Updated: Feb 23, 2021
10 Questions About the COVID Vaccine Explained
There is a lot of information out there about the COVID vaccine, some accurate and evidence-based, some not so much. It can be hard to filter through what is or isn't true about the COVID vaccine. Fear can be a crippling phenomenon that sometimes makes us do things that may not be in our best interest or of those around us. So here I will give you the evidence-based information about your most pressing concerns about the COVID vaccine.
CONCERN #1: IT WAS DEVELOPED TOO QUICKLY.
It may have appeared that the COVID vaccine popped up just as quickly as COVID-19 did and too quickly for us to have good information about it. However, there are a few reasons things happened so quickly:
The mRNA technology that was used to make the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has actually existed for more than a decade and is not new in the vaccine development field. The mRNA technology has been studied for use with other viral diseases, including Zika virus, rabies virus, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Because the technology was already being studied, scientists were able to apply it quickly to the new SARS-CoV-2 virus that had emerged on the scene and was killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Immediate funding from government and the private sector (because people were dying in droves) allowed many of the clinical trials to occur at the same time, rather than one after the other, which is how clinical trials typically are designed.
Usually, the most time-consuming part of vaccine development is scaling up production and ensuring quality control. Production usually starts after clinical trials have concluded. However, due to the time constraints (and thousands of people dying across the world every day), this phase started at the same time as human clinical trials with the COVID vaccine, in order to be ready immediately after safety and efficacy was shown in trials.
Most importantly, the COVID vaccines that have been approved thus far have undergone the same rigorous testing and human clinical trials as all other vaccines on the market and have demonstrated safety and efficacy. More than 90,000 people volunteered for these vaccine trials (you may know someone who was in these trials). The Pfizer vaccine reduced disease by 95% and the Moderna vaccine by 94% after volunteers completed two doses and both vaccines showed overall safety.
2. I'M WORRIED THE VACCINE WILL GIVE ME COVID-19.
The mRNA vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 because they do not contain any living virus. The vaccine contains dead material from the virus, which teaches your immune system to recognize and fight the virus should you come into contact with the real virus in the future.
While some people may experience side effects, ranging from arm pain, body aches, chills, fever, and headache, these are signs your immune system is working, not symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms are the expected and healthy reaction to the vaccine and should subside in at little as a few hours to a few days at most.
Also, keep in mind, that it takes your immune system a few weeks to build immunity after vaccination. That means it is possible for a person to become infected with COVID-19 just before or just after receiving a vaccine before your body has had the chance to build up immunity against the virus. This is why it is important to continue masking and social distancing, even after receiving your COVID-19 vaccine.
3. I'M WORRIED IT WILL CHANGE MY DNA.
The COVID (mRNA) vaccine does not change or interact with your DNA in any way. All living beings are made up of DNA and RNA (including the chicken, beef, vegetables, etc that you eat). The mRNA, or messenger RNA in the vaccine serves only to make the vaccine uniquely identifiable as SARS-CoV2 so your body knows what to look for if it should come into contact with the real virus. This way, your body will know exactly how to attack the real virus, efficiently and effectively, if it should ever dare to show up in your body.
4. I DON'T WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE SIDE EFFECTS.
This is a valid concern and one that may take some will power and really weighing the risks and benefits on your part. No one can force you to do anything that you are not comfortable with or prepared for. Consider that there is a possibility that, at worst, you may feel a little crappy for a few hours to a day or so after getting your vaccine. But also consider how crappy you would feel if you actually got COVID, which at worst, could lead to hospitalization, being put on a ventilator, or death. Or consider if you passed COVID onto your loved ones.
Some people may experience brief side effects, ranging from arm pain where you received the shot, fatigue, fever, headache, body aches, and chills. Others may experience little to no side effects. These side effects of the vaccine are normal signs that your body's immune system is working hard at building protection against COVID. These side effects, if experienced, are most typically seen after the 2nd dose of vaccine.
Other occurrences, such as anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) have been recorded but are still the exception. As of January 13, 2021, 4.5 out of 1,000,000 experienced an anaphylactic reaction. However, no one has died from anaphylaxis to the COVID vaccine. This type of reaction, while rare, is the main reason you will be monitored for 15 minutes after receiving your COVID vaccine. A history of an anaphylactic reaction does not mean you should not get your COVID vaccine, but you should consult with your doctor first to make sure you are appropriately prepared.
There have been reports of deaths that have occurred after receiving a COVID vaccine, most were in elderly living in nursing homes or similar long-term care facilities. However, so far, none have not been attributed directly to the vaccine. Some of these deaths are still being investigated, but all cases, so far, have been attributed to underlying conditions.
It is important to keep in mind that there will always be illness among people, so when a large enough group of people have received the vaccine, there is bound to be some illness reported. It is important to follow through and determine if these illnesses or deaths are actually due to the vaccine, due to an underlying condition unrelated to receiving a vaccine, due to an underlying condition triggered by receiving a vaccine, or just coincidentally occurred around the same time as receiving a vaccine.
5. I AM PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING AND WORRIED ABOUT WHAT IT COULD DO TO MY BABY.
The CDC and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) state that pregnant or breastfeeding women should not be excluded from vaccination if eligible for vaccination. Women who were pregnant or breastfeeding were excluded from the initial trials; however, Pfizer recently started a COVID vaccine trial in pregnant women. Furthermore, pregnant women should potentially be a special consideration, given the increased risk of more severe disease in pregnant women who contract COVID-19. Preliminary animal studies have shown no harmful effects and, to date, there have been no reports of harm to the fetus or any issues with development in pregnant women who have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine(s).
As for breastfeeding mothers, according to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), "except for smallpox and yellow fever vaccines, neither inactivated nor live-virus vaccines administered to a lactating woman affect the safety of breastfeeding for women or their infants". Inactivated vaccines, such as the COVID vaccine, "pose no risk for mothers who are breastfeeding or for their infants". Furthermore, breastfeeding mothers pass healthy antibodies (once formed) to their baby through continued breastfeeding. Even mothers who have COVID disease are encouraged to continue to breastfeed for this reason.
6. I ALREADY HAD COVID-19 SO I DON'T NEED THE VACCINE.
Those who previously had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. Antibodies from natural COVID-19 infection are estimated to last approximately 2-4 months in the body. However, the vaccine may offer longer lasting and continued protection even when these natural antibodies are no longer offering protection. There have been some reports of people contracting COVID-19 for a second time a few months after initial infection.
For these reasons, the CDC states that individuals who have already had COVID-19 infection may choose to wait 90 days after infection. However, it is safe to get the vaccine as soon as their quarantine or isolation period has ended. On the other hand, if you received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of your COVID-19 treatment, you should wait at least 90 days after receiving this type of treatment before getting your vaccine.
7. I NEVER GET A FLU SHOT AND I'VE NEVER HAD THE FLU. WHY SHOULD I GET A COVID VACCINE?
So, the flu can be deadly and you should probably get your flu vaccine as well, but that's a conversation for another day. But compared to the flu, COVID-19 has shown to be a much deadlier illness. COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is just no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you contract COVID-19, regardless of how sick you are, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you, and you don't know how it could affect them either.
As of February 21, 2021, more than 28 million people have had COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 500,000 people have died from COVID-19. By comparison, during the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S., about 38 million people had the flu and about 22,000 people died of the flu. So, more people got the flu but far less died because COVID is a much deadlier virus.
If not for yourself, think of your loved ones, young and old. Think of your co-workers, your neighbors, and anyone else you may come into contact with. You don't want to contribute to the death toll that COVID has left behind; but you can do something to help stop it.
8. IT WILL HURT. NOBODY LIKES GETTING SHOTS.
For this I can only speak from personal experience and of those of my coworkers and loved ones who have received their vaccines. Yes, it may pinch, but this was actually the least painful vaccine I have ever received. It felt like almost nothing and I even wondered if I had actually received the vaccine, until I had some soreness later. And, in the grand scheme of things, the little pinch for all the good it will cause, for you and everyone around you, is worth it.
9. THE VACCINE WON'T PROTECT ME 100% FROM GETTING COVID.
While it is true that neither COVID vaccine currently available is 100% effective against preventing COVID disease, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are 50% effective after the 1st dose and 94-95% effective after the 2nd dose. That's pretty darn close to 100% and more effective than many other vaccines on the market (the flu vaccine, for example, is anywhere from 20-70% effective year-to-year). Not to mention, for the 5-6% who may still contract COVID after receiving vaccination, the illness should be much milder and the vaccines have been extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID.
10. I DON'T TRUST VACCINES OR THE MEDICAL FIELD IN GENERAL.
There are some of you out there who fall into this category, and understandably so, given some of the history of medicine in our country. My best advise for you is, if you have not found a doctor or medical professional up to this point that you trust, find someone else that you trust that can give you sound advice. This may be a friend or colleague in the medical field, this may be a loved one who has already received their vaccine, this may be a Facebook group. Don't be afraid to ask questions, ask people about their experiences, and ask them where they got their information.
And even if you never take medication, you avoid the doctor's office like the plaque, and you will never get another vaccine again, this is THE ONE (or two) in your lifetime that you should consider. All vaccines save lives, but at the rate that COVID is killing people, the life you save may be closer than you make think. That life could be yours! That life could be one of your loved ones! Just think about it, talk about it, and consider getting your COVID vaccine so we can end this killer of a disease.
All content on this website, including medical opinion and any other health-related information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this website and the information contained does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor before starting any specific treatment plan.