A little over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus still lingers on. But the CDC has authorized the use of three vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to curb the impact of the virus.
According to NPR1, around 64.4 million Americans have been vaccinated with about 171 million doses being administered. That is about 20% of the country’s population. Another research2, mentions that around 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated before the virus stops spreading. The country still has a long way to go to reach that mark.
To help you understand a bit more about the three vaccines currently being rolled out, we discuss facts and myths around them.
Myth: The vaccine can potentially make you sick with COVID-19
Fact: This is probably one of the biggest concerns individuals have with the vaccine, the fact that it can give you the virus. Neither of the three vaccines being administered in the U.S. has the live COVID-19 virus. So, no it will not make you sick with COVID-19.
The vaccine, essentially, teaches your immune system how to identify, react, and fight the virus if it enters the body. Some people may experience side effects after taking the vaccine which includes fever but that is part of the vaccination process. Such symptoms show that the immune system is working to protect you and will be ready if you were ever infected.
Immunity takes time, usually a few weeks. So, you can get infected even after you get vaccinated. That is why you need to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, be vigilant and remain safe.
Each of the three vaccines has a different efficacy rate, Pfizer-BioNTech is around 94%, Modern around 90%, and Johnson & Johnson around 72%.
However, all three vaccines will enhance your immune system enough to lower the effectiveness of the virus. The vaccine works to curb the virus so if you are infected after being vaccinated, at most you have minor symptoms and just need to isolate3. Hospitalization and death by the virus will virtually be off the table for any individual that has received either of the three vaccines.
Myth: You don’t need to get vaccinated if you’ve already had COVID-19
Fact: COVID-19 is still a fairly new virus and experts are still studying it to determine immunity from both the vaccine and after you’ve been infected. Therefore, it is recommended that you get vaccinated even if you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered. It is rare4 but there have been cases of reinfection.
But don’t get the vaccine right away after recovering. Individuals that were directed to use convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies should wait 90 days after recovering before getting vaccinated. The best thing to do is speak to your doctor before getting vaccinated to ensure you are safe to do so.
Myth: Developers rushed the COVID-19 vaccine and therefore, we can’t really trust them
Fact: All three vaccines have a high efficacy rate. Studies show that the limited individuals infected after vaccination experienced minor symptoms, none of whom were hospitalized or died.
The quick spread of the virus prompted pharmaceuticals to speed up the development process, but they didn’t skip any tests. Instead, they overlapped steps which allowed them to fasten the process of gathering data. Countries were also heavily vested in the whole process, which meant developers had all the resources needed to create effective vaccines in a timely manner.
Myth: The vaccine will alter your DNA
Fact: All three vaccines are effective because they result in the development of spike protein to protect against the virus. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have the instructions on an mRNA while Johnson & Johnson uses double-stranded DNA. This has caused a lot of chatter about the vaccines altering an individual’s DNA.
The mRNA in the vaccine consisting of the instructions just provides cells the guidance on how to develop the spike protein that will render the virus useless against the cell. The mRNA does not get into the central part of the cell where the DNA is present, hence, it doesn’t form any type of alteration or mutation.
Myth: There are long-term side effects to the vaccine
Fact: The side effects of any vaccine usually occur immediately after taking it. If you don’t experience any side effects within 30 minutes to a few hours after the vaccine, you are in the clear.
The most severe side effects of the vaccine would be due to allergic reactions. If you aren’t sure of any allergies, consult your doctor before you get vaccinated.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous for people with underlying problems, therefore they shouldn’t get vaccinated
Fact: The impact of COVID-19 on people with an underlying problem such as heart disease and diabetes is likely to be more severe than those without it. Therefore, such individuals should be the first to be vaccinated. When vaccination opened up, the elderly and people with underlying problems were the first to be administered the vaccine.
If you have any concerns or doubts about the vaccine due to your underlying problem, consult your doctor. They can help clarify all of your concerns.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can lead to infertility or miscarriage
Fact: There is a lot of information being circulated that the spike protein produced by the vaccine binds to the placental proteins, which results in infertility. You will find such information on forums that are anti-vaccine.
The logic behind the reasoning of infertility and miscarriage is not scientifically plausible. The vaccine in no way leads to either5. Studies were conducted on COVID-19 infected, pregnant women to see its impact on them. In response to the virus, the immune system itself produces the spike protein. There were no instances in which these women experienced a miscarriage or it affected their fertility.
Myth: Pregnant women should not be vaccinated
Fact: Yes, there is limited data in terms of the impact of the vaccine on pregnant women since they weren’t included in the trials. However, getting the vaccine is a personal choice and the vaccine itself doesn’t contain any content that would be harmful to them.
The reason why CDC has left this as a personal choice of the individual is that the virus has severe effects on pregnant women, usually leading to hospitalization. CDC does request pregnant women who opt for the vaccine to register for their v-safe pregnancy registry. This is a voluntary program that has personalized health check-ins post-vaccination.
Myth: You don’t need to wear a mask or follow CDC guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination
Fact: As previously mentioned, experts are still gathering data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in terms of immunity from the virus. We already know they aren’t 100% effective but do reduce the impact if infected. There is still not enough data to determine if vaccinated individuals can still carry and transmit the virus, that too without showing symptoms. So, until more data is collected, experts recommend you still follow preventative guidelines to halt the spread of the virus even after being vaccinated.
Vaccination is vital as countries move to develop herd immunity. The three vaccines currently being administered in the U.S. are safe. But to be on the safe side, you should consult your doctor before getting vaccinated. They can tell you what to expect and whether it is safe for you.