No matter what area of healthcare you work in these days, everyone wants to pick your brain on science’s hottest topic: the COVID-19 vaccine! This brilliant development has been in the works for many years, but unless you work in an infectious disease lab, these recent months are probably the first you’re hearing of it. Healthcare workers are not only on the front lines of receiving the vaccine now that it’s available, but we are also on the front lines of being asked to speak on how it works and its efficacy. Here are some common myths and facts to help you spread knowledge, not disease!
Myth: It can make you sick with COVID-19.
Fact: Currently, none of the approved and available vaccines for COVID-19 contain any live virus or viral particles. Any symptoms you get after receiving a vaccine are the result of an immune response, not COVID-19 illness. And though those symptoms may be unpleasant for a day or two (fever, chills, body aches, headache, or nausea), they are actually a great indication that your immune system is doing its job and ramping up to fight coronavirus if it encounters it in the future!
Myth: After getting a vaccine you can test positive for covid on a viral test.
Fact: The most common ways to test for COVID-19 infection involve detecting viral proteins (rapid test) or genetic material (pcr test) from coronavirus particles in the body. Since the currently available COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain any actual coronavirus particles, getting a vaccine cannot make you test positive for the disease. Once you’ve been vaccinated and developed an immune response, you should test positive for antibodies which just means your body is ready and waiting to fight off the virus if it encounters it.
Myth: It changes your DNA.
Fact: Imagine your DNA is an architect, with a big, complicated blueprint of every detail that makes you unique and human. Your RNA is the construction site manager, he doesn’t get to make or change the blueprint, but he breaks it up into manageable pieces and takes instructions to various parts of your cells with orders to make the proteins that keep your body functioning. When you get infected with a pathogen like coronavirus, the virus sends in its own site manager, or RNA, to hijack your cells and turn your building site into a factory for more viruses. Eventually, your immune system gets to work ridding your body of the virus (you hope) and readying itself to recognize that virus if it encounters it again and kick it out before it hijacks your cells. The COVID-19 vaccine is engineered to mimic the imposter site managers (mRNA), tricking your body into producing proteins that look just like coronavirus. It does this well enough that your immune system develops a defense against that protein, but since it was just an imitation of the virus, you don’t actually get sick! No DNA is harmed in the making of this immunity.