Vaccine Myths and Facts: Questions and Answers

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Vaccine Effectiveness

Is an unvaccinated person more likely to experience severe illness, hospitalization, and/or death from COVID-19 than someone who is fully vaccinated and boosted?

Yes. Data from the recent Omicron variant surge showed that adults who were age 50 to 64 years, unvaccinated, and had a COVID-19 infection were 45 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were fully vaccinated and had received one booster. These patterns hold for those who are under 50.

If I have already had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine in order to be protected from severe illness, hospitalization or death?

Yes. Extensive scientific evidence shows that being fully vaccinated, and receiving necessary boosters, is the best protection against getting COVID-19, whether you have already had the virus or not. Experts do not yet know how long natural immunity protects you. Further, vaccination provides a higher level of immunity than infection. Finally, getting vaccinated also protects others by reducing the spread of the virus.

Some people get COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated. Does this mean it is not worth getting vaccinated?

No. Even though people may experience a breakthrough infection, vaccination substantially reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. The vaccines are 90 to 95 percent effective in preventing these outcomes.


Vaccine Boosters

Will there continue to be new variants of coronavirus?

Yes. Variants are expected because viruses constantly change through mutation. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. All variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are being tracked in the United States and globally during this pandemic. The best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection by taking measures to protect yourself, including getting fully vaccinated and receiving recommended boosters.

Why are boosters needed?

Boosters are needed because the effectiveness of the currently available vaccines decline over time. If coronavirus is still spreading, and/or if new variants begin circulating, the vaccines need to be “boosted” to provide continued protection.
Who should receive boosters? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all people age five who have been fully vaccinated receive at least one booster when they are eligible. Those age 50+ and those who are 12+ who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems should receive a second booster when eligible. For more information, visit the CDC’s guidance.

How many times should people expect to have to get boosters, and will vaccines be available to do this?

Vaccine experts do not know yet how many more boosters will be needed to address COVID-19. But vaccine researchers and manufacturers are monitoring this closely and prepared to develop and roll out any necessary and updated boosters. Researchers are also working to develop vaccines that provide more durable protection that does not require boosters.


Vaccine Safety

Some people have side effects when they get the COVID-19 vaccines and/or boosters. Are these dangerous?

No. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can have side effects, but the vast majority are very short term—not serious or dangerous. The vaccine developers report that some people experience pain where they were injected; body aches; headaches or fever, lasting for a day or two. These are signs that the vaccine is working to stimulate your immune system. If symptoms persist beyond two days, you should call your doctor.
Although very low risk, due to potential blood clots following administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC updated its recommendations in December 2021. The CDC noted that the two mRNA vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which remains available for those who prefer it and for use in certain circumstances.
If you have allergies—especially severe ones that require you to carry an EpiPen—discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with your doctor, who can assess your risk and provide more information about if and how you can get vaccinated safely.

Do the vaccines cause infertility and/or disrupt menstrual cycles?

No. There is no evidence the vaccines cause infertility or disrupt menstrual cycles. However, COVID-19 infections can impact menstruation.

Do the vaccines alter human DNA?

No. COVID-19 Vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA (mRNA) does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA causes the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down—without affecting your DNA.

Are the vaccines safe for pregnant people and their babies?

Yes.All currently approved COVID-19 vaccines have been recommended for use by people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Indeed, not getting vaccinated, and consequently getting COVID-19, poses a serious risk to the pregnancy and the mother’s health. None of the vaccines cause infection, including in pregnant people or their babies. Data from safety monitoring systems did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine late in pregnancy, or for their babies. Scientists have not found an increased risk for miscarriage among people who received an mRNA vaccine just before and during early pregnancy (before 20 weeks of pregnancy). Vaccination of pregnant people builds antibodies that might protect their baby.

The messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccine seems like it is untested. Is it safe?

Yes. The mRNA technology behind the new coronavirus vaccines has been in development for almost 20 years. Vaccine makers created the technology to help them respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, such as COVID-19.

Do the vaccines contain microchips and/or tracking devices, or fetal tissue?

No. Vaccines are developed to fight against disease and not to track your movement. Vaccines work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease, without having to get the disease first.

Is there sufficient safety monitoring?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are being held to the same high safety standards as other routine vaccines. After any vaccines are authorized and in use, both FDA and CDC continue to monitor their safety. Existing systems have been scaled up and can rapidly detect possible vaccine safety problems. These include:

  • V-safe—A new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients after vaccination.
  • Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)—The national system, VAERS, collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public of health problems that happen after vaccination. Reports of health problems that have unusual patterns are followed up with specific studies.

The vaccines were developed quickly. Were they properly tested?

Yes. Researchers were able to fast-track these vaccines because they had already made progress developing vaccines for other types of coronaviruses, such as the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2012 MERS outbreak. Researchers also used existing clinical trial networks to quickly conduct COVID-19 vaccine trials. Another critical factor has been the rapid investment in vaccine manufacturing, while research was being performed to prove vaccine effectiveness and safety.


Vaccinating Children

Are children at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and should they be vaccinated?

Yes. Although children and youth tend to fare better than older adults, the disease still affects them. Vaccines have been approved and are available for children starting at age six months.
Hundreds of children have died since the start of the pandemic, and thousands have been hospitalized. Thousands have developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which effects multiple organ systems, including the heart. Also, COVID has forced many children to miss play-dates, time with grandparents, school, and activities. Fully vaccinating and boosting eligible children is a key measure in protecting them and those around them.

Is it safer for my child to get COVID-19 than to get the vaccine?

No. The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks. Getting vaccinated can protect your child from getting COVID-19. It can also protect your child from severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term complications if they do get COVID-19. In the vaccine clinical trials that were conducted on thousands of children, side effects were mild and did not have any lasting effects. Some children will not have any side effects and serious side effects are rare.


Mental Health Conditions

Are certain mental health conditions a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection?

Yes. Having mood disorders, including depression, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders can make you more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. For more information, follow this link.


Ethnic and Racial Disparities

Are some racial and ethnic groups at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and/or death?

Yes. People of color have experienced a disproportionate burden of cases and deaths. They have shown particularly large disparities in cases and deaths for Black and American Indian and Alaska Native people and in cases among Hispanic people compared to their White counterparts.


Long Haul COVID

Can those who had mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 infection still develop Long Haul COVID?

Yes. Between 10 and 30 percent of people who have had a COVID-19 infection will develop Long Haul COVID (or Long COVID). This includes people who had mild or asymptomatic infections. Long COVID can result in a range of physical and mental symptoms which present four to eight weeks after acute infection. There are a range of symptoms because COVID-19 impacts all organ systems, including the brain. These symptoms can be debilitating in some people. Researchers are working to better understand Long Haul COVID. For more information about Long COVID, visit the CDC website. For information about specialized post-COVID care clinics follow this link.


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