Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized vaccines for COVID-19, and their distribution has begun, Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention, and Gabor Kelen, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, review some common myths circulating about the vaccine and clear up confusion with reliable facts.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s fertility.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The truth is that the COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. This “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it.
Confusion arose when a false report surfaced on social media, saying that the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that is involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The false report said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility. The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods. During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.
Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health. Learn more about coronavirus and pregnancy. Johns Hopkins Medicine encourages women to reach out to their medical providers to discuss other questions they have about COVID-19 as it relates to fertility or pregnancy.
MYTH: If I’ve already had COVID-19, I don’t need a vaccine.
FACT: Evidence continues to indicate that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against getting COVID-19, whether you have already had COVID-19 or not.
- A study published in August 2021 indicates that if you had COVID-19 before and are not vaccinated, your risk of getting reinfected is more than two times higher than for those who were infected and got vaccinated.
- While evidence suggests there is some level of immunity for those who previously had COVID, it is not known how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again. Plus, the level of immunity provided by the vaccines after having COVID-19 is higher than the level of immunity for those who had COVID but were not subsequently vaccinated.
- Getting vaccinated provides greater protection to others since the vaccine helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.
At the time of vaccination, be sure to tell your care provider about your history of COVID-19 illness, including the kind of treatment, if any, you received and when you recovered. Wait until your isolation period ends before making an appointment to get the vaccination.
MYTH: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.
FACT: Studies found that the two initial vaccines are both about 95% effective — and reported no serious or life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines could be developed so quickly. Here are just a few:
- The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic.
- China isolated and shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
- The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
- Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
- Some types of COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), which allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
- Social media helped companies find and engage study volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
- Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
- Companies began making vaccines early in the process — even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred.
MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means I can stop wearing my mask and taking coronavirus precautions.
FACT: The CDC continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and makes recommendations for wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated as well as those who are not fully vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that masks and physical distancing are required when going to the doctor’s office, hospitals or long-term care facilities, including all Johns Hopkins hospitals, care centers and offices.
Johns Hopkins Medicine’s current mask safety guidelines have not changed, and we still require all individuals to wear masks inside all of our facilities.
MYTH: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19.
FACT: The vaccine for COVID-19 cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The two authorized mRNA vaccines instruct your cells to reproduce a protein that is part of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which helps your body recognize and fight the virus, if it comes along. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the SARS-Co-2 virus, so you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The protein that helps your immune system recognize and fight the virus does not cause infection of any sort.
MYTH: The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are dangerous.
FACT: 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.