COVID-19 vaccines bring great promise for managing the spread of the virus and putting an eventual end to the pandemic. As news of new vaccine development and initial patient experience evolves, there are common myths that may cause some to hesitate in getting vaccinated. The simple fact is, vaccination against the coronavirus saves lives. Here, we separate fact from fiction.
MYTH: Natural – or herd – immunity is safer than the COVID-19 vaccine.
FACT: The virus is spreading faster than it would take to achieve natural (or herd) immunity so that defense cannot be solely relied upon. It is still not known whether vaccination or natural immunity provides a stronger and longer-lasting immune response. For now, the best and safest option is vaccination. More information about natural immunity versus vaccine immunity can be found here.
MYTH: I have already had COVID-19 so I don’t need a vaccine.
FACT: If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past and did not have symptoms or if you experienced any degree of symptoms the CDC still recommends getting vaccinated to protect yourself from the risk of reinfection and to protect others from getting infected by you. Speak with your doctor about when the right time is to get vaccinated if you’ve already tested positive. Current research is ongoing to determine whether transmission to others is possible by people who have had COVID-19 and/or have been vaccinated. Presently, there is not enough information available to know how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again so it is best to err on the side of caution and get vaccinated.
MYTH: The messenger RNA technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccine is brand new.
FACT: mRNA technology has been in development for almost two decades, and mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna utilized mRNA technology to help them respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, COVID-19. As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.
MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means I can stop wearing my mask and taking coronavirus precautions.
FACT: Stopping a pandemic like COVID-19 requires using all the tools available. There are a number of actions, all of which you can and should continue to take, to protect yourself and others from COVID-19: wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed but they do not stop the virus from entering your body. Research has shown that being vaccinated can help prevent developing severe and life-threatening coronavirus infection. It’s not yet clear if people vaccinated for COVID-19 can still carry and transmit the virus, even when they themselves don’t get sick. We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places or when you are with unvaccinated people from more than one household. Keep your mask with two layers on, and continue staying at least 6 feet from people outside your household, until further notice.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.
FACT: All the COVID-19 vaccines help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA) that instructs cells to make the “spike protein” found on the coronavirus, stimulating the immune system, and teaching the body how to protect against future infection. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is held. Instead, the body quickly breaks down the mRNA and gets rid of it. More information on mRNA vaccines is available from the CDC.
The J&J (Janssen) vaccine is produced differently than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. It is a viral vector vaccine that uses a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This piece is known as a spike protein and it is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. The genetic material delivered by the viral vector does not integrate into a person’s DNA.
The above information is sourced from the following sites: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Moderna, Pfizer, Johns Hopkins, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and J&J (Janssen).