Fact Check: A Look at the Most Common COVID-19 Vaccine Myths, Debunked

Key Takeaways
  • The COVID-19 vaccines are absolutely safe and effective in protecting individuals from the virus.

  • The vaccines were developed extremely quickly thanks to decades of research that had been done previously, specifically on coronaviruses.

  • Stay up to date on the latest developments for COVID-19 vaccines and research by visiting the CDC website.

Vaccines have been saving lives since the development of the smallpox vaccine (over 200 years ago). But no matter how irrefutable the science and data are, vaccine hesitancy continues to be a significant problem. This is because “herd immunity” only works when a large percentage of a population proactively gets vaccinated to ward off disease. The World Health Organization classifies vaccine hesitancy as one of the ten leading threats to global health.[1] In the case of COVID-19, misinformation has spread far and wide, creating huge barriers to keeping entire communities safe. Keep reading to see the most common COVID-19 vaccine myths, debunked.

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

Fact: Researchers were not starting from scratch when they learned about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This virus is a member of the coronavirus family, and there are hundreds of coronaviruses, which scientists have been studying for over 50 years. While vaccines typically take 10-15 years to develop, the global pandemic called on researchers around the world to fast-track COVID-19 clinical trials. Additionally, major health institutions stepped up to invest more funding in the development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines.[2,3]

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines will make you sick with the virus.

Fact: Authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States do not contain the live virus, which means that they cannot infect you with COVID-19. This includes the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. These vaccines are designed to teach your immune system how to recognize and fight off SARS-CoV-2.[4]

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA.

Fact: COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that instruct your body to make proteins that trigger an immune response against COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs only in the way that these instructions. Instead of using mRNA, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a disabled adenovirus (a completely different virus) to deliver the instructions in no way related to the coronavirus. The advantage here is that a single dose of this vaccine can effectively deliver the instructions to the body without replicating, as opposed to getting two doses of an mRNA vaccine.[5,6]

Myth: There are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Fact: When getting vaccinated, you may experience some mild side effects, such as injection site pain, fatigue, fever, or chills. This is normal and indicates that the body is effectively building up its defenses against the virus that causes COVID-19.[7,8]

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines don’t work because you can still get the virus after being vaccinated.

Fact: Just like flu vaccines, COVID vaccines protect most people from contracting the virus. A small percentage of people will still have “breakthrough cases”, in which they may or may not experience symptoms. But being vaccinated can help reduce the severity of those symptoms. The bottom line: when you’re fully vaccinated, your risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as hospitalization and death due to the virus, is much lower than that of unvaccinated people.[9,10,11]

Myth: The current COVID-19 vaccines don’t protect against variants of the virus.

Fact: The Delta variant is now the most common COVID-19 variant (accounting for more than 99% of all cases) and is twice as contagious as the original strain. And while research does suggest that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against variants, there is evidence that shows the vaccines still provide protection against severe COVID-19.[12,13]

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips to control the general population.

Fact: COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ant software, microchips, magnets, or Bluetooth technology. It is also scientifically impossible to make a microchip that is small enough to fit through a hypodermic needle and capable of tracking someone’s location.[14]

Myth: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fact: The CDC recommends that all people twelve years and older get vaccinated, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can protect these individuals from severe illness and help them build up antibodies that might also protect their babies.[15,16]

References

  1. Ten threats to global health in 2019. (2019). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019
  2. Travis, K. (2021, June 29). How COVID-19 vaccines were made so quickly without cutting corners. Science News. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-coronavirus-vaccine-development-speed
  3. COVID-19 Vaccination. (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/distributing/steps-ensure-safety.html
  4. COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: 12 Things You Need to Know. (2021). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid19-vaccine-hesitancy-12-things-you-need-to-know
  5. Check, R. F. (2021, August 13). Fact Check-Controversial MIT study does not show that mRNA vaccines alter DNA. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-coronavirus-vaccines/fact-check-controversial-mit-study-does-not-show-that-mrna-vaccines-alter-dna-idUSL1N2PK1DC
  6. The COVID-19 vaccine does not change human DNA. (2021). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/montenegro/en/stories/covid-19-vaccine-does-not-change-human-dna
  7. What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. (2021, November 3). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html
  8. What are the vaccines’ side effects? (2021, June 3). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine-side-effects
  9. Aschwanden, C. (2021). Five Reasons Why COVID Herd Immunity is Probably Impossible. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00728-2
  10. Xu S, Huang R, Sy LS, et al. COVID-19 Vaccination and Non–COVID-19 Mortality Risk — Seven Integrated Health Care Organizations, United States, December 14, 2020–July 31, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1520–1524. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7043e2
  11. Joseph, A. (2021, September 1). Study: Vaccination Lowers Long Covid Risk, Even When People Are Infected. STAT. https://www.statnews.com/2021/09/01/vaccination-reduces-risk-long-covid-even-when-people-are-infected-study/
  12. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html
  13. Katella, K. (2021, November 19). 5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant. Yale Medicine. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid
  14. Check, R. F. (2021, May 28). Fact Check-Pictured microchip is unrelated to COVID-19 vaccine. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-microchip-vaccine/fact-check-pictured-microchip-is-unrelated-to-covid-19-vaccine-idUSL2N2NF0XQ
  15. COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant People to Prevent Serious Illness, Deaths, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes from COVID-19. (2021, September 29). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00453.asp
  16. Why Pregnant Women Should Get the COVID-19 Vaccine. (2021, October 12). Tufts Now. https://now.tufts.edu/articles/why-pregnant-women-should-get-covid-19-vaccine

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.