusion proteins, they are not related at all.
While the coronavirus spike protein and syncytin-1 do share a small string of amino acids – the building blocks of all proteins – the similarity is too small to warrant an immunologic response.
Infertility has never been shown with the flu vaccine, which also targets a viral fusion protein in a similar way to the COVID-19 vaccines.
We sat down with Dr. Carolina Sueldo, a board-certified physician with the Women’s Specialty and Fertility Center, to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and fertility.
COVID-19 vaccines are free: Fact
At this time, the vaccines are free. Due to the declaration of emergency called over ever-increasing cases of COVID-19, vaccine doses were purchased with U.S. tax payer dollars.
Those doses will be given to Americans at little to no cost. Providers distributing the vaccines may charge fees for administering them, but these costs can be covered through insurance. Community Medical Centers provides vaccine doses to employees at no cost.
The vaccine won’t protect me forever: Fact
Experts are working to learn more about vaccine-induced immunity and how well the vaccines work in real-world conditions. But right now, we don’t know definitively how long immunity lasts after vaccination.
The COVID-19 vaccines were rushed and aren’t safe: Fiction
Although the timeline may seem fast, there have been teams of professionals working around the clock to cultivate, test, and ensure the safety of the vaccines. The vaccines have undergone numerous clinical trials, as is customary for all FDA-approved vaccines. The results of the trials conducted thus far have confirmed that the vaccines are not only effective, but also safe for consumers.
The mRNA science behind the vaccines has been studied since the early 1990s – that’s more than 30 years. In fact, mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, cancer treatments and more. As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.
We don’t know the long-term side effects of COVID-19 vaccines: Fact-ish
It's true, we don't have long-term data on the COVID-19 vaccines. However, there have been clinical trials with other mRNA vaccines dating back to 2009.
The first human trial of an mRNA vaccine was in a small group of patients who had prostate cancer. Overall, that mRNA vaccine was well tolerated and had a good safety profile.
In 2013, a clinical trial began of an mRNA rabies vaccine in healthy human adults. This rabies trial was important because the safety requirements for a vaccine in a healthy population are more stringent than those for a vaccine being used to treat a disease. The study ran from 2013-2016, and continues to collect long-term safety data. But overall, this vaccine was deemed generally safe and tolerable.
What we don’t specifically have at this time is long-term information about the COVID-19 vaccines.
I will still need to wear a mask after I get the vaccine: Fact
Yes, you will still need to wear a mask in public. The vaccines are not 100% effective. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like:
As you consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine, keep these facts in mind. They’ll not only help you make an informed choice about being vaccinated, but will also help you share accurate information with others.
And, when in doubt, double check your information against reliable resources like the CDC or FDA, both of which update their COVID-19 information regularly.