As of 04/2022
- As of April 2022, there are three new variants. Variants XD and XF are combinations of Delta and Omicron BA.1 (Deltacron) strains. These are primarily in European countries. Variant XE is a recombinant strain of the original Omicron BA.1 and the newer Omicron BA.2. Variant XE was first detect in the UK on January 19th, 2022. Preliminary data shows that the XE variant is 10% more transmissible than the already more-transmissible BA.2 variant, however public health experts are not anticipating a rapid spread.
- The CDC announced in mid-March 2022 that the BA.2 Omicron Variant is 30% more transmissible than the original BA.1 Omicron strain and has become the dominant strain in new cases in the US.
- The Omicron Variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24th, 2021. It was known to multiple and transmit faster than the Delta variant but is associated with less severe symptoms. Although it is associated with a 51% less risk of hospitalization, the overall high rate of spread as well as evasion of double vaccination is of concern. The symptoms of loss of smell/taste is less common. Patients are expected to experience asymptomatic infection, body aches, cough, fainting, fatigue, fever, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, and a unique symptom of night sweats.
- Many COVID-19 variants have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic, and the most concerning right now is the Delta Variant which has been found to be nearly twice as contagious as previous variants, meaning they will likely spread faster.
- This is mainly a concern for unvaccinated individuals. Although breakthrough infections (COVID infections in those who are already fully vaccinated) do occur, they are much less likely to occur than infections in those who have not been vaccinated at all or who have not fully finished their vaccine schedule (2 weeks after their second shot of Moderna or Pfizer, or 2 weeks after their first Johnson&Johnson shot). This is why it is imperative to get vaccinated and continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded areas outdoors.
- Due to limited research it is a challenge to determine how effective the vaccines are against the Delta variant.
- For Pfizer after two full doses, one study in England showed 88% efficacy against symptomatic disease, and 96% against hospitalizations. A study in Scotland showed 79% overall, one in Israel showed 64% overall, and one in India showed 88% overall.
- For Moderna, there was one lab that showed the vaccine was effective against the Delta variant, although they did not give a specific percentage.
- For Johnson & Johnson, one recent study shows 85% efficacy against the delta variant, another does not give a specific percentage but shows a “strong antibody neutralizing response” with improvement over time.
Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized or approved for use in the US to prevent COVID-19. Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna are preferred over Johnson & Johnson Janssen.
Who can get a booster?
Primary Series: PFIZER-BIONTECH or MODERNA
- Who should get one booster? 12+ years old
- Who can get a second booster? 50+ years old
- When should you get your booster? First booster at least 5 months after completing primary vaccination series. Second booster at least 4 months after first booster.
- Which booster should you get? Adults 18+ should get mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) for first and second boosters. Teens 12-17 years old may only get Pfizer.
Primary Series: JOHNSON & JOHNSON’S JANSSEN
- Who should get one booster? 18+ years old
- Who can get a second booster? Anyone who receive J&J for both their primary dose and booster AND adults 50+ years old who first received J&J regardless of what type of booster they received
- When should you get your booster? First booster at least 2 months after J&J vaccination. Second booster at least 4 months after first booster.
- Which booster should you get? For the first booster, mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are preferred in most situation. Second booster must be mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine.
How do I schedule my booster?
If you need help scheduling your booster, first contact the location that set up your prior appointments to see if they are offering the booster. If you need to get your booster in a different location from where you received your previous vaccination, please use the following link: https://www.vaccines.gov/.
Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.
What should I expect during my appointment?
- Bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card. If you did not receive a card or misplaced your card, contact the vaccination site where you got your first dose or your state health department for next steps.
- Be aware of the potential side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine. The common ones can be found here.
At-Home Test Kits
Test Yourself DC
Test Yourself is a COVID-19 At Home Testing Kit that allows you take a COVID-19 test at home without having to wait in line at a testing site. It is intended for self-collection of anterior nasal swabs from individuals 18+, 14+ with adult supervision, or 2+ with adult assistance.
If you are in DC, once you have your testing kit, follow the instructions on this website to take your test at home.
- The cost of the Test Yourself kit is FREE.
- Drop off occurs at the closest DC library drop box. Find a location here.
- The turnaround time for the testing is 3-5 days.
Self-Testing Home Tests (Rapid COVID-19 Tests Anywhere)
Self-tests for COVID-19 give rapid results and can be taken anywhere.
- Order free tests here. Free tests can also be ordered through your local health department.
- When should I consider using an at-home COVID-19 test?
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms (test immediately)
- If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 (test 5 days after exposure and against after 1-2 days post-first test)
- If you are going to an indoor event or gathering (test immediately before as close to time of event as possible)
- Follow these instructions if you test positive.
- Follow these instructions if you test negative.
- 2022 Vaccine Effectiveness Evaluations/Studies:
- HEROES: Arizona Healthcare, Emergency Response, and Other Essential Workers Surveillance (AZ Heroes) Study
- RECOVER: Research on the Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in Essential Response Personnel (RECOVER)
- PROTECT: Pediatric Research Observing Trends and Exposures in COVID-19 Timelines
- RVTN: Respiratory Virus Transmission Network
- IVY: Influenza and Other Viruses in the Acutely Ill Network
- PREVENT: Preventing Emerging Infections through Vaccine Effectiveness Testing
- General Data:
- As of April 7th, 2022: out of all of the individuals in the US aged 5+, 81.9% received at least one dose of the vaccine (255,975,678 people).
- Data released by Pfizer on July 28, 2021 supports the need for a third COVID-19 vaccine (a booster shot). They state that a third dose “strongly” boosted protection against the delta variant when compared to the two-dose vaccine series alone, producing 5-11 times as many antibodies depending on the individual’s age.
- See data above in the “Variants & Boosters” section that discusses the latest data from various countries about efficacy of the three vaccines approved in the U.S. against the Delta variant.
- A study conducted by the CDC came out on March 29, 2021 looking at real-world efficacy for the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA Vaccines. It was a prospective cohort study of 3,950 health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers who completed weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing for 13 consecutive weeks. Under real-world conditions, mRNA vaccine effectiveness of full immunization (≥14 days after second dose) was 90% against SARS-CoV-2 infections regardless of symptom status; vaccine effectiveness of partial immunization (≥14 days after first dose but before second dose) was 80%. The study can be found here on the CDC’s website.
- On March 27, 2021 a study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) that studied 84 pregnant, 31 lactating, and 16 non-pregnant individuals receiving the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, and they found that there was a robust immune response in pregnant and lactating individuals just as in non-pregnant, and the adverse effects were similar across groups. They also found even higher immune responses in individuals who had been infected with COVID-19 during their pregnancy. In addition, they found an immune response (evidence if IgG and IgA immunoglobulins) in umbilical cord blood, which may indicate that protective antibodies can be passed through the placenta to the fetus, as well as in breastmilk samples, which may indicate that protective antibodies can be passed by breastfeeding. The study can be found here.
- Israel is currently the country with the highest percentage of their population that has been vaccinated; just under 50% of their population has been fully vaccinated (two weeks out from having both doses), and about 60% of their population has received at least one dose. They recently published “real-world” data on efficacy of BNT162b2 mRNA vaccination (Pfizer’s vaccine) in their country in the New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccination and control group each had 596,618 persons, and they found that efficacy 7 or more days after the second dose was 92% for a documented infection, 94% for symptomatic infection, 87% for hospitalization, and 92% for severe disease. The published paper can be found here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2101765
- The Infectious Disease Society of America with the CDC put together a website with all of the research from each of the vaccines. You can find data below and find the data with summaries of each paper on their website here.
- Pfizer Specific Data:
- As of April 2022, find information regarding the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine here.
- The originally published data from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine phase 2/3 trials can be found here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577
- Their original phase 1 trial and immunogenicity data: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2027906
- Phase 1/2 trial data: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32785213/
- Moderna Specific Data:
- As of April 2022, find information regarding the Moderna vaccine here.
- The originally published data from the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine phase 3 trial can be found here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2035389
- Their original phase 1 trial data: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2028436 and https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2022483
- Immunogenicity data: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2032195
- Johnson & Johnson Specific Data:
- As of April 2022, find information regarding the J&J vaccine here.
- FDA fact sheet with their phase 3 data can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/media/146304/download
- Phase 1/2a trial data: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2034201
- A recent study from England found that the vaccinated individuals are still protected from two variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.617.2 – the first found in England and the second found in India. The study looked at those who were vaccinated in their country with vaccines available to them, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Oxford-AstraZeneca – the latter of which is not approved in the U.S. Immunity for those with Pfizer decreased slightly to 93.4% for the B.1.1.7 variant and 87.9% for the B.1.617.2 variant. AstraZenecas numbers are lower, but this does not pertain to the U.S. because this vaccine is not approved or used here.
DMV Vaccine-Specific Distribution Updates
Follow the CDC’s vaccination distribution website here.
As of March 31, 2022, DC, MD, and VA released new guidance in line with the CDC after the FDA authorized extra Pfizer or Moderna shots for anyone 50 or older and for some younger people with severely weakened immune systems.
- As of April 2022, find opportunities to get vaccinated or boosted today at the District-operated COVID centers by visiting: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/covidcenters. At the District’s COVID centers, individuals will have access to vaccinations, boosters, and take-home rapid antigen tests. Find more information here.
- Get vaccination updates for DC here: vaccinate.dc.gov or by calling 1-855-363-0333.
- All DC residents age 12 and older are now able and encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccination and aged 16 and older can do so through a walk-up site or through appointment at clinics, hospitals, and many other sites throughout the city. For walk-up sites available each day, check vaccinate.dc.gov . Other ways to sign up for a vaccine in DC include:
- Directly through your primary care provider (including pediatricians for those between the ages of 12 and 18).
- Various hospitals in the district (Children’s National Hospital, Howard University Hospital, Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Medstar Washington Hospital Center, GW Medical Faculty Associates, United Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente)
- Other health centers including but not limited to Mary’s Center, Community of Hope, Unity (Upper Cardoza), Unity (Brentwood), Bread for the City, La Clinica del Pueblo, Elaine Ellis Center of Health, Whitman-Walker Health, Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc, Providence Health System, and Metro Health Center.
- Veterans and veteran spouses can get vaccinated through the VA Medical Center and can learn more by calling (202) 745-4342
- DC residents 65 and older, teachers and school staff, child care workers, and health care workers can book appointments through the CVS site (when appointments are available)
- All DC residents aged 12-15 are recently eligible and also encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Many pediatricians are offering the vaccination in their offices, and the vaccinations are also available through DC Health. To pre-register a child for vaccination through the DC health website, click here: https://vras-dc.powerappsportals.us/en-US/ . There are also clinics specifically for residents aged 12-18: (for specific days that they are open go to this website for frequent updates)
- Cardozo EC (1200 Clifton St. NW) 9am-2pm
- H.D. Woodson (540 55th St. NE) 9am-2pm
- Dunbar SHS (101 N St. NW) 9am-3pm
- Ballou SHS (3401 4th St. SE) 9am-3pm
- Need transportation? The District’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) cover all transportation (free of charge), to and from all medically necessary covered services and appointments. To request these services, call the following numbers to schedule:
- AmeriHealth Caritas DC: Call 1-800-315-3485. Rides available 24/7
- CareFirst Community Health Plan DC: Call MTM1 at 1-855-824-5693. Rides available 24/7
- Health Services for Children with Special Needs: Call SET Transportation at 1-866-991-5433
- MedStar Family Choice DC: Call 1-866-201-9974
- All Maryland residents above the age of 12 are now eligible and encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine. To search for a location near you, go to this website: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine or go to the vaccination site list here. Pre-registration is no longer required for vaccination.
- Other ways to get a vaccine in Maryland are through hospitals, local health department, primary care providers (including pediatricians if you are between ages of 12 and 18), urgent care centers, and pharmacies.
- In Virginia all residents above the age of 12 are eligible and encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine. To find vaccine distribution sites and make appointments, go to this website: https://vaccinate.virginia.gov/ or call 877-829-4682. Pre-registration is no longer required for vaccination.
- Other ways to get a vaccine in Virginia are through hospitals, local health department, primary care providers (including pediatricians if you are between ages of 12 and 18), urgent care centers, and pharmacies.
What is an mRNA Vaccine?
How does it work?
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines use technology that has been studied for more than a decade. The vaccine injects genetic material inside a coating into the body. The coating acts to protect the mRNA from enzymes that break it down in the body as well as helps it enter cells called macrophages and dendritic cells in the lymph nodes. The mRNA serves as instructions for these cells to make a part of the “spike protein” that is considered characteristic of SARS-CoV-2.
Only a part of this particular protein is made; therefore, there is no harm being done to the person vaccinated while the body’s immune system creates antibodies against the spike protein. This is done by taking a bit of the processed protein and displaying it onto the antigen-presenting cells’ (macrophages and dendritic cells) surfaces. In turn, the immune system recognizes these spikes are foreign and begins producing antibodies and activating fighter cells called T cells to fight off what it thinks is an “infection”.
Once the body begins to protect itself against the spike proteins, the antibodies become more and more specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, allowing the immune system to be better equipped to protect against future SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Do mRNA vaccines alter genes or cause infection?
It is important to note that once the spike protein is made, the cells in your body use enzymes to break down the mRNA strand. The mRNA does not affect an individual’s genetic material as it never even enters a cell’s nucleus. Therefore, mRNA vaccines do not modify or alter an individual’s genetic makeup. Additionally, mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines and do not contain an infectious element. Consequently, there is no risk of the vaccine causing disease in the individual.
For more information please refer to “Making an Informed Decision” below!
Why should we use an mRNA vaccine?
- Safer – mRNA vaccines use a non-infectious element
- Scalable – mRNA vaccines are easily developed in labs using DNA templates, shortening the manufacturing time and making vaccine development faster than it is for typical vaccines
- Generalizable – one vaccine has the potential to target multiple diseases
What companies have been developing these vaccines?
One of the very first vaccines to complete phase 3 testing for SARS-CoV-2 have been mRNA vaccines. Two of these vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – have now been authorized by the FDA for emergency use. These vaccines are claimed to be 94-95% effective against the coronavirus.
Making an Informed Decision
General Vaccine Considerations
Although getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not required, any hesitation or concerns about the vaccine should be addressed with your healthcare provider. There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the vaccine, so discussing it with an informed healthcare provider and researching the validity of the information can help.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development or in use are live vaccines, therefore just like the flu vaccine, it is NOT possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Below are some key factors to consider when deciding to get vaccinated.
Vaccine Efficacy Profile
Each vaccine differs in dose administration schedule. A vaccine’s efficacy describes how protective it is against moderate-to-severe COVID infection.
|Pfizer-BioNTech||Moderna||Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)|
|Number of doses||2||2||1|
|Time between doses||21 days||28 days||n/a|
Side Effect Profile
Each vaccine carries its own risks. These reactions are all normal signs of the body’s immune system building up resistance to COVID-19.
|Pfizer-BioNTech||Moderna||Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)|
|Injection site pain, swelling, and redness||X||X||X|
|Swollen lymph nodes||X||X|
- Severe allergic reactions have been reported during clinical trials of each vaccine. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of face and throat
- A rapid heartbeat
- A rash all over your body
- Dizziness and weakness
- If you experience symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest hospital
Contraindications & Precautions
Contraindication = A reason to not pursue medical intervention due to potential harm
Contraindications to receiving any of the three vaccines currently in distribution include:
- A history of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any of the ingredients used in the vaccine
- A severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine
The CDC considers a severe allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy to be a precaution but not a contraindication to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Any concerns should be further discussed with a healthcare provider.
Common Concerns about the Vaccine
- We know many individuals are nervous about how quickly the vaccine was rolled out and are worried about possible long-term effects. This is a valid fear, however, the safety of this vaccine was studied extensively, and it would not have been approved by the FDA and recommended by ACIP and the CDC if it wasn’t shown to be safe. In addition, mRNA vaccines may be newly in use, but they have been researched extensively before (for the flu, Zika, Rabies, Cytomegalovirus, etc.) and have been shown to be safe. In addition, it is extremely rare that any other vaccine on the market has any long term side effects, whereas the COVID-19 virus itself has already shown to have long term effects. It is important as you weigh the risks and benefits of the vaccine to include the risks of getting COVID-19 if you do not get the vaccine.
- Additional resources to guide your decision-making
- General Vaccine Guidance
- FDA Product Info by Vaccine
- FDA Fact Sheet For Recipients and Caregivers
See our “Latest Research” section for more information
Commonly Asked Questions
Are boosters made up of the same ingredients as the current vaccines?
Yes. COVID-19 booster are the same formulations as the current COVID-19 vaccines. Only difference is for the Moderna booster – the dose is half of the amount of the vaccine people get for their primary shots.
When am I considered “boosted”?
A person is considered “boosted” and up to date right after getting their first booster. Getting a second booster is not necessary to be considered up to date.
When am I considered “fully vaccinated”?
Everyone is still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks after the single dose J&J vaccine. The definition does not include a booster, but studies show that people are best protected when they stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including getting one booster when eligible.
When Will I Get The Booster?
CDC recommends everyone ages 12 years and older to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series. Some people are eligible to receive two boosters.
Why do we need a booster?
COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and deaths. However, experts are starting to see a reduced protection over time against mild/moderate disease, warranting a booster.
When Will I Get The Vaccine?
Both Pfizer and Moderna are increasing their productions after approval. There could be up to 50 million doses from Pfizer and 20 million doses from Moderna by the end of 2020. It is expected that there will be 1.3 billion doses available from Pfizer and 500 million to 1 billion doses available from Moderna in 2021. It is expected that all the adults in the US will have access to the vaccine by June of 2021.
Since the number of doses is limited currently, it has been up to the states to prioritize who will be first in line to receive the vaccine. The state and local health care providers will communicate with the public with more information about who can get immunized first and the process for it. The CDC’s guidelines for Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines have been linked below. However, refer to “Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line: NYT” tool to find more information regarding when you will receive the vaccine.
CDC’s Authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine
CDC’s Recommendations for Pfizer-BioNTech: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6950e2.htm
CDC’s Authorization for Moderna: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccineSource: https://www.cnet.com/health/covid-19-vaccine-hidden-costs-where-to-get-it-vaccination-cards-more/
How is the mRNA vaccine different from a traditional vaccine?
Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize the virus and vigorously attack it if exposed to it again. Traditional vaccines typically use a weakened form of the virus. Vaccines for polio or measles work this way. On the other hand, mRNA vaccines contain genetic instructions to make only a specific structure of the virus (spike proteins for SARS-CoV-2).
Can I choose the vaccine brand that I receive?
This may depend on where you live and how many doses are being made available in your area, so you can contact your vaccination site or city/state website to determine this. Most states so far you cannot choose. One of the primary reasons for this is because the Pfizer vaccine must be kept in extremely cold, dry-ice temperatures. Some medical centers near you may not have the medical-grade ultracold freezers available and can default to carrying the Moderna vaccine which can be stored in 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to keep in mind that you must receive the second dose of the vaccine from the same brand that was given for the first dose.
Should I wait until the vaccine brand that I want is available to me, even if another is available sooner?
Although the different vaccines have different efficacies, it is important that you get the vaccine that is available to you as soon as you can. In addition, in most states you cannot choose which vaccine you get, and it is important that everyone gets the vaccine that is available to them as soon as they can in order to reach herd immunity sooner. Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccination is 66.9% effective, that is still much better than not being vaccinated at all!
Please refer to the “Making an informed decision” and the “Latest Research” sections for more information and data about the different vaccinations.
What is the COVID-19 vaccination card?
Once you get the vaccine, you will receive a card with information about the brand of vaccine and when to go back for the second shot. However, this card will not be used as a vaccine “passport”. In other words, it is not an official certificate of immunity against COVID and cannot be used as a free pass to return to work, enter public places, or travel.
What are known side effects of the vaccine?
Data from the phase 2 and 3 clinical trials indicates that vaccinated persons could develop pain at the injection site, redness, swelling, or sometimes systemic symptoms. However, it is important to note that these reactions are all normal signs that the body’s immune system is building up resistance to COVID-19. It is also not possible to get COVID from the vaccine.
Please refer to the “Making an Informed Decision” for More Information
Do I have to pay to get the vaccine?
Regardless of your health insurance status, the COVID-19 vaccine is free for all Americans. However, you could still be charged an administration fee from providers for giving the shot. This can be claimed with your insurance company under approved preventative care as per ACA guidelines.
Where is the vaccine currently being given?
The COVID vaccine will be available in the same places that the flu vaccine is typically offered in. This includes clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies. Schools and community centers may also be sites for vaccination in order to accommodate more people.
Are kids eligible to receive the vaccine?
As of right now, kids will not be able to receive the vaccine. This is because the clinical trials have primarily tested the vaccine in adults. It is expected that kids under the age of 18 can get the vaccine in the later half of 2021, after sufficient clinical data has been published.
What is herd immunity and why is it important?
The concept of herd immunity may be applicable in the case for those who are ineligible to receive the vaccine or for those who do not want to take the vaccine. The concept states that if a high enough proportion of the population is immunized, the spread of the disease from person to person is unlikely and therefore, the whole community including those who are un-immunized become protected.
Refer to “Are kids eligible to receive the vaccine?”
How many times do I need to get the vaccine?
The two currently approved vaccines in the U.S. – Pfizer and Moderna – work with a two-dose schedule. After you are injected with the vaccine, you will need to come in again in 3-4 weeks for the second dose. Second dose for Pfizer is after 21 days; Moderna, 28 days.
Myths vs. Facts
Myth: The COIVD-19 vaccine is not safe because it was developed too quickly and was rushed.
Fact: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some of the strictest safety regulations in the world, and they carefully reviewed all safety data from the clinical trials before approving it for emergency use. In addition, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviewed all safety data before recommending the vaccines for use. In addition, even though these are the first approved mRNA vaccines, the technology itself has been studied for three decades.
Myth: There are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Fact: The most common side effects of the vaccines are similar to any other vaccine you may have received, including the yearly flu shot. Pain at the site of injection, muscle pain in the arm that was injected, and cold or flu like symptoms (fever, fatigue, headache). The latter symptoms are signs that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do to build up protection to COVID-19. Most individuals do not have severe side effects, the only one that has been reported so far has been allergic reactions, which has only occurred to a few individuals out of the millions that have been vaccinated so far. There are many safeguards in place in case this unlikely scenario were to happen, and if you have had reactions to other vaccines in the past, the CDC has recommendations on how to proceed.
Myth: I have already had COVID-19 so I don’t need to get the vaccine when it becomes available to me.
Fact: There is not enough information that is available to know how long an individual has immunity after being infected with COVID-19 and recovering (natural immunity). Therefore it is recommended that everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine, even if you have already had COVID-19 previously. Since the vaccines are very harmless, the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks. However, according to the CDC, you should wait to get the vaccine until after the illness has resolved and you have met criteria to discontinue isolation. In addition, according to current evidence, reinfection with COVID-19 within 90 days of infection is uncommon, therefore you may be able to wait to get the vaccine until 90 days after your infection resolves, but this is not necessary.
Myth: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: This is false. The only vaccines where it is possible to get the disease are live attenuated (live virus/bacteria that has been weakened) vaccines. Even with these vaccines, it is rare to get the disease from them unless you have a weakened immune system. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus, therefore it is impossible to get the COVID-19 disease from the vaccine. The vaccine only contains the mRNA material that tells your body how to fight off the virus if it were to come in contact with it. You may experience symptoms of your body doing it’s job to build up immunity (fever, headache, fatigue), but this is not an infection with the virus.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines will alter my DNA
Fact: The two COVID-19 vaccines that are approved are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. mRNA is similar to DNA and contains instructions for all cells (human and non-human) to make proteins. By introducing mRNA from the COVID-19 virus (not the virus itself), our body learns how to make the specific viral proteins. Once it learns this, the original contents of the vaccine (mRNA) is degraded. The cells then display the newly made proteins on their surface for our immune system to recognize and make antibodies against. Since those antibodies are made now, once your body is introduced to the COVID-19 virus later on, your body will already know how to make the antibodies for it and you will not get sick. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our own DNA is kept, and the cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished making proteins from it. More information can be found on the CDC’s website.
Myth: Once I receive the vaccine I can stop wearing a mask and stop social distancing.
Fact: This is incorrect. It is important that until the very end of this pandemic we continue to use all the tools that are available to us in order to stop the pandemic. The vaccines are very effective (94-95%) but none of them are 100% effective, therefore it is imperative that we continue to be diligent about covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others that you do not live with. In addition, just because the vaccine is available, there is not going to be the flip of a switch and the vaccine will be over, it will take time to get enough people to be vaccinated. 60-70% of the population must become immunized to have herd immunity. More information from the CDC on how to protect yourself can be found here.
Myth: COVID-19 has a high survival rate, so I don’t need to get a vaccine.
Fact: The mortality rate is 1%, although this may sound low, it is actually 10 times more lethal that the seasonal flu (of which we have a vaccine for) and 1% of the United States population is still over 3.3 million individuals, which is a very significant number. In addition, mortality rates can vary by age, sex, and underlying health conditions. Also, the COVID-19 virus damages the lungs, heart, brain, and more, so it causes many long-term health problems. Not only will the vaccine prevent unnecessary deaths, but it will prevent more individuals from experiencing these long term effects that are not included in the mortality rate.
Myth: The vaccine was developed with a microchip in it to control the population.
Fact: There is no microchip or “nanotransducer” or anything else similar to that in the vaccine. The vaccine will not track people or gather personal information from any recipients. The ingredient list for Pfizer can be found here, for Moderna can be found here, and for Johnson & Johnson can be found here.
This myth began after comments were made by Bill Gates about a digital certificate of vaccine records. He was only referring to keeping track of who got the vaccine, nothing related to a microchip, and this has not and will not be implemented in any manner.
Myth: If I am allergic to eggs I cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: Although some vaccines do have egg as an ingredient, none of the approved vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have eggs in them. The ingredient list for Pfizer can be found here, for Moderna can be found here, and for Johnson & Johnson can be found here.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines were developed using fetal tissue.
Fact: Current mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, along with others that are still being studied currently do not require the use of fetal cell cultures in the production process. The ingredient list and information about the production for Pfizer can be found here, for Moderna can be found here, and for Johnson & Johnson can be found here.
Myth: We don’t know what’s in these vaccines.
Fact: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have published their ingredient lists for their vaccines, and they can be found here, here, and here respectively. In addition to the mRNA main ingredient in the mRNA vaccines there are lipids (fat) to help deliver the mRNA to your cells, sucrose (sugar) and a few other common ingredients such as salts that help maintain the pH and stability of the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is similar only it does not have mRNA and instead it has an inactivated adenovirus attached to the COVID-19 spike protein (adenovirus is a common virus that is inactivated and used in vaccinations to help it introduce specific proteins – like the COVID-19 spike protein) into the body so that our bodies can fight it off and create antibodies.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or miscarriage.
Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines have not at all been linked to infertility or miscarriage. The etiology of this myth is from information that antibodies to the spike protein of COVID-19 will bind to placental proteins and prevent or terminate pregnancy, originated from an individual with anti-vaccine views. This is not scientifically plausible. No other vaccine or viral infection has been shown to cause infertility or miscarriage. In addition, when an individual has the COVID-19 virus, the body also makes antibodies to the same spike protein, and if this were possible then we would have seen reports of miscarriage from those recovering from the COVID-19 virus itself, which is not the case.