COVID-19 Vaccine Myths

The COVID-19 vaccine will give me COVID-19.

False. None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The goal of each vaccine is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. The CDC’s website includes information on how COVID-19 vaccines work.

I’ve already had COVID-19, so I don’t need the vaccine. 

False. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the possibility of re-infection, you should receive the COVID-19 vaccine at any time as long as you are not acutely ill.

The immunity gained from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

I’ve been vaccinated, so I don’t need to wear a mask.

False. No vaccine is 100% effective. And unfortunately, we know some people with active infection can spread this virus without realizing. Higher case rates in the community means higher risk. Until we’ve reached herd immunity, it’s critical to continue using every tool to help stop this pandemic. This includes wearing a mask and social distancing in crowded areas and certain gatherings where you may be exposed, washing your hands, and self-monitoring for symptoms. These small steps will help protect those unable to get a vaccine, including children under 16. We all need to do our part.

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Taking over-the-counter pain medications will interfere with the COVID-19 vaccine.

False. There is currently no evidence that common pain medications will reduce the impact of your COVID-19 vaccine. However, taking pain medication before your vaccine is not recommended as there is no symptom yet to treat. Mild symptoms typically begin 12-24 hours after a vaccine. Speak to your family doctor to understand safe over-the-counter medication dosage for treating any mild symptoms or side effects.

Patients on strong immunosuppressive medication may see a lesser immune response from the vaccine. If you are taking immunosuppressive medication, please make an informed decision after speaking to your doctor.

The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.

False. mRNA stands for “messenger ribonucleic acid” and are instructions for cells to make a protein or a piece of a protein. The mRNA from two-dose COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (such as Pfizer and Moderna) never enters the nucleus of a cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s immune system to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.

Additionally, a virus replicates by pushing RNA into your cells, which prompts your cells to make new virus particles. This means that your cells have seen plenty of outside RNA during your life, including anytime you get a head cold or an RNA viral infection like chickenpox. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.

Here’s an infographic from MDHHS that helps to clarify how MRNA vaccines provide immunity against the virus causing COVID-19 (click to enlarge): 

 

How mRNA Vaccines Work

 

The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine authorized for emergency use in the United States is known as an adenovirus vector vaccine. This type of vaccine uses a modified version of a different and harmless virus as a vehicle to deliver genetic instructions to a cell. These instructions trigger our immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect us against future infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The benefit is that we get this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of infection.

This type of vaccine does not cause infection with either COVID-19 or the virus that is used as the vector. The genetic material delivered by the viral vector does not integrate into a person’s DNA. Vaccines of this type have been well-studied in clinical trials, and viral vector vaccines have been used to respond to recent Ebola outbreaks.

I’m relatively young and healthy, so I don’t need the vaccine. 

COVID-19 is especially dangerous for those over 65 years old and those with other health issues, such as diabetes or asthma. However, the virus can still have serious, life-threatening complications among younger adults, and there is no way to know how you might respond. 

The Michigan Hospital Association released data in March that shows significantly reduced hospital admissions among older adults as the rate of vaccination has increased, while hospitalization of younger adults is growing with low vaccination rates among this group.

Unvaccinated younger adults are also likely to spread the virus to others, including grandparents and loved ones. The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to stopping the pandemic and people – young and older—will need to become vaccinated to return to normal.

The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.

False. There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. This myth is based on the perceived similarities between the mRNA vaccine’s spike protein—the part of the virus the vaccine targets—and a protein in the placenta. However, these proteins are not similar at all.

Infertility has not been observed in patients with COVID-19, in animal studies, or among the millions of individuals who have received their vaccine. In addition, current data suggests that pregnancy loss is higher in the general population than in the vaccination population. 

There is unanimous agreement among medical groups including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) that pregnant and breastfeeding women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.