With the variety of information available to us, it is sometimes hard to sort out fact from fiction. Adam Brady, MD, infectious disease specialist at Samaritan Infectious Disease - Corvallis, provides direct answers to common questions about getting a COVID vaccine. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource for other questions you may have.
“The main thing to know is that the COVID-19 vaccines have been tested and are safe,” said Dr. Brady. “Getting a vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19.”
Does the Vaccine Give You COVID?
No. The COVID vaccine is not a live vaccine, meaning it does not give you the COVID-19 infection. “It takes 29 different proteins to build the coronavirus, and this vaccine creates only one of them, the spike protein,” Dr. Brady explained. “It is not capable of replicating into a virus.”
Does the Vaccine Alter DNA?
No. “The messenger RNA cannot invade the nucleus of our cells where DNA is located, so it is not capable of altering the body’s DNA. Instead, messenger RNA sends instructions to our cells to produce proteins that act like the COVID-19 spike proteins so that our immune system can use them to fight off the actual infection. Once those proteins are made, mRNA degrades in 10 to 20 days and leaves our body through our normal cellular process,” noted Dr. Brady.
Can the COVID Vaccine Cause Anaphylaxis?
Dr. Brady says that anaphylaxis with the COVID vaccine is very rare.
“A recent analysis of the first 1.8 million Pfizer vaccine doses described only 21 cases of anaphylaxis which all have been treatable,” he said. “While this is a bit higher than a normal vaccine, it is still very low. Patients who have a history of anaphylaxis will have a longer observation period after the vaccine before they can leave the vaccination site.”
Who Should Avoid Getting the COVID Vaccine?
“If a person has had a severe allergic reaction to any of the components that make up the vaccine, they should not get it,” said Dr. Brady noted. “Also, if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or to any other mRNA vaccine, you should not get the current COVID vaccine. Speak with your health care provider about any concerns you may have.”
If You Are Pregnant or Nursing, Should You Get the Vaccine?
“While these vaccines were not tested in pregnant women, there are very low theoretical risks to baby with these vaccines,” Dr. Brady said.
In fact, getting the coronavirus when pregnant can be far worse.
In a study of 23,434 pregnant women, those with symptomatic COVID-19 were more likely than non-pregnant women with the virus to have more severe illness, hospital admissions, death and premature birth.
“Leaders in women’s health organizations recommend vaccination to prevent new infections, and there is very little theoretical harm to baby through breast milk. There is, however, potential for antibodies to pass through breast milk of women who are vaccinated, so that would be a good thing for baby,” he said.
When it comes to getting the vaccine, it is important to weigh your unique risks for getting COVID-19 against any potential side effects.
“I encourage everyone to read about these vaccines, talk to your health care provider if you have questions – most clinicians in this region have been vaccinated themselves,” Dr. Brady said.
Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask or Take Other Precautions After Getting Vaccinated?
While the current supply of COVID-19 vaccine is limited, it will increase in the months to come and more and more people will be vaccinated. In addition, wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others and washing your hands often will help slow this pandemic.
Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination events in our community.