COVID-19 Vaccine Safety: Facts and Myths 

Vaccines are the strongest tool we have to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  While all three vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are safe, effective and free – you may still have some questions or mixed feelings. When deciding whether to get vaccinated, it’s important to separate myths from facts.  

Vaccines are Safe and Effective

Vaccines have a long history of being safe and effective. Billions of people around the world have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19. Three COVID-19 vaccines are available in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. These vaccines have been thoroughly reviewed for safety and are highly effective at protecting people against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Vaccine Facts

  • Billions of people around the world have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S. meet the FDA’s high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality required of any vaccine approved for use in the U.S.

    • Moderna (also known as Spikevax) is approved for people ages 18 and older and Pfizer (also known as Comirnaty) is approved for people ages 16 and older.

    • Pfizer is approved with an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for people 5-15 years old and Johnson & Johnson is approved with an EUA for people ages 18 and older.

    • Emergency Use Authorization (EUA): This authorization from the FDA allows vaccines to be distributed during public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Under an EUA, the FDA keeps its strict standards but makes decisions more quickly than usual so that life-saving medicines, like the COVID-19 vaccines, can be given.

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA):

    • Scientists have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades.

    • mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with a person’s DNA.

    • mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus, so they cannot give you COVID-19.

  • Boosters and additional doses:

    • Everyone ages 12 and older should get a booster dose for added protection.

    • A second booster dose is available for people at higher risk.

    • While boosters and additional doses are recommended for some people, that doesn’t mean that the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t working. The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be extremely effective at reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death.


Debunking Vaccine Myths:
How to Respond

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccines. How should you respond?

  • Start from a place of empathy and understanding. Withhold judgment.

  • Listen to and respond to questions.

  • Address misinformation by sharing key facts.

  • Encourage people to use credible sources of information such as the CDC and scientific institutions.

  • Emphasize what we know and acknowledge what we do not know.


What Vaccines Do

Vaccines teach your body how to fight COVID-19.

  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach your cells to produce antibodies that protect you from COVID-19. Both vaccines require at least two doses. Click here to learn more about mRNA vaccines.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is called a “viral vector vaccine.” It uses a modified version of a different and harmless virus to deliver important instructions to our cells to fight infections. At the end of the process, our bodies learn how to protect us against future infection. Click here to learn more about viral vector vaccines.

What the Vaccines Don’t Do

  • The vaccines do not give you COVID-19.

    • The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not contain live viruses.

    • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not contain the virus that causes COVID-19. It uses a virus that does not cause illness in humans and can only replicate for a short time before being destroyed by your immune system.

  • The vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant, who are trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. There is no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.​

Side Effects

Some people may experience side effects after getting a vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a sign your body is building protection against COVID-19. Symptoms are usually mild and go away within a few days.

  • Common side effects include: fatigue, body chills, body aches, fever, sore arm, or swelling on your arm where you got the shot.

  • Some people report more intense side effects following the second dose of the vaccine.

  • Helpful Tips:

    • It’s not recommended to take any medication before your vaccination.

    • Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. 

    • Drink plenty of water.

    • Bring your mask and ID.