The Science and Truths Behind Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

Published in Wellness, News

Author: Jill Amsberry, DO

What you need to know to make an informed decision

As medical professionals, we are here to provide information and to educate on the COVID-19 vaccines so that you can make an informed choice on whether or not to receive the vaccine when it is available to you.

Here is the scientific truth behind some of the claims you may have heard about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Claim: The vaccines were rushed, so they are not safe.

Truth: COVID-19 closely resembles other coronaviruses that researchers and vaccine makers have studied for many years. Operation Warp Speed helped to expedite the vaccine process by offering money and resources while still following all steps for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This included large clinical trials to meet safety standards with participants from different ages, races, ethnicities, and medical conditions. Because the disease was so widespread, it was easier to enroll the number of people needed for these studies.

The bar for ensuring vaccine safety is set very high. The COVID-19 vaccines met all safety standards for FDA authorization and will be continually monitored. They would not have been approved if they were not safe and effective.

Claim: The COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells.

Truth: For the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, no fetal cell lines were used to produce or manufacture the vaccine, and they are not inside the injection you receive. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine did use fetal cell cultures (which are not the same as fetal tissue) during the manufacturing process. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain any aborted fetal cells.

Bishop Kettler addresses moral questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines

Claim: I can still get COVID-19 even after getting the vaccine.

Truth: It typically takes two weeks for the body to build immunity after completing the vaccination course. That means it's possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against 100% of infections, but these vaccines help keep 90% of people from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. The vaccine does not kill or destroy the virus if you are exposed. It simply trains your body to successfully fight off the virus so you do not get sick.

Claim: The vaccines can cause infertility.

Truth: There is absolutely no evidence that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you. 

The Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI) shares evidence from the clinical trials for the first two COVID-19 vaccines.

Claim: No large studies have been done on the vaccines.

Truth: The Pfizer trial included more than 43,000 participants, the Moderna more than 39,00 participants, and the Janssen over 43,00 participants. With vaccines, most negative effects occur within six weeks of receiving a vaccine, which is why the FDA asked the companies to provide eight weeks of safety data after the last dose. We also now have even more data as nearly 40 million people have been fully vaccinated with one of the available vaccines in the U.S.

Claim: The vaccines with mRNA (Pfizer & Moderna) have never been put into a vaccine and it can change your DNA.

Truth: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use messenger RNA, or mRNA for short. mRNA vaccines have been studied for at least 10 years for other viruses. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions (the message) for our cells to make harmless spike proteins that match the ones found in COVID-19. When your cells present these spike proteins on their surface, your body recognizes them as foreign and develops an immune response, including antibodies specific to the spike protein. After the instructions (mRNA strands) are used, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. Our DNA is located in the nucleus of our cell. The mRNA vaccines never enter the nucleus of the cell and operate in a completely different cellular department making it impossible to alter or interact with our DNA in any way.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine uses a harmless virus (not a coronavirus) to also deliver instructions to your cells to start building immunity. The instructions are delivered in the form of genetic material that does not integrate into your DNA.

Claim: No one knows what the effects will be from the vaccine in the next months or years!

Truth: The COVID-19 vaccine will prime your immune system to fight COVID-19. After your cells learn how to fight COVID-19, the cells get rid of it. It will no longer be in your body.

Just as it is important to think about the long-term effects of the vaccine, it is also important to consider long-term effects of COVID-19 itself. While true long-term data is lacking, we are starting to learn about COVID-19 “long-haulers,” those who experience issues months beyond their initial recovery. Chronic symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain. Imaging tests taken months after recovery have shown damage to the heart muscle, even in people who experienced only mild COVID-19 symptoms. This may increase the risk of heart failure or other heart complications in the future. COVID-19 has now killed over 530,000 Americans and over 2,600,000 around the world and these are the lives lost and the reason why vaccination is important.

Claim: This vaccine was never tested on animals (lab rats) to know short or long-term effects?

Truth: This is false. Due to the urgent need for a vaccine in a surging pandemic, Pfizer and Moderna were given approval to simultaneously test their vaccines on animals while they were conducting Phase 1 trials on humans. The vaccines were tested on mice and macaque monkeys.

Claim: Health professionals aren't getting the vaccines so if someone working in health care isn’t getting it, why should I?

Truth: Health care professionals, educators, and our eligible priority groups are receiving the vaccine and are looking forward to a time when COVID-19 patients are not passing away in our hospitals and suffering the consequences of COVID-19. At CentraCare, 93% of our hospitalists and 85% of our physicians have received the COVID-19 vaccine. We see increases every week in the number of our employees becoming vaccinated as more people in our communities become eligible for this lifesaving shot.