Common Myths about COVID-19 Vaccines Explained

December 10, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Thomas Bader, M.D. contributes to topics such as Medical Quality.

Updated 1/7/20

With countries across the world beginning their COVID-19 vaccination plans, there’s a lot of information to consider before signing up to get your first shot.

As always while making a medical decision, you should talk to your doctor about the vaccine. Your doctor should have the latest information about the vaccine, availability and when you can it.

“For most people, it’s a good idea to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available for widespread distribution, so you have some protection against this virus,” says Thomas Bader, M.D., vice president for medical quality and outcomes at Hackensack Meridian Health. “For younger children, researchers are still working to understand the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine for that population.”

As the vaccine becomes a more common topic of discussion, it’s important to know the TRUEs before making any decision. Dr. Bader helps us navigate what’s a TRUE and what’s FALSE as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines:

CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19

TRUE – None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the U.S. use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Some vaccines use an inactivated virus or viral vector, while others use new mRNA technology. The goal for each of the vaccines in development is to teach our immune system to recognize and fight off the virus that causes COVID-19.

CLAIM: You should get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19

TRUE – Because of the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the TRUE that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, you should consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine even if you’ve been sick with COVID-19 in the past.

As of late 2020, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection is called natural immunity. Some early studies suggest natural immunity may not last very long and varies from person to person based on their response to the virus.

If you’ve previously been infected, The FDA has advised to wait until 90 days following your initial infection before receiving the vaccine.

CLAIM: Everyone that wants a vaccine will be able to receive one

TRUE & FALSE – While it’s true that there will be a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, everyone that wants a vaccine will be able to get one eventually. The CDC will make recommendations to the individual states about how they should prioritize doses allocated to them.

At this time, health care workers, first responders and elderly people living in communal settings will be among the first to get the vaccine. From there, essential workers and those at risk for serious complications from COVID-19 would be next to get the shots followed by more of the general public.

While there will eventually be widespread availability, more information is needed before the vaccine becomes available for children.

You should also speak with your doctor if you are allergic to any component of the vaccine (rare) or if you think that you have a medical reason that may prohibit you from getting this vaccine.

CLAIM: Receiving an mRNA vaccine will alter your DNA

FALSE – mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can generally be described as instructions for your body on how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup, or DNA. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to the disease. Learn more from the CDC about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.

CLAIM: The vaccine process is moving too fast

FALSE In this unprecedented global pandemic, vaccine development is a race against the clock. Operation Warp Speed is a federal government initiative that was launched earlier this year designed to help scientists and funding come together to move vaccine candidates through the process for preclinical and clinical assessment, including animal and human trials.

This initiative along with the record amounts of funding and information sharing have enabled researchers to advance into phase 3 clinical trials (testing the vaccine on large groups of people to evaluate safety and effectiveness) in six months instead of the typical two years.

CLAIM: The COVID-19 vaccine will end the pandemic

FALSE The development of a vaccine is only the first step in helping end the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. In order to put an end to the pandemic, we must also have wide distribution of the vaccine and show signs that it’s working as expected. Until then, we must all continue to do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to wear masks in public, keeping at least 6 feet away from others not in your home, washing your hands as often as possible, and staying home when you’re ill.

CLAIM: One COVID-19 vaccine is better than the other

FALSE – Both COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization have been found to be over 94% effective at protecting against the virus. Here’s a comparison:

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.