Myth or fact? Breaking down what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Myth or fact? Breaking down what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Myth: mRNA vaccines are too new; we don’t know enough about them.

Fact: mRNA technology has been studied for more than 10 years, most often in cancer research. This technology has also been studied for the flu and rabies as well. Scientists studied and mapped out the genes that make up the COVID-19 virus. Once the genes were known, those scientists were able to quickly start work to create the vaccine and start the clinical trials. Thousands of scientists in every part of the world worked at the same time to develop this vaccine and shared what they found.


Myth: The vaccines change your DNA.

Fact: The vaccine will not interact with your DNA in anyway. mRNA is a short-form of ‘messenger RNA’. mRNA cannot change your DNA, it is a part of our genetic material that gives instructions to the body, like a recipe. It simply delivers a message.

  • For COVID-19, the mRNA vaccine tells the body to make a harmless “spike protein”. This spike protein is found on the outside of the COVID-19 virus (but is not the virus itself). Our immune system recognizes the spike protein as something that shouldn’t be there and quickly works to attack it by building antibodies.
  • Human cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the instructions. mRNA does not interact with the part of our cells that holds our DNA.


Myth: COVID-19 vaccines can give you the virus.

Fact: You cannot get the virus from the vaccine; the vaccine will not make you sick. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on mRNA (messenger RNA) – this means that the vaccine does not contain a live version of the COVID-19 virus.


Myth: The side effects of the vaccine are bad, or the vaccine side effects are worse than the effects of getting COVID-19.

Fact: While some people’s experience of COVID-19 may be mild, it can also cause some people to become very sick and even lead to death. There is some research to show that even a mild case of COVID-19 can be harmful to a person’s lungs (which makes breathing hard) and to their heart and cardiovascular system.

The COVID-19 vaccine does have common side effects. The vaccine can cause: pain or redness where you got the shot; headache; feeling tired; and muscle aches and joint pain.

These effects are more likely after the second dose of vaccine and will typically go away in a day or two. These effects are a normal part of your body’s response to most vaccines – it is a sign that your body is learning how to recognize and fight the virus. Some people may experience more serious reactions to the vaccine, but these are very unlikely and tracked closely by Health Canada. If you have questions about these effects, reach out to a trusted health care provider.


Myth: The long-term consequences of the vaccines could be harmful.

Fact: We don’t have long-term evidence yet, but the chance of this type of vaccine causing long-term harm is very unlikely. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is quickly broken down by the body. After your body learns how to fight off the spike protein that covers the COVID-19 virus, your body removes the mRNA and there is nothing left of the vaccine in your body. The short-term data that we have is promising and does not suggest any long-term safety concerns. As part of the vaccine safety program in Canada, ongoing monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines will continue.


Myth: More people will die because of a bad side effect to the COVID-19 vaccine than would actually die from the virus.

Fact: On social media, some people are saying that only 1%-2% of people with COVID-19 die from it and that people should not be vaccinated because the chance of dying is low. However, even if only 1% of people with COVID-19 die, that is 10 times more than the seasonal flu. Also, your risk of dying from COVID-19 changes by age, sex, and underlying health conditions.

Getting the vaccine is not just about keeping you safe from COVID-19. It prevents the spread of the virus and keeps other people safe too. No vaccine is 100% effective, but they are far better than not getting a vaccine. The benefits are bigger than the risks in healthy people.


Myth: There are already new strains of the virus, so vaccines won’t work.

Fact: Both Pfizer and Moderna are looking into whether or not the vaccine will work on the new strain of the virus. So far, there is no evidence that shows the vaccine will not work. More research is needed, and Health Canada will watch this closely.


Myth: The vaccine trials didn’t include those over 65, so it may not be safe for us.

Fact: The vaccine trials included people over the age of 65 and the vaccine was found to be safe and effective in this age group.


Myth: We are guinea pigs, they are testing rushed vaccines on us.

Fact: Some people believe that vaccine research must take a long time. While creating a new vaccine can sometimes take years, the progress on COVID-19 vaccines is happening quickly for many reasons, including: advances in science and technology; focused teamwork among scientists, health professionals, researchers, industries, and governments from all over the world; and increased funding specifically to make this vaccine. For any vaccine to reach the general public it must pass careful evaluation by Health Canada and will have to pass all safety standards.


The above information was provided by Haldimand County. View the full list of myths and facts at

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