As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the nation, it’s important to make sure you’re armed with the latest information from trusted sources so you can separate fact from fiction. Elizabeth Ransom, MD, FACS, executive vice president and chief physician executive at Baptist Health, sets the record straight on rumors circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine.
MYTH: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
The FDA-authorized Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use genetic material called mRNA to create an immune response to the virus. This trains your body to recognize the virus and gives you protection if you’re ever exposed.
“Since the vaccine does not contain a live virus, it cannot give you COVID,” Dr. Ransom explained.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine contains harmful ingredients.
Potassium chloride? Monobasic potassium phosphate? The names of COVID-19 vaccine components may not roll off the tongue easily, but that’s no reason to fear they might be harmful. Dr. Ransom said both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines mainly contain mRNA genetic material and both inorganic and organic compounds that help keep the mRNA stable (and the vaccine effective). None of those components are harmful in the amounts contained in the vaccines.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Pfizer vaccine contains the following ingredients:
- Dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate (a type of salt).
- Lipids (organic molecules, like fats).
- Monobasic potassium phosphate (a type of salt).
- mRNA (genetic material, similar to DNA).
- Potassium chloride (a type of salt).
- Sodium chloride (a type of salt).
- Sucrose (sugar).
The Moderna vaccine is made up of the following:
- Acetic acid (a liquid organic molecule found in vinegar).
- Sodium acetate (a type of salt).
- Tromethamine (an organic compound).
- Tromethamine hydrochloride (an organic compound).
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine has been rushed.
While it’s true the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been authorized faster than previous vaccines, Dr. Ransom said no corners were cut during the development and approval process.
“These vaccines are amazing scientific feats,” Dr. Ransom said. “Work had been done on mRNA vaccines for a long time and researchers were able to build upon this data to produce vaccines for COVID-19.”
Many other COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca are currently under development, Dr. Ransom said. Before vaccines are released to the public, they must all go through the same multi-step testing, review and approval process through agencies like the FDA, ensuring the shot is safe when it reaches your arm.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine is too expensive.
Once there is enough supply for the general public, vaccines will be available to the American people at no cost. However, the provider of the vaccine will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot. Health insurance should cover these fees.
Uninsured people will also be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine for free during the pandemic, as the federal government will reimburse health care providers at a later date.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine has dangerous side effects.
Pfizer's and Moderna’s vaccines are 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 and are tools that will help end the pandemic. The goal of any vaccine is to help the body build immunity, and this sometimes causes side effects.
According to Dr. Ransom, mild symptoms such as headaches and soreness at the injection site can occur in some individuals after receiving the vaccine. These are signs your immune system is working and building up protection against COVID-19. Severe side effects are rare.
“The vaccine has an extremely high safety profile, which means it’s able to protect against COVID-19 without causing any harm or widespread unpleasant reactions in people who get it," Dr. Ransom said. "People who receive this vaccine or are interested in receiving it can feel confident that it will help protect themselves and others.”
Dr. Ransom dispels myths about COVID-19 vaccines.