Myth-busting: 12 facts about the COVID-19 vaccine

With COVID-19 vaccinations under way, we’re here to separate fact from fiction. Read on to find the facts behind some common myths.

Myth 1: COVID-19 vaccines can give me COVID-19.

FACT: None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines can cause COVID-19. 

The goal for each of the vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sometimes this process can cause symptoms such as a fever. These symptoms are normal with many vaccines. They’re a sign that your body is building immunity.

You can learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Myth 2: I’ve already been sick with COVID-19. I don’t need to get the vaccine.

FACT: Experts don’t know yet how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.  

The immunity someone gains from having an infection (natural immunity) varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests that natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long. Re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, as are the severe health risks that come with it. 

This means you should get a vaccine even if you have been sick with COVID-19 before.

Myth 3: I’m young and healthy. I don’t need the vaccine.

FACT: Low risk is not no risk. Young, healthy people have gotten very sick and some have died. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you’re not in a high-risk group. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you from that.

Also, if you do get sick, you might spread the virus to friends, family, and others around you. Some of these people may be in a high-risk group. As more people get vaccinated, that helps to limit the spread.

Myth 4: COVID-19 vaccines will cause positive results on COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

FACT: The authorized vaccines and other vaccines still currently in clinical trials in the United States won’t cause you to test positive on diagnostic tests. These tests are used to see if you have a current infection.

The goal of vaccination is for your body to build immunity to COVID-19. This means you may test positive on some antibody tests. 

Antibody tests indicate you were infected at some point in the past. This means you may have some level of protection against the virus, but how much is not known. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

Myth 5: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means I won’t need to wear masks anymore.

FACT: Not exactly. After you are fully vaccinated, there are a few situations where you may not have to wear a mask per the CDC guidelines.

But we also don’t know how effective the current vaccines are at preventing disease from some new strains of the virus, even if there is some protection.

So, the CDC still advises everyone continue to use all the tools available to help stop this pandemic, as well as keep people at high risk for severe illness safe.

These tools include:

  • Wearing a mask in public and around people with increased risk for severe illness,
  • Staying six feet apart from others, and
  • Washing your hands often.

Remember: Vaccines need time to give protection. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after any vaccination. Also, you can have the virus and not show any symptoms. So, for now, the CDC still advises to avoid large crowds and use preventive tools especially in public even after vaccination. 

Myth 6: mRNA COVID-19 vaccines will alter my DNA.

FACT: None of the vaccines will alter your DNA.

Some COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid). These include the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. The mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity.

mRNA is not able to alter or change a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.

You can learn more about how mRNA vaccines work at the CDC’s website

Myth 7: I can pay to get on a wait list for early access to the vaccine.

FACT: There are no lists that allow you to access the vaccine ahead of schedule.

There are a number of scams (PDF, 262 KB) going around offering to add your name to a list to get early access to the vaccine in exchange for money.

Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee.

Everyone in California age 16 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting April 15th.

Myth 8:  COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells.

FACT: Johnson & Johnson did use fetal cell lines — not fetal tissue — when developing their vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines to test their vaccines and make sure that they work.

But it’s important to know that fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue. 

Fetal cell lines are grown in a laboratory. These cell lines descend from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. They are now thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue.

In response to concerns, the California Catholic Conference and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops backed The Vatican’s stance that it is “morally acceptable” to get a COVID-19 vaccine and urge Californians to do so to help end the pandemic. The Vatican has stated that “all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience.”

Myth 9: Microchips are inserted into the vaccine to track us.

FACT: This is not true. COVID-19 vaccines do come with mild side effects for many people. Things like fever, headache, and muscle pain are quite common.

What they do not come with are injectable microchips or implants that track your location.

This myth began circulating online in the early days of the pandemic, but it is false.

The vaccine only contains ingredients that are safe and effective. In the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the active ingredient is mRNA, as well as other standard ingredients, like fats, sugars, and salts.

In the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the active ingredient is a virus that typically causes the common cold, but has been changed so it cannot give you a cold or COVID-19.

All of the ingredients in all of the vaccines have been used safely in other vaccines and treatments for a long time. 

Want to know more about what’s in the vaccines? Check the CDC’s info page or read our FAQs.

Myth 10: ICE officers will be waiting at vaccine clinics.

FACT: This is not true. The Biden administration has stated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not be at vaccination sites.

Undocumented people cannot be blocked from getting the vaccine. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to ensuring everyone in the United States, including California, can get a vaccine, regardless of immigration status.

You do not need to share your immigration status with anyone to get the vaccine. 

Myth 11: I can just wait for everyone else to get vaccinated. Then I won’t have to worry about catching it.

FACT: The vaccine protects the person who gets it, not the people around them.

In order to protect yourself from COVID-19, you need to get the vaccine. It will help keep you from catching the virus. And, in the rare chance you do get COVID-19, the vaccine will protect you from severe illness, hospitalization, and even death.

Even if your family members and friends are vaccinated, they could still get the virus. If they don’t show any symptoms, they might spread it to you without even knowing.  

The long-term effects of severe illness from COVID-19 can be difficult. It’s safer for you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn. 

Myth 12: COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

FACT: There’s absolutely no evidence that the vaccines cause infertility in women. (Or, for that matter, sterility in men.)

What we know is that pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. That’s why they are eligible to get vaccinated now. 

If you are trying to get pregnant or plan to in the future, the vaccine is safe to get. In fact, during the Pfizer vaccine trial, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.