Jan 11, 2021, 4:42:33 PM CST Dec 4, 2023, 12:44:17 PM CST

Six myths about the COVID-19 vaccine

Learn the facts about COVID-19 vaccines and what they mean for the health of your family

6 myths about the COVID-19 vaccine with the actual facts. 6 myths about the COVID-19 vaccine with the actual facts.

Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that everyone over 6 months old gets the vaccine. Still, many families have questions about how these vaccines work and when they should get additional doses.

We've addressed some common questions and myths about COVID‑19 vaccines to help you and your family. For the most up-to-date information about the COVID‑19 vaccines, visit the CDC website.

How does the COVID‑19 vaccine work?

Vaccines work by helping our bodies develop immunity to a virus. Many vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, do this by putting weakened or inactivated virus particles into the body to trigger an immune response. The COVID‑19 vaccines work differently.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID‑19 vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. This is a type of vaccine that uses mRNA to teach our cells how to make a protein (called a spike protein) that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID‑19. This protein triggers an immune response that produces antibodies. These antibodies protect us if we are exposed to the actual virus. While the COVID‑19 vaccines are the first approved vaccines to use mRNA technology, mRNA vaccines have been researched for decades. They have also been tested to ensure safety. Learn more about how mRNA vaccines work.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can alter my DNA.
Fact: mRNA does not affect or change a person's DNA or genetic makeup in any way. The mRNA from the COVID‑19 vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which means it cannot interact with DNA.

How many doses of the COVID‑19 vaccine do you need?

When you first get the COVID‑19 vaccine, most people need two doses for the vaccine to be effective. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot 21 days after the first. The Moderna vaccine requires a second shot 28 days later. People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may need an extra dose in their primary vaccination series (refer to CDC recommendations).

Children under age 5 need three doses of the Pfizer vaccine for maximum immune response against COVID‑19. This includes children ages 5 to 11, who can receive a COVID‑19 booster five months after their initial vaccination.

Will my child need a COVID-19 shot every year?

The CDC recommends that everyone who is eligible should get COVID-19 booster shots on a regular basis. Booster shots are additional doses of the vaccine in the months and years after your original vaccine series. Boosters are often made to target the strains of the virus that have been most circulating recently, which can increase your protection against the virus.

Staying up to date on your COVID‑19 vaccines is the best way to prevent COVID‑19 illness. Learn more about the COVID‑19 vaccine and booster shots and the recommended vaccination schedule based on age

Is the COVID‑19 vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe. These vaccines went through rigorous clinical trials and approvals to determine that they are safe and effective. The benefits of receiving a COVID‑19 vaccine far outweigh any potential risk. The COVID‑19 vaccines protect you and others from the potential dangers of serious COVID‑19 illness.

Experts are closely monitoring the safety of the vaccines as more people get vaccinated. Since they've been approved, hundreds of millions of people have safely received a COVID‑19 vaccine. There have been some reports of immediate allergic reactions to the vaccine, but these reactions are quite rare.

You may have heard about rare COVID‑19 vaccine side effects called myocarditis and pericarditis, or heart inflammation. Experts who are closely monitoring safety of the COVID‑19 vaccine recommend that anyone who is eligible can and should continue to get vaccinated. Learn more about the COVID‑19 vaccine and your heart.

If any other unanticipated side effects are detected, there will be updates to vaccine recommendations to continue to ensure your safety.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can't be safe because it was developed so quickly.
Fact: Vaccine makers had to provide lots of data to prove these vaccines are safe and effective before they were FDA-approved. The emergency nature of the pandemic required a quick response, but thorough safety standards were still required and met.

Is there anyone who should not receive the COVID‑19 vaccine?

Anyone with a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the COVID‑19 vaccines should not receive the vaccine. In addition, anyone with an allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate should not receive the vaccine. If you've had an allergic reaction to another vaccine, check with your health care provider before receiving the vaccination.

People with other allergies, including food allergies, can receive the COVID‑19 vaccine. If you are immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding, you can also still receive the COVID‑19 vaccine. There is no evidence that the COVID‑19 vaccine affects fertility, and the vaccine is safe for persons who are trying to get pregnant. Talk with your health care provider if you have specific questions about if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: I can't get the COVID‑19 vaccine if I have a food allergy or am immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fact: You can still get vaccinated if you have food allergies, existing health conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding. The vaccine can help protect you from the dangers of COVID‑19 infection.

What are the side effects of the COVID‑19 vaccine?

You may experience some side effects after receiving the COVID‑19 vaccination. These side effects are normal signs your body is building protection or immunity against the virus. Common side effects of the COVID‑19 vaccine can include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea

For vaccines requiring multiple doses, side effects may be more common after the subsequent doses than the first dose. These side effects should go away within a few days after immunization. You can also ask your doctor about taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen after vaccination to help relieve pain or discomfort.

Can I get COVID‑19 from the vaccine?

You cannot get COVID‑19 from the vaccine. It can take a few weeks to build immunity after you get the vaccine, so it is possible to become infected with COVID‑19 just before or after you get your shot.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: The COVID‑19 vaccine can give me COVID‑19.
Fact: The COVID‑19 vaccine will not give you COVID‑19. You may experience some side effects after the vaccine. These are a normal sign your body is developing protection against the virus. It takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity after vaccination, which means it is possible for you to get COVID‑19 just before or after you get a COVID‑19 vaccine.

If I've had COVID‑19, should I get the vaccine?

Yes, you should still receive a vaccine even if you’ve had COVID‑19. It is possible to get COVID-19 multiple times. Getting vaccinated can help protect you from serious illness in the future. Studies have shown that the vaccines can trigger a COVID‑19 immune response stronger than the one that develops naturally in people who had COVID‑19.

If you are currently infected with COVID‑19, you should wait until symptoms resolve and you are done isolating to receive the vaccination. Experts are still learning more about natural immunity, as well as how long the vaccine will provide immunity. Recommendations will be updated as they learn more.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: If I've had COVID‑19, I don't need to get the COVID‑19 vaccine.
Fact:If you've already had COVID‑19, you should still receive the vaccine. It can help protect you from future COVID-19 infections.

Should I still wear a face mask after getting vaccinated?

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a face mask when in public indoor places in areas with high COVID‑19 community levels. When community levels are low, masks are recommended based on personal preference and level of risk.

You can check your COVID‑19 community level on the CDC website.

COVID‑19 Vaccine Myths & Facts
Myth: I can stop wearing my mask once I've received my COVID‑19 vaccine.
Fact:If you are fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area with high COVID‑19 community levels. This can help boost protection against infection when spread is high. No matter the level of COVID‑19 spread, you can always choose to mask based on your personal preference and level of risk.

Learn more

Children's Health Primary Care offers comprehensive health care for children from birth through young adulthood. Our pediatricians combine quality care with evidence-based practice to meet your child’s medical needs. Learn more and find a pediatrician.

See more COVID‑19 resources

Children's Health℠ is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

Screen capture of family newsletter signup

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.

Children's Health will not sell, share or rent your information to third parties. Please read our privacy policy.

Children's Health Family Newsletter

Get health tips and parenting advice from Children's Health experts sent straight to your inbox twice a month.

communicable disease, coronavirus, immune system, infectious disease, virus, vaccine

Childrens Health