The Truth About the COVID-19 Vaccine: Separating Fact From Fiction

Healthwise Communications Team

16 months ago, no one could have predicted that a virus would impact the globe the way it has. As the rate of spread increased and the curve refused to flatten, the idea that we could develop a vaccine to stop it in its tracks seemed like a pipe dream. But thanks to the hard work of scientists and healthcare professionals all over the world, we now have a vaccine available. As of this writing, 63,016,976 Americans—19% of our country’s population—have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those numbers are rising so quickly that these numbers will probably be out of date by the time you read this.


The good news is that more vaccinations mean a safer population. On the flip side, as more of the population receives the COVID-19 vaccine, more questions have popped up, and more anecdotal evidence has led to misunderstandings and misinformation.

As with most things healthcare-related, knowledge is power—which is why patient education plays such a critical role in the pandemic. Here are some of the more common questions and concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, you can't get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccine doesn't contain the COVID-19 virus, so it can't cause the disease.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Some people don’t feel anything other than a sore arm. Others feel achy and sore, get a fever, or are tired for a day or two. This is perfectly normal—it means your immune system is learning to recognize and fight the virus.

If you’re concerned about the side effects, consider scheduling your vaccination the afternoon before a day off, so you can rest and care for yourself afterward.

Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Nearly everyone! The only people who can’t get the vaccine are those who have had a severe allergic reaction to it or to one of the ingredients. If you’re not sure whether the vaccine is safe for you to get, talk to your healthcare provider.

And yes, you should get the vaccine even if you’ve already had COVID-19. No one knows how long you remain immune after recovering.

Do I really have to get two shots?

Most people need two vaccinations—an initial one and then a booster several weeks later (though one brand only requires a single dose). Depending on which brand of vaccine you get, your provider will schedule you to return when it’s time to get the second shot. Don’t skip or reschedule this appointment—the second shot is an important part of how the vaccine keeps you safe.

If you’re unsure of which brand you received and whether you need to return for a booster, ask your doctor’s office or clinic.

Which COVID-19 vaccine should I get?

The right answer is whichever vaccine is available to you. Each one being used in the United States works in similar ways and has been approved for emergency use.


Can I stop wearing masks and social distancing after I get vaccinated?

Not entirely. The vaccine prevents most cases of COVID-19, but it's not 100% effective. There's still a small chance that you could catch the virus or give it to someone else, so continue to take precautions when out in public. And full protection doesn’t take effect until two weeks after your last vaccination. But the risk is very low when you’re around other fully vaccinated people.

Wouldn’t it be easier and safer to just get COVID-19 on purpose and get it over with?

No! While the potential side effects of the vaccine may be unpleasant, COVID-19 can be life-threatening. And even though people in older age groups or with certain underlying conditions are at greater risk of death, anyone can have long-term health problems or die—even a young, healthy person.

I’m still nervous about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or someone I know is. What should I do?

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about a new treatment for a new disease! But don’t let that keep you from protecting yourself. Instead, read medically reviewed information about the vaccine, then talk to your doctor about any concerns you still have.

We’ve created a short video called “Why Get Vaccinated?” to share with anyone you know who is on the fence about getting vaccinated.

Together, we’ll fight the pandemic. We just each need to step up and do our part to protect ourselves and each other.