COVID-19 vaccines bring hope for ending the coronavirus pandemic. It's likely you've heard claims -- myths and misinformation -- about these COVID-19 vaccines on social media or from the people in your life. Knowing what is true about vaccines, and what isn’t, is crucial to community and business recovery.
Marin Public Health offers offers some truths about the vaccines that should be spread far and wide:
✔️ Fact: The Coronavirus Vaccines are 95% Effective
The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna provide a 95% effectiveness in preventing people from developing coronavirus symptoms. This data is based on clinical trials that included tens of thousands of people from both companies.
✔️ Fact: The COVID-19 Vaccine Will NOT Give You COVID-19
It is impossible for someone to develop COVID-19 through the vaccine injection since the vaccines do not contain the virus. The goal for COVID-19 vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause side effects, such as fatigue, headache, soreness or redness at the injection site, and muscle or joint pain. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.
✔️ Fact: The COVID-19 Vaccine Does NOT Include A Little Bit of the Virus
Neither the Moderna nor Pfizer vaccine includes the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. Unlike vaccines for other diseases that include an inactivated or weakened strain of a virus to build an immune response, the COVID-19 vaccine includes mRNA (messenger RNA) that teaches a person’s body to build proteins to combat the virus.
✔️ Fact: The Coronavirus Vaccines Were Not Rushed to Market
Development of the vaccines were well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic. How? Since SARS-CoV-2 comes from a family of viruses, including the SARS coronavirus of 2002 and the MERS coronavirus of 2012, scientists had already been developing new vaccines to treat a new virus from the family. In addition, the use of mRNA vaccines to treat diseases had been studied for the past several decades. The vaccine also went through the same rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process as every other vaccine, meeting all safety standards. No steps were skipped. The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines.
✔️ Fact: The COVID-19 Vaccine Will NOT Change Your DNA
The mRNA vaccine has no impact on a person’s DNA. Messenger RNA allows cells to make proteins that trigger an immune response to the coronavirus, stopping it from entering a person’s cells. The first vaccines granted emergency use authorization contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to make the “spike protein” found on the new coronavirus. When the immune system recognizes this protein, it builds an immune response by creating antibodies — teaching the body how to protect against future infection. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. That means the mRNA does not affect or interact with your DNA in any way. COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to the virus, giving your cells a blueprint of how to make antibodies. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.
✔️ Fact: Less Than 0.5% Experience Severe Vaccine Side Effects
In the same trials, vaccines resulted in side effects that were generally mild to moderate and lasted no more than a couple of days. Symptoms included irritation at the injection point of the arm, chills, fatigue, muscle soreness and fever. Less than 0.5% of trial participants experienced severe symptoms as an allergic reaction to the vaccines. Remember, these symptoms are normal for any vaccine and are a sign that the body is building immunity.
✔️ Fact: There are No Long-Term COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects
Thousands of people, whether in trials or with the approved vaccines, have not experienced any long-term side effects. Some have experienced symptoms within minutes of the COVID-19 injection and needed to be treated with epinephrine, but medical providers were able to assist and ensure people with severe allergic reactions were cared for. Otherwise, all side effects have passed within a couple of days for all vaccine recipients.
✔️ Fact: The Vaccine Booster Shot (second dose) Is Essential
Without the follow-up second vaccine, commonly called the booster shot, a person’s immune system will not be able to develop a long-term response to the coronavirus. The initial primer shot sets an immune system up to react to the virus initially, developing some memory to it, but it’s the second exposure that establishes long-term effectiveness.
✔️ Fact: Vaccine injections do NOT contain tracking microchips
No vaccine injections or nasal sprays – including shots for COVID-19 – contain microchips, nanochips, RFID trackers or devices that would track or control your body in any way. Shipments of vaccine doses are monitored as they are shipped and administered across the country but the notion that these shots will contain tracking devices implanted into people is false.
✔️ Fact: The severity of COVID-19 symptoms varies widely and getting vaccinated can help prevent infection with COVID-19.
Have you heard some exclaim, “COVID-19 isn’t very serious, so I don’t need to get the vaccine!”? Unfortunately, this is not true. While many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness or die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by allowing your body to create an antibody response without having to experience sickness. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.
Don't believe these myths!
Let's set the record straight on some of the myths circulating in our community about COVID-19 vaccines.
❌ MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine is being given to older people so they can die sooner.
FACT: This is not true! The goal of vaccinating older adults is to prevent them from catching the virus in order to prevent severe symptoms or even death. Older adults are prioritized for the vaccine because they are more adversely affected by the COVID-19 virus, including being a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms or even death. Marin County’s older adults account for more than 28% of the population. In Marin County, 85% of all COVID-19 deaths have been among people age 65 or older. Clinical trials showed high success rates among older adults, including 95% efficacy rates for the Pfizer vaccine, and Moderna reporting 94.5% efficacy overall. This means that under the same conditions as the studies, the vaccine reduces the risk of infection by 94.5 to 95%.
❌ MYTH: There have not been any prior RNA vaccines used in humans.
FACT: RNA vaccine technology has been used to treat gastric cancer and hATTR, a rare debilitating nerve disease.
❌ MYTH: RNA vaccines can implant material into the human genome or change a human’s genetic structure.
FACT: This is biologically impossible. An RNA vaccine uses a cell’s processes to produce inert viral particles for the purpose of activating the human immune response. The cell that does this is ultimately destroyed by the immune system, which is the goal of ANY vaccine.
❌ MYTH: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to receive the vaccine.
FACT: If you have already had COVID-19, there’s evidence that you can still benefit from the vaccine. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19, and because re-infection and transmission to others is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. At this time, experts don’t know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
❌ MYTH: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.
FACT: Masking, handwashing and physical distancing remain necessary until a sufficient number of people are immune. The best protection we can offer each other right now is to continue to follow current guidelines. As more people are vaccinated and experts have a better idea of how long natural and vaccine immunity last, public health experts will update their guidance as necessary.
❌ MYTH: I’m not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine.
FACT: Regardless of your risk, you can still contract the infection and spread it to others, so it’s important you get vaccinated. Once the vaccine is widely available, it’s recommended that as many eligible adults as possible get the vaccine. It’s not only to protect you but your family and community as well.
❌ MYTH: I am allergic to eggs so I shouldn't get the COVID-19 vaccine
FACT: Neither the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine nor the Moderna vaccine contain egg.
Contributing Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine, and Mayo Clinic Health System.