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Fact vs. fiction: Understanding the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine

April 8, 2021
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A single bottle vial of Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in a research medical lab.

Fact vs. fiction: Understanding the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine

Rumors and misinformation have led many to believe that the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t safe. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass DPH) have made it clear: These rumors are false.

Here are the facts: The CDC says1 that vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. The FDA has declared that it has passed high safety standards. The CDC says that the vaccine cannot change your DNA.

Keep reading to learn more details about how the vaccine was made. You will also learn why the FDA has approved the safety of these vaccines.

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines.

The CDC1 says that you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines.1 And they do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. After receiving the vaccine, people may have a sore arm, a mild fever, headache, or chills. This is completely normal and a sign that the vaccine and your immune system are working, the CDC says.

This CDC article1 explains that there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines currently in use.

The CDC says that the messenger RNA or mRNA vaccine1 contains harmless pieces of virus genetic information. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are examples of mRNA vaccines. Scientists and researchers have been studying and using1 mRNA vaccines for many years. These vaccines use that information to prime your immune system to fight COVID.

The CDC says that the other type of vaccine contains pieces of coronavirus information within a different, harmless virus. This type is called a viral vector vaccine.1 The virus in this vaccine is not live or active. It cannot reproduce in your body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an example of a viral vector vaccine. Scientists have been using these types of vaccines since the 1970s, the CDC says.1 The viral vector also uses that information to prime your immune system to fight COVID.

The CDC says that you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines. And they do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC says1 that both vaccine types teach your body how to recognize and fight COVID-19. In a way, the vaccine gives your body instructions on how to fend it off. The vaccines do not contain COVID virus and cannot give you COVID. Your body will remember these instructions if you are infected in the future. These instructions, or immune response, can last for different periods of time. We are still learning how long the protection from the vaccines will last you.

Do keep in mind that if you get the vaccine, it takes a few weeks to work in your body. So you should continue to take precautions right after you get your shot because you won’t be protected right away.

Read this CDC article to learn more.1

Researchers have been studying coronaviruses for years.

Some people think the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be trusted because the science is too new. But Mass DPH explains1 that it is not. They say experts have been studying coronavirus outbreaks for a long time. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus.1

Research increased during the 2002 SARS outbreak and the 2012 MERS outbreak. Both SARS and MERS are types of coronavirus. Watch this Mass DPH video for more.1

The information experts learned from these past coronavirus outbreaks helped them to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, Mass DPH says. This meant scientists weren’t starting from scratch.

In short, years of research helped scientists create COVID-19 vaccines quickly.

COVID-19 vaccines have been tested and meet high safety standards.

While COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, the process to test them for safety and efficacy was thorough. Mass DPH explains1 that the timeline was sped up, but never cut corners on safety. The FDA made sure the trials were held to the same rigorous standards as other vaccines have been through time. All FDA-approved vaccines have been thoroughly tested and meet very high safety standards. This FDA article1 clearly outlines the vaccine development process.

There are many reasons why COVID-19 vaccines were developed and distributed quickly. One key reason is that scientists already had helpful information, as we mentioned above.

Another reason the vaccine was developed quickly is that many people volunteered for vaccine trials, according to Mass DPH.1 The large number of volunteers helped move testing along faster than ever before. 

All FDA-approved vaccines have been thoroughly tested and meet very high safety standards. 

A third reason is that drug companies began manufacturing the vaccine right away. They did this while they waited for emergency use approval. This decision sped up the production process, Mass DPH explains.1 It meant that as soon as the FDA approved the vaccine for emergency use, doses were ready to distribute.

Watch this video1 by Mass DPH to learn more. You can also read this Mass DPH article.1

COVID-19 vaccines cannot change your DNA.

You may have seen information claiming that COVID-19 vaccines alter your DNA. These claims are false. The CDC says1 is not possible for any of the available vaccines to change your DNA. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Resources

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. If you still have questions about vaccine safety, please talk to your primary care doctor.    

Be sure to question any rumors you hear. Where did the information come from? Can the source of the information be trusted? These are important questions to ask.

If you still have questions, read our most recent article:

COVID-19 Vaccine Questions About Safety and Side Effects – Our Experts Answer Your Most Pressing Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Here are some other websites you can read to learn more about vaccine safety:

1 When you click this link, you will leave the Commonwealth Care Alliance website.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control; Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Mass DPH Twitter; Food and Drug Administration

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