After a difficult pandemic year, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight: there are currently three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States, with the potential for more on the way.
It is important that people who can get the vaccine do so. Once enough of our population is vaccinated, the virus will have trouble spreading. This works in the same way as childhood vaccines that keep measles, polio and other diseases under control.
Although safety has been the top priority throughout the vaccine trials, some people are worried about getting vaccinated because they have heard or read false information.
You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccines because they do not contain a live virus. Some people do exhibit side effects from the vaccine - most commonly body aches, fatigue and headache - but these side effects are because your body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, which is learn how to recognize and fight off the virus! When side effects appear, they typically last only for a day or two.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Causes Infertility
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects pregnancy (including placenta development) or causes future fertility problems.
I Will Test Positive for SARS CoV-2, the Virus Causing COVID-19, After Receiving the Vaccine
None of the vaccines that are currently authorized for emergency use in the United States, nor any of the vaccines that are still in clinical trials, will cause a positive result on viral tests. Once your body develops an immune response to SARS CoV-2, which is the goal of the vaccine, you generally will test positive for antibodies. A positive antibody test shows that you either had a previous natural infection or appropriately responded to the vaccine and now have protection against the virus.
I Don’t Need To be Vaccinated if I Had COVID-19
We don’t yet know how long antibodies will remain in the body to protect you from the virus and because it is (rare but) possible to get infected again, it’s important to get vaccinated. If you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you’ll need to wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Check with your physician about what treatment you received.
If I’m a Healthy Person, It’s Better to Take My Chances and Skip the Vaccine
Statistically, getting vaccinated is much safer than risking infection. COVID-19 affects everybody differently and there is no way to predict how sick a person can get. Very healthy people have become extremely ill (and in some cases, died) and people with lots of chronic health conditions have experienced no symptoms at all. Avoid rolling the dice by getting the vaccine: you’ll protect not only yourself but friends, family members and everyone else around you.
A Vaccine Won’t Prevent Me from Getting Sick with COVID-19
The vaccine was built for this very purpose. Because we don’t know how each individual might be affected by the virus, it’s important to get vaccinated. Should you happen to be one of the few people who contract the virus after being fully vaccinated, you will likely have very minor symptoms, rather than severe complications that lead to a hospital stay, and possibly, death.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Will Alter My DNA
Your DNA will not change after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The two vaccine varieties currently being used, messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and viral vector vaccines, aren’t structured to affect DNA. Vaccines teach our bodies how to naturally defend us from germs by causing an immune response.
The vaccines that are currently being used are very safe and have been proven to prevent major illness and death. If everyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine does so, we’ll be protecting ourselves and each other, while we gradually become able to participate once again in many of our favorite activities.
William J. Barson, MD, is chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases and director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is professor emeritus of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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