Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are one of the best tools we have to help end the current pandemic. While it remains to be seen if the virus will be eradicated from society or become a seasonal occurrence (similar to the flu), having a large number of the population vaccinated will save lives, reduce transmission and help bring the current pandemic under control.

You’ve likely read claims about COVID-19 vaccines on social media or on various sites online that have left you wondering what is true and what is not. We spoke with Tiffany Pankow, MD, associate chief medical officer of HonorHealth Medical Group, who helped set the record straight on the several myths currently circulating about COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccination myths vs facts

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are not safe because they were rapidly developed and tested.

Fact: COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Truly the best and brightest in our scientific fields have reviewed the research to determine the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, which have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in United States history. These vaccines went through all necessary safety processes, and nothing was skipped in their development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to intensively monitor the safety of the millions of people who have now been vaccinated in the U.S.

Learn how federal partners are ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.

Myth: I already had COVID-19 and I have recovered, so I don't need to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Fact: There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. Due to the severe health risks associated with the virus and the fact that re-infection is possible, it’s recommended you get vaccinated even if you’ve had COVID-19 previously. Because the risk of reinfection is believed to be low in the 90 days following COVID-19 infection, you may choose to delay the vaccine during the three months following your illness, but you may still choose to be vaccinated to prevent future infection. You should not get vaccinated if you are in quarantine after exposure or if you currently have COVID-19 symptoms.

Myth: I have been exposed to COVID-19 and still haven’t caught it, so I don’t need to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Fact: There are many reasons why an exposure might not lead to infection. We know certain people are more contagious than others, and people are more contagious at certain times during infection. Just because you’ve been exposed in the past and not gotten sick doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you don’t have an increased risk of developing severe complications. The best way to protect yourself, as well as your loved ones and high-risk members of your community, is through vaccination.

Learn more about your risk for complications.

Myth: If we still need to follow safety protocols after receiving the vaccine, it must not be very effective.

Fact: I feel confident that COVID-19 vaccines will be very effective, but we don’t have the entire community vaccinated, and that’s going to take some time. It’s a matter of timing for the vaccinated individual, as well. Regardless of which vaccine you receive, there is a delay before your body’s immune system is able to mount an adequate response and provide you with the protection you need. There is also a potential that though you may not develop symptoms after vaccination, you might be able to transmit it to others. There are ongoing studies to help clarify this, but in the meantime it’s important to continue with precautions, such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and washing hands frequently. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading the virus as well as putting an end to the pandemic.

Read the latest prevention guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines have severe side effects.

Fact: Ongoing vaccine monitoring efforts are reassuring – COVID-19 vaccines have short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury. While some people don’t have any side effects after getting the vaccine, many people will have mild side effects, like pain or swelling at the injection site, a headache, chills or fever. These reactions are normal and are the result of the immune system response, and they are more common after the second dose. A very small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction (called “anaphylaxis”) after vaccination, but this is extremely rare, and when it does happen, vaccination providers have medicines available they can use to effectively and immediately treat the reaction. You will be asked to stay for 15 to 30 minutes after you get your vaccine so you can be observed and provided treatment in the rare case it is needed.

Learn more about what side effects you can expect.

Myth: The COVID-19 mortality rate is only 1-2%, so I don’t need to be vaccinated against something with such a high survival rate.

Fact: People often equate COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, but the mortality rate is actually much higher. While the mortality rate may only be 1% in certain groups of people, it’s much higher in other groups, especially among older adults. We’ve seen people with no underlying health conditions get very sick with COVID-19, or even die, so the truth is you just don’t know how it’s going to affect you.

Myth: The vaccine won’t be effective against the many variants now circulating in the U.S., so I should wait until better vaccines are available.

Fact: You may have heard of new strains of the COVID-19 virus. Viruses mutate all the time, and that’s another reason to get people fully immunized as quickly as possible. Viruses can’t mutate as easily if they are not spreading and replicating. By receiving your vaccine, you’ll not only protect those around you from getting the disease, but you may also help prevent the further emergence of variants. Although the vaccines we have today potentially could be somewhat less effective against new variants in terms of preventing all symptoms, we believe they do prevent many mild to moderate cases, and are effective against preventing severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths. I really think it’s amazing to have a vaccine that is 94-95% effective. It’s one of the best vaccines in terms of efficacy out there.

Learn more about ongoing research of COVID-19 variants.




Next steps

The choice is yours to make. If you have additional questions before you make a decision, please talk to your healthcare provider.

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