Aug 18, 2021 12:00 PM

Author: University of Utah Health Communications


As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue across the country, doctors, scientists, and medical professionals urge broad vaccination against COVID-19. Meanwhile, skepticism and misinformation about coronavirus has been spreading on social media. To address some of the myths and misconceptions, top experts in epidemiology, infectious diseases, and obstetrics and gynecology at University of Utah Health provide current information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The Omicron variant is more contagious

  • The Omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible and contagious than previous strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), even in vaccinated individuals.
  • While the Delta variant caused more severe disease and hospitalization, Omicron is still causing severe disease especially for people who are immunocompromised.
  • More young people are experiencing severe COVID-19 and are needing hospitalization.
  • Although COVID-19 is primarily spread among unvaccinated individuals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a small percentage of breakthrough infections among vaccinated people.

COVID-19 vaccines work against all variants

  • COVID-19 vaccines decrease infection with all variants, including the Delta and Omicron variants, and have shown to be highly effective at reducing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
  • Vaccinated individuals are four times LESS likely to be infected with COVID-19, according to the Utah Department of Health.
  • COVID-19 vaccines provide broader protection and prolonged immunity than natural infection of the virus. It is recommended that those previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provide the best immunity against SARS-CoV-2 after two doses. For these vaccines, it takes five (Pfizer-BioNTech) or six (Moderna) weeks to be fully protected. This is the duration from the first dose until two weeks after the second dose.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on August 23, 2021, for individuals 16 years of age and older. This included review of 340,000 pages of data.
  • Moderna also received full licensure of its COVID-19 vaccine on January 31, 2022 for individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is available under emergency use authorization (EUA). 
  • While mRNA vaccines are a relatively new type of vaccine, they have been under research for more than 20 years. The mRNA vaccine has been shown to be so effective that it provides better protection than antibodies that develop after natural COVID-19 infection.

Vaccine benefits outweigh any potential risks

  • People typically experience relatively minor side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine, such as short-lived fever and fatigue that can be treated with over-the-counter medication.
  • The vaccines do not give you COVID-19.
  • The risk of experiencing a complication from the vaccine is extremely rare and occurs no longer than six to eight weeks after vaccination.
  • There’s a much higher risk of developing severe illness or long-term symptoms from natural infection of COVID-19 than there is of potentially developing serious side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s estimated that 10 to 30 percent of people who have had COVID-19 develop long-term symptoms. These include chronic fatigue, brain fog, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, loss of taste and smell, and loss of hair.

Continue to mask

  • Masking is one of the most crucial tools available to help stop transmission of COVID-19.
  • The CDC recommends unvaccinated individuals continue wearing a mask to help prevent others from getting infected. It is also recommended that vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in public to maximize protection from the Delta variant.
  • Masking has been shown to be very effective in schools. A study conducted by U of U Health found schools can safely resume in-person learning if universal masking, physical distancing, and other safety prevention measures are in place.

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for children

  • Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only available COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 and older. 
  • While COVID-19 in kids is not as serious as it is for adults, kids are still at risk of experiencing complications from the virus, such as hospitalization, death, and, more commonly, long COVID. A condition caused by the virus, known as MIS-C, can also develop after infection.
  • COVID-19 cases among children are increasing in Utah. More children are becoming seriously ill and are being hospitalized.
  • COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect children from getting the virus and spreading it to other children, family, friends, teachers, and people in the community.
  • The side effects experienced among kids are nearly identical as in adults.
  • Currently, the CDC is monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, extremely rare and temporary conditions associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that occur in less than .001% of vaccinated people.

COVID-19 vaccination is safe during pregnancy

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination during pregnancy has been safe and effective among the more than 178,000 pregnant women who have received a vaccine in the U.S.
  • COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding provides protection for both mother and baby. Protective antibodies are passed onto baby via the bloodstream or through breastmilk.
  • COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility and have not been connected to changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle. According to published research, vaccines do not likely pose a risk for people who are pregnant.
  • Pregnant women do not experience any worse complications or side effects from COVID-19 vaccines than non-pregnant people. However, women are more vulnerable to infections and viruses. According to research conducted by U of U Health, pregnant women with severe COVID-19 are at higher risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth, cesarean delivery, and high blood pressure. Therefore, COVID-19 vaccines are recommended during pregnancy.

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This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date. 

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