It’s been over a year since COVID-19 has changed the way we view the world. Thankfully, there is an end in sight with the newly developed vaccines. Many people have questions and concerns about the vaccines. With so much information floating around, it’s hard to verify what’s true and what’s not. That’s why we’re debunking some of the most common COVD-19 myths.
Before we get into myth busting, let’s discuss the basics of a vaccine. A vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you got exposed to the disease. You develop immunity to that disease after being vaccinated, without having to get the disease first.
This is why vaccines are such a powerful medicine. Taking a COVID-19 vaccine will help you build protection from the disease, and help you protect the higher-risk people around you.
Now, let’s get into some of the most common COVID-19 myths.
Claim: “The vaccine will alter my DNA.”
Truth: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines will not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to protect us from COVID-19. MRNA basically gives our cells the blueprints for the factories that will build the protein to protect us from COVID-19. Some people believe that mRNA will cause the virus to go into our DNA and mutate us, but it doesn’t even go into the center part of the cell where we have our DNA. (1)
At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
Claim: “Getting the vaccine will infect me with COVID-19.”
Truth: None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccines carry the same germs that cause disease. These germs were either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick.
You might experience side effects like a headache or chills, but that’s because your body is creating an immune response- not because you have an infection.
Claim: “I don’t need the vaccine because I’ve already had COVID.”
Truth: Even if you’ve gotten sick from COVID-19, you may still benefit from getting vaccinated. There are severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and because re-infection is possible, you are advised to get a vaccine. (2)
The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests COVID-19 natural immunity may not last very long.
Claim: “The vaccine isn’t safe because it was rushed.”
Truth: The COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, but the clinical trials, which examine safety and efficacy, weren’t rushed at all. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are about 95% effective and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the vaccines were developed so quickly. Here are a few:
- Scientists had previous research that was helpful since COVID-19 is similar to other coronaviruses like MERS and SARS.
- Companies developing a vaccine early in the pandemic since they were working off a method that has been in the works for years.
- China shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
- The vaccine developers conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
- Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
To receive emergency use authorization, the biopharmaceutical manufacturers had to follow at least half of the study participants for at least two months after completing the vaccination series, and the vaccine must be proven safe and effective in that population. In addition to the safety review by the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization created a panel of vaccine safety experts to independently evaluate the safety data from the clinical trial. (3)
Claim: “It’s not safe to take the vaccine if I want to have a baby.”
Truth: Because the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the live virus, they are not thought to cause increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, still birth, or congenital anomalies. Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is a risk to a breastfeeding baby.
Claim: “Once I’m vaccinated, I don’t have to wear a mask or social distance.”
Truth: Even after you’re vaccinated, you still need to practice infection prevention precautions. Vaccines do not stop the coronavirus from entering your body; they only prevent you from developing moderate to severe COVID-19. It’s not yet clear if people vaccinated for COVID-19 can still carry and transmit the virus.
No one likes to wear masks or stay distant from friends and family, but to continue to protect yourself and others, even after vaccination, you have to follow mask and social distancing guidelines. (4)
Claim: “Drinking alcohol before or after getting the vaccine will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Truth: There is no evidence that alcohol will reduce the formation of antibodies. There is also no CDC guidance to suggest you need to avoid alcohol before or after vaccination.
Although alcohol consumption won’t reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, you shouldn’t drink it in excess as it’s harmful to your overall health.
The Bottom Line
You have to be diligent and do your own research on the COVID vaccine since there are so many different stories circulating on social media, or from friends, family, and coworkers. If you still have more questions about the vaccine, contact your doctor.