Lots of misinformation is floating around surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, and it makes it difficult to stay informed and make decisions about whether you or those who are a part of your organization should get the vaccine. If you find yourself on the fence when determining if you should receive the vaccine or not because of the plethora of information and opinions floating around, we are here to dispel the myths from the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are 5 COVID-19 beliefs and if they are true or false:
1. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines come in full and reduced doses, you may receive a different dose depending on your age and other factors. (TRUE!)
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved at full dose (30 micrograms of RNA) for individuals ages 12+. A reduced dose (10 micrograms of RNA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for children ages 5-11. The criteria for reduced dose is age on the day of vaccination.
For Moderna, the dose quantity depends on two factors: age and if the vaccine is a booster. For individuals ages 18+, the first two doses of the Moderna vaccine are full dose (100 micrograms of RNA), while the booster is half-dose (50 micrograms of RNA). The company is also studying the efficacy of the full dose vaccine in adolescents ages 12-17, and a half-dose vaccine in children ages 6-11. Depending on the results of these studies, it is possible that Moderna’s reduced vaccine may also be approved for use in children 6-11.
2. You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. (FALSE!)
None of the three FDA-approved vaccines contain the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, therefore you cannot get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain genetic instructions (mRNA) for only one part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus: the spike protein. Once the vaccine is administered, cells use these genetic instructions to make the spike protein, which when made in isolation from the rest of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, cannot infect you with COVID-19. The body’s immune response to the spike protein made from the vaccines is retriggered if/when an individual is exposed to the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, thereby protecting people from a COVID-19 infection.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also contains genetic instructions (DNA) against the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and does not contain any other parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus required for it to infect people with COVID-19. Additionally, the J&J vaccine uses another virus, an altered adenovirus, as a vehicle for carrying the genetic instructions for the spike protein. While natural adenovirus can cause conditions such as pink eye or the common cold, the adenovirus in the J&J vaccine has been altered such that crucial parts of the virus have been removed so that it also can’t make you sick, replicate, or integrate with your DNA.
3. The vaccines can alter your DNA. (FALSE!)
There are several reasons why the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines cannot alter one’s DNA. First, mRNA cannot integrate with DNA because it is unable to travel to the nucleus of a cell, where the DNA is located. Second, even if mRNA were somehow able to travel to the nucleus, it cannot be integrated into DNA without additional help. mRNA needs crucial enzymes to help it integrate into DNA, and neither the vaccines nor the human body contains these crucial enzymes.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine carries DNA instructions for the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 via an altered adenovirus, and also cannot integrate with DNA. This is also because the genetic components of the vaccine also require additional machinery to integrate into DNA, and neither the vaccine nor the human body can provide it.
4. The COVID-19 vaccines were created too fast to be safe and effective. (FALSE!)
The COVID-19 vaccinations were created, tested, and manufactured efficiently and accurately. Below are several factors which contributed to the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines
First, the foundational research on coronavirus and mRNA technology had already been in place for decades before the pandemic. Scientists were able to quickly take the knowledge that they had from prior research and apply it to developing these vaccines.
Second, many people quickly volunteered to participate in the vaccine trials, which helped speed up the testing process. Drug trials often take a while to recruit enough people to enroll in the trial, however, this was not the case for the coronavirus vaccines because of widespread interest in vaccines. For scale, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were tested in thousands of people before the FDA approved those vaccines and they became available to the public. As of November 2021, almost 8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been safely administered around the world.
Finally, given the emergent nature of the pandemic, the government and pharmaceutical companies strategically conducted many steps of vaccine development in parallel. For example, manufacturing plants were built before the vaccines were officially approved so that doses could be manufactured and distributed as quickly as possible pending approval. This is not done in typical drug development because it is a significant financial risk, however, companies were willing to take this risk because the pandemic was an emergency.
4. Vaccines don’t stop you from getting COVID-19, so you shouldn’t bother getting them. (FALSE!)
While none of the currently available vaccines are 100% effective, vaccination does substantially lower the chances of both acquiring and becoming severely ill after exposure to COVID-19.
According to the CDC, unvaccinated people when compared to vaccinated people have a 5.8x higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19, and a 14x higher chance of dying from COVID-19.
Moreover, vaccines also help to lower the risk of transmitting an infection to those around you as well, which is especially important if you are around people who are not vaccinated and are thus at greater risk for becoming severely ill from an infection.
If you or your organization have been contemplating the vaccine, need regular testing for employees, large group gatherings, or more, please connect with Heed’s client services and we would be happy to help you.