Are you anxious about "dangerous" COVID-19 vaccine side effects? Wondering if it will affect your fertility? Did you hear it will change your DNA? There's plenty of misinformation circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines, much of which can make it feel scary to sign up for an appointment. We're setting the record straight on common COVID-19 myths to help you feel better about getting vaccinated.
Myth: Vaccine development was too fast, so it can't be trusted.
Yes, the vaccines were produced at record speeds. But that was a benefit that can be attributed to massive government investments, including the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, and technological advances that have been in the works for years.
"This was one of the fastest vaccine rollouts that's ever been done but that's not because there's been any shortcuts taken on safety," says Eric Sachinwalla, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. "Drug companies had support from the federal government so they were able to start producing the vaccine while the clinical trials were going on, meaning we didn't have to wait for the trial results and then wait months or years for the vaccine to be manufactured."
The actual technology behind the vaccines has been around for more than a decade. The pandemic pushed scientists to put it into action. While federal funding helped accelerate the process, that doesn't mean any steps were skipped. Like with any other vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials that enrolled tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and effectively protect people.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine and the side effects are dangerous.
It's natural to feel a little skeptical about putting something new into your body, but there's an abundance of evidence that the vaccine is safe. "Around 570,000 [Americans] have died from this virus. None have died from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Those odds are pretty striking," says Paul Offit, director of the vaccine education center and professor of infectious disease professor at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The vaccines can cause side effects, like tiredness, achiness, and fever, but the vast majority last only a day or two and aren't serious or dangerous. Side effects are actually normal signs that the vaccine is working and your body is building protection. (Not everyone will experience side effects, and that's OK too.)
But what about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that's been temporarily paused as a result of blood clots? At the time of the pause, out of roughly seven million people that received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, six people experienced blood clots. It's important to remember that this is an extremely rare side effect — "twice as rare as getting hit by lightning," says Doctors for America. It's also a complication that can happen if you're infected by COVID-19. It's expected that the federal government will announce a decision about the J&J vaccine soon.
Myth: You have to pay for the vaccine.