Common Vaccine Myths
Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth #1: The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe because it was rapidly developed and tested.
Fact: All three vaccines are safe, with no evidence of serious or long-term side effects.
It’s true that scientists rallied to produce the vaccine quickly. In the face of a public health emergency, they knew it was critically important to develop a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as possible. They were given access to unprecedented financial resources, and they focused all their energy on this one problem.
Moderna and Pfizer developed mRNA vaccines. The technology behind this kind of vaccine is decades old and was used extensively in cancer research prior to this. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a weakened adenovirus, which has been studied extensively for other vaccines. All three went through clinical trials with the same rigor applied to all vaccine trials, and multiple independent advisory panels reviewed and approved the results.
Myth #2: It’s safer to wait for the FDA to grant full authorization than it is to get the vaccine under an emergency use authorization (EUA).
Fact: Full FDA approval is largely based on how effective a vaccine is over a longer period of time, not how safe the vaccine is.
As of August 23, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval for patients ages 16 and older.
The FDA grants full approval to vaccines that have demonstrated long-term effectiveness. Most of the time, they like to see that a vaccine offers protection for a year or two before granting full approval.
So what does the emergency use authorization mean? It means that the FDA has determined that the vaccine may be effective in preventing a serious or life-threatening condition, and that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits can outweigh its known and potential risks.
Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson all completed Phase 3 clinical trials, which measure efficacy and any adverse reactions. They found:
- Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial included more than 43,448 people and was found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID infection.
- Moderna’s Phase 3 trial included 28,207 participants and was found to be 94.1% effective in preventing symptomatic infection.
- Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 trial included 43,783 participants and was found to be 85% effective in preventing severe COVID.
At this time, Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for full approval based on their ongoing research into the vaccines’ long-term effectiveness. The review process is still ongoing.
Myth #3: We don’t know what the long-term side effects of the vaccine are.
Fact: In the history of all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, the most serious side effects have shown up in the first six weeks after vaccination.
Most often, they show up within the first two weeks.
The most common side effects associated with any of the COVID vaccines are pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the injection and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. These side effects typically go away within a few days. Some people experience no side effects at all.
Myth #4: I’ve already had COVID. I don’t need to be vaccinated.
Fact: The vaccine offers stronger, longer-lasting immunity than the virus does.
This is true of most vaccines, including things like human papillomavirus (HPV) and tetanus. Immunity created by contracting the virus is often unpredictable, and you will be safer getting fully vaccinated.
Myth #5: COVID is not that big a deal. There’s no reason to get vaccinated for something with such a low mortality rate.
Fact: First, it's important to recognize that getting the vaccine is not just about surviving COVID-19.
It's about preventing spread of the virus to others, preventing the current virus from mutating into something even more deadly, and preventing infection that can lead to long-term negative health effects. While no vaccine is 100% effective, they are far better than not getting a vaccine.
Second, it’s true that we have a better understanding now of how to treat COVID, and far fewer people are dying from the virus. Unfortunately, a virus as contagious as COVID-19 still poses a grave threat to people’s lives because, as more people get sick and need treatment, our hospitals become overwhelmed. Critical supplies run low, fewer beds are available for patients who are critically ill with completely unrelated things, and then fewer people get the care they need to survive anything at all. The most responsible and effective thing we can do to stop the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on our healthcare system is to get vaccinated.
Myth #6: The vaccine will alter your DNA.
Fact: This is not possible.
mRNA vaccines work in the cytoplasm of the cell. They never enter the cell nucleus, which is where your genetic material lives. Plus, the mRNA vaccine is broken down and processed very quickly once it enters the cell and delivers the vaccine ‘message’ to the cell’s machinery. The adenovirus vaccine carries DNA -- its own -- but it does not carry the mechanisms that would be needed to break down, interact with, or in any way change anyone’s DNA.
Myth #7: The vaccine will reduce your fertility.
Fact: There is no evidence that the COVID vaccine has any link to or impact on fertility. In fact, there is no evidence that any vaccine impacts fertility.
Myth #8: I might not be able to afford a vaccine.
Fact: There is no charge for the vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone at no cost, regardless of insurance coverage. Vaccines were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Vaccine providers cannot: charge you for the vaccine; charge you administration fees, copays, or coinsurance for administering the vaccine; deny vaccination to anyone who doesn’t have health insurance, is underinsured, or is out of network; or charge an office visit or other fee if the only service they provided to you is a COVID-19 vaccination.
Myth #9: I’m young and healthy; I don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: Healthy young people are getting COVID.
Some previously healthy young people are even experiencing COVID symptoms months after getting sick, a phenomenon called ‘long COVID.’ And some healthy young people are picking up the virus and spreading it without ever knowing they’re contagious. The safest and most responsible thing you can do for both yourself and your community is to get vaccinated.
Myth #10: The COVID vaccine will give me COVID.
Fact: It is impossible to get COVID-19 from any of the vaccines used in the United States because none of them contains live virus.
Myth #11: I am allergic to eggs so I shouldn't get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: None of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States contain egg, nor were eggs used in their development or production.
However, those with severe allergic reactions to eggs or any other substance (i.e., anaphylaxis) are encouraged to remain at the vaccination site after injection for 30 minutes for observation as a precaution.
Myth #12: The COVID-19 vaccine was developed with or contains controversial substances.
Fact: The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain mRNA, lipids (fats), salts, and a small amount of sugar.
The mRNA in each was produced in a laboratory, not using live cells, and it contains instructions to teach your cells how to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
The lipids act like an envelope. They surround the mRNA, which is very delicate, and keep it safe on the way into your cells.
The liquid part of the vaccine is a saline solution, made up of salts and sugar dissolved into water, and this helps to make the vaccine similar in pH and salinity to our own bodies so that the injection is more comfortable when we receive it.
The Moderna vaccine also contains an acid (acetic acid) and two acid stabilizers (tromethamine and tromethamine hydrochloride), which work together to keep the vaccine stable after production.
The ingredients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are similar; it simply uses an adenovirus, which has been designed to enter the human cell and deliver the instructions to create an immune response without replicating itself or making you ill.
Here is an incomplete list of things that are not in the vaccines:
- Fetal cells
- Blood products, like red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma or platelets
- COVID-19 virus cells
- Latex stoppers
- Pork products
- Sometimes there are microchips on the outside of a syringe so that the professional health care provider delivering the vaccine can scan it quickly for digital records. The world's tiniest microchip is still much too big to insert into an immunization shot.
- Advent Health. (2021, March 12). Coronavirus vaccine: EUA vs. FDA approval. https://www.adventhealth.com/blog/coronavirus-vaccine-eua-vs-fda-approval
- American Academy of Family Physicians. (2021). COVID-19 vaccine myths. https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/patient_care/public_health/COVID19-Vaccine-Myths.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 24). COVID-19 vaccines are free to the public. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/no-cost.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 7). Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 24). Possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html
- Hackethal, V. (2021, March 12). Here's why viral vector vaccines don't alter DNA. MedPage Today. https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/91604
- Haslett, C. (2021, July 27). FDA says it's working 'as quickly as possible' to review for full approval of vaccines. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fda-working-quickly-review-full-approval-vaccines/story?id=79073622
- Johnson & Johnson. (2021, February 27). Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. FDA for emergency use: First single-shot vaccine in fight against global pandemic. https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-covid-19-vaccine-authorized-by-u-s-fda-for-emergency-usefirst-single-shot-vaccine-in-fight-against-global-pandemic
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, December 8). COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/covid-19-vaccine-myths-debunked
- McGee, K. R. (2020, December 18). What are the various ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines? GoodRx. https://www.goodrx.com/covid-19/ingredients-covid-19-vaccine
- Moderna. (2021). Clinical trial data. https://www.modernatx.com/covid19vaccine-eua/providers/clinical-trial-data
- Nebraska Medicine. (2020, December 29). You asked, we answered: Are COVID-19 vaccine ingredients public? https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID/you-asked-we-answered-are-covid-19-vaccine-ingredients-public
- Pfizer. (2020, December 10). Pfizer and BioNTech announce publication of results from landmark phase 3 trial of BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine candidate in The New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-announce-publication-results-landmark
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2021). Debunking common COVID-19 vaccine myths. https://www.danville.va.gov/emergency/Fact_Sheet_Debunking_Vaccine_Myths_General.pdf
- Yan, Holly. (2021, July 19). COVID-19 vaccine myths: These reasons for not getting a shot don't hold up. In fact, they'll set the U.S. back. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/19/health/covid-vaccine-myths-debunked/index.html