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Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccine

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Now that there are authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, accurate vaccine information is critical.

Myth: I once tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered, so I don’t need to get a COVID-19 vaccine because of natural immunity.

The facts: Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is a safer and more dependable way to build immunity to COVID than getting sick with COVID. COVID-19 vaccines result in a more predictable immune response than infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition:

  • Getting a vaccine gives most people a high level of protection against COVID-19 and can provide added protection for people who already had COVID-19
  • One study showed that, for people who had COVID, those who do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more than two times as likely to get COVID-19 again than those who get fully vaccinated after their recovery.

Myth: The vaccines don’t work because you can still get COVID after being vaccinated.

The facts: Getting vaccinated and boosted does reduce your likelihood of getting COVID. But, more importantly, it helps prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID. Those who are unvaccinated in Sonoma County are 15 times more likely to suffer severe illness and end up in the hospital than those who are vaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated are also 12 times more likely to die from the virus than those who are vaccinated. If you get sick, you also may spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you while you are sick.

Some fully vaccinated people will still get COVID-19. However, fully vaccinated people with a breakthrough infection are less likely to have serious illness with COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated. Even when vaccinated people develop symptoms, they tend to be less severe than those experienced by unvaccinated people. People who are unvaccinated in Sonoma County are many times more likely to be hospitalized if they get COVID and are far more likely to die than those who are vaccinated.

Myth: Sonoma County’s vaccine campaign and other public health measures have been ineffective against COVID-19 and its variants.

The facts: Sonoma County has been highly effective and successful in preventing the worst outcomes of COVID in our community – hospitalizations and deaths – through its vaccination campaign. More than 1.1 million doses have been administered since the vaccination program began in December 2020, with nearly 80 percent of the county’s population being fully vaccinated. This is the 10th highest vaccination rate among the 58 counties in the state. More importantly, county efforts since the pandemic began have saved hundreds of lives and kept thousands of residents safe from COVID. California’s per capita death toll from COVID-19 is one of the lowest in the United States. And Sonoma County’s total COVID deaths per 100,000 residents is 58 percent lower than the state death toll and one third the national COVID death toll per 100,000 residents. The county’s vaccination rate is significantly higher than the state average, which has resulted in Sonoma County reporting 25 percent fewer cases per 100,000 residents than the state total. 

Myth: If a person who tests positive for COVID-19 dies from something else – of injuries suffered in a car crash for example – they are listed as a COVID-related death.

The facts: For a death to be reported as being related to COVID-19, the disease has to be part of the causal chain. Sonoma County follows CDC and state guidelines for reporting each death. That means a case investigation concluded, among other criteria, that COVID-19 was the cause of death or contributed to the death and the death certificate lists COVID-19 as one of the causes of death. 

Myth: Vaccine mandates violate the Nuremberg Code, a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation. 

The facts: The COVID-19 vaccines are not human medical experiments under United States, or California, law. The COVID-19 vaccines already went through clinical trials and were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use following a careful review of their benefits and potential risks. The Nuremberg Code, a set of ethical research principles created after World War II in response to atrocities committed by Nazi scientists, concerns research involving human subjects, not public health interventions. The code was designed to protect people from involuntary experiments and abuse. COVID-19 vaccines have already undergone clinical trials and aren’t experimental. For most age groups, the FDA has given the vaccines full authorization beyond emergency use.

Myth: The vaccines were developed too fast, and they don’t know if they are safe.

The facts: Yes, the vaccines were developed quickly by historic terms thanks to a unified global effort by scientists and researchers and a major investment by the U.S. government to support that effort. But at no point was safety sacrificed in the development of these vaccines. Here are several reasons why: 

  • Scientists had a head start in the development of the vaccines because they had already studied other coronaviruses like SARS (2002) and MERS (2012). They had also studied both mRNA and viral vector vaccines. These are the types of COVID-19 vaccines that are used in the United States. 
  • The U.S. government invested substantial resources in both the manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This allowed manufacturing to begin when the vaccines were still in the third phase of clinical trials so that distribution could begin as soon as FDA authorized each vaccine. But no steps were skipped. Every step that was required in the development of a new vaccine was followed. The review and authorization of COVID-19 vaccines was prioritized by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. 

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines will affect my fertility.

The facts: There is no evidence showing any connection between any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, and fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men. In fact, women in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine studies became pregnant during the study, after receiving the vaccines. The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. Learn more from the CDC about COVID-19 vaccines and people who would like to have a baby.

Myth: Children can’t get COVID-19, so they don’t need a COVID-19 vaccine.

The facts: Children do get COVID. More than 12.6 million children have tested positive for COVID during the pandemic, with nearly 7.6 million of those cases since September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 1,000 children across the country have died of COVID.

A COVID-19 vaccine can prevent your child from getting COVID-19 and spreading it at home and in school.

If your child gets COVID-19, a COVID-19 vaccine could prevent severe illness. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can also help keep your child in school and more safely participate in sports and other group activities.

MIS-C is another reason to get children vaccinated. Since May 2020, CDC has tracked multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19. MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. There have been 10 cases of MIS-C reported in Sonoma County. Nationally, there have been nearly 7,000 cases of MIS-C with 59 reported deaths. The COVID vaccine has been shown to reduce the chance of developing MIS-C by 91%.

Myth: Myocarditis is common after a COVID-19 vaccination.

The facts: Myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, is rare after vaccination for COVID-19, studies have shown, with a rapid onset of symptoms and a mild disease course that typically resolves quickly. Risk was highest after the second vaccination dose in adolescent males and young men. Studies have highlighted the low risk of myocarditis compared with the known benefits of vaccination for COVID. In fact, data show that the risks are far greater of developing myocarditis through COVID infection than through vaccination. A recent study found one to 10 extra myocarditis cases per 1 million vaccinations versus 40 extra per 1 million with COVID-19 infection. Of 100,000 males between 16 and 29 years of age, about 5 would develop myocarditis after vaccination and about 59 would develop myocarditis after infection. If we consider 100,000 females between these ages, one would develop myocarditis after vaccination and about 39 would develop myocarditis after infection.

In other words, myocarditis is far more likely if you get COVID-19.

Myth: The vaccines will alter your DNA.

The facts: None of the vaccines interact with or alter a person’s genetic material, known as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The vaccines help the cells build protection against a coronavirus infection, but the vaccine material never enters the nucleus of the cell where the DNA lives.

When it comes to the mRNA vaccines, after the cell is done using the instructions delivered, it breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA. And the genetic material delivered by the viral vector (used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) does not integrate into a person’s DNA.

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines will give you COVID-19.

The facts: None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the  United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. All three of the currently approved vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Vaccines approved for use in the United States won’t cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.

Myth: The ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.

The facts: Nearly all the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines are also ingredients in many foods – fats, sugars, and salts. Exact vaccine ingredients vary by manufacturer. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines also contain messenger RNA (mRNA) and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine contains a harmless version of a virus unrelated to the virus that causes COVID-19. These give instructions to cells in your body to create an immune response. This response helps protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 in the future. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients like preservatives, tissues (like aborted fetal cells), antibiotics, food proteins, medicines, latex, or metals.

Learn more about what ingredients are and are not in Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines.

Myth: Vaccines contain a microchip used to track my movements.

The fact: There are no microchips in the vaccines. More than 5.22 billion people around the world have so far received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, equal to about 68 percent of the world population, and there’s not a single case of evidence of someone receiving a chip. It’s not even feasible. The needle used to administer a COVID-19 vaccine is much smaller than even the smallest microchip.

Myth: The “magnet test” is proof that a microchip or needle is left in your arm after you get a vaccine. 

The facts: There are videos on social media showing magnets sticking to people’s arms where they got a vaccine. This is to try to prove that the vaccines contain microchips or that a needle is left behind. This is just a trick. Magnets can easily be made to stick to the skin with tape or ointment. Even pressing a magnet or coin firmly to your skin can make it stick. Plus, the amount of metal needed to attract a magnet is too large to fit in the needle used to give a COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information about myths and misinformation concerning COVID vaccines, see these related resources:

CDC: Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines

CDC: Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

California Department of Public Health: Busting myths with facts

Mayo Clinic: Vaccine myths debunked

Johns Hopkins Medicine: COVID-19 vaccines – Myth versus fact

AARP: 10 Myths About Coronavirus Vaccines

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: COVID vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds