With the widening availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Montana, many people have questions and apprehensions about their development, how they work, and their safety. Right now, there is a ton of information and misinformation swirling around on the internet, and it can be difficult to decipher what’s fact and what’s myth.
At Community Health Partners, we want to provide our communities in Montana with the most accurate information possible about the available COVID-19 vaccines. We’ve compiled some of the most common myths about the vaccines and responded to them with factual research from from our health care providers, as well as sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC), John Hopkins Medicine, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Gallatin City-County Health Department.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine development was rushed, and the vaccines haven’t been thoroughly tested yet, so we can’t trust them to be safe or effective.
Fact: According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. In the United States, 89.2 million people have now been fully vaccinated, with very few negative incidents as a result. For example, anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination is rare and has occurred in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the U.S. Any adverse events are reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). To date, VAERS has not detected patterns in cause of death that would indicate a safety problem with COVID-19 vaccines.
Support: Studies found that the two initial vaccines are both about 95% effective — and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. The vaccines have also been tested on a significant amount of people. In the Pfizer clinical trials, approximately 20,000 individuals 16 years of age and older received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. In the Moderna clinical trials, approximately 15,400 individuals 18 years of age and older received at least one dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. In trials for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, the vaccine showed 100% efficacy in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
John Hopkins Medicine reported some of the many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed so quickly:
The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years so that the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic.
China isolated and shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
Some types of COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), which allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
Social media helped companies find and engage study volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
Companies began making vaccines early in the process — even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines can affect women’s fertility.
Fact: According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
Support: In fact, during the Pfizer vaccine trials, 23 female volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.
Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impacts on pregnancy and the mother’s health. CHP encourages women to reach out to their primary care providers to discuss other questions they have about COVID-19 as it relates to fertility, pregnancy, or breastfeeding.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines give you COVID-19 and can cause you to test positive for it.
Fact: None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the United States have the virus that causes COVID-19 in them. However, if you happen to get infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after you received the vaccine, you could still get COVID-19. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection from the virus.
Support: Sometimes people get a fever or feel tired for a day or so after getting a vaccine. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. It usually takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination.
The COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on a viral test (like a swab test) that looks for current COVID-19 infection. You may test positive on an antibody test. This is because one of the ways that vaccines work is to teach your body to make antibodies.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.
Fact: According to the CDC, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
Support: Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease.
Myth: If you’ve had COVID-19, you don’t need to get vaccinated.
Fact: Getting vaccinated is still recommended, even if you’ve had COVID-19. But you may not need to get vaccinated right away. If you have had COVID-19, you may delay 90 days before getting the vaccine.
Support: The reason is that natural infection immunity seems to wear out after two to three months. We are hoping that the vaccine will provide longer-lasting immunity. So far, the antibody responses to the vaccine seem to last longer than the antibody responses to natural infection.
Myth: Once you get vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask or social distance anymore.
Fact: You will still need to follow the critical public health protocols until public health officials say otherwise.
Support: Here’s why:
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, given 3-4 weeks apart.
The effect of a vaccine is not immediate. Your immune system needs time to build up antibodies in order to fight off the virus.
You are expected to have some level of protection after the first dose, but full protection may not come for weeks after the second dose – up to two months or more after your first dose.
It will likely still take several months to get vaccines to hundreds of millions of people.
Research is still being conducted on whether those individuals that have received vaccines can still spread the virus.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines in Montana, visit CHP’s COVID-19 Information Page. Have questions about your eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other available vaccines? Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider at your local CHP clinic today.