COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Busted

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant

In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved COVID-19 vaccines from two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna. As of 01/20/21, 31 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed, and 12 million doses have been administered to patients.

While the vaccine offers hope for the end of a deadly virus that has infected 25 million people in the U.S. and resulted in more than 415,000 deaths, many people are reluctant to receive the vaccine because of myths they’ve heard.

Here are common COVID-19 vaccine myths, and the facts that combat the misinformation.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can cause a COVID-19 infection.

It is physiologically impossible for either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to give you a COVID-19 infection because they do not contain active viral particles. Instead, the vaccines stimulate your immune system to manufacture an antibody that can effectively combat the virus if you’re exposed to it.

Vaccines can cause side effects as they activate your immune system. These side effects include headaches, body aches, fatigue, joint pain, and fevers. But these symptoms can be mitigated with over-the-counter medications that treat pain and fever, and they resolve within a day or two. 

The bottom line is that these vaccines can never cause an active infection or the life-threatening risks associated with COVID-19. And even though they can cause side effects, vaccines are much safer than the risk of a COVID-19 infection.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine changes your DNA.

There has also been a lot of concern expressed that when someone gets vaccinated, the vaccine material gets incorporated into their DNA and permanently alters it.

That’s simply not true.

Here’s what the vaccine does do. It uses messenger RNA (mRNA), which teaches cells in your immune system to make a specific surface protein that is effective against the COVID-19 virus.

Once the cells receive the mRNA’s signal and respond accordingly, the mRNA disintegrates. It does not stay in your system permanently, and even if it could get to the DNA, it has no way of incorporating itself into DNA.

Once it has helped your immune cells develop the ability to recognize and combat the COVID-19 virus, the mRNA disappears.

MYTH: the COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous for pregnant women.

Another common rumor circulating around the Internet is that it’s dangerous for pregnant women to get the vaccine. Some people think that the vaccine will give a pregnant woman the virus. Others think it increases the risk of a miscarriage, and others think that the virus can affect the fetus’ DNA.

Here are the facts:

The efficacy of the vaccine in pregnant women is still being studied, but from the research, we have so far, there’s nothing to indicate that pregnant women are at an increased risk of side effects from the vaccine. In fact, since pregnant women are at an increased risk of COVID-19 complications, including hospitalization, ICU admission, and death, receiving the vaccine can offer protection against the risk posed by COVID-19, and increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy.

The vaccine cannot give a pregnant woman a COVID-19 infection, since the vaccine does not contain any active viral material.

It has not been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage -- or, for that matter, impact future fertility.  And because of the mRNA process, it cannot alter the DNA of the mother or her baby.

MYTH: People who have recovered from COVID-19 don’t need to get vaccinated.

We still have a lot to learn about the levels of antibodies people develop after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, how long the antibodies last, and how protective they are against future COVID-19 infections.

From the research we have so far, it seems that antibodies may begin to wane 90 days after infection. And there have been rare cases where people have been infected by the virus more than once.

So even if a person has recovered from COVID-19, it’s still recommended that they get vaccinated because the vaccine offers more reliable immunity against future infections.

But because so far the number of vaccines distributed is only enough to vaccinate 10% of the U.S. population, people who have recovered from COVID-19 are being asked to wait 90 days after their infection to get the vaccine so people who have no antibodies can receive the vaccine first.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe because it was rushed to market.

It’s true that manufacturers did work quickly to develop, test, manufacture, and distribute vaccines that would be effective against COVID-19. The world was facing an emergency situation, so these companies worked with the FDA and CDC to mount an emergency response.

Some people worry that because it was only about a year from when COVID-19 was first identified to when a vaccine for it came to market, the vaccine is unsafe.

But it’s important to note that these companies relied on research and technology that’s been used to develop vaccines against other pathogens for many decades. 

And even though the COVID-19 vaccine is the first licensed vaccine to use mRNA technology, scientists have been studying mRNA for the past 30 years in response to other infectious global health threats, including Zika, influenza, and rabies.

It has been over half a year since the first COVID-19 vaccine was given, and tens of millions of vaccines have been administered since then, as of the time of this writing.

***

At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re here 7 days a week to care for you.