There are many myths and a great deal of misinformation on the internet about COVID-19. The good news is that there is reliable information from trusted public health sources, such as the VDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.
Here are the facts that counter common myths making their rounds on the internet and social media.
- Children can get severe COVID-19 illness. Although children do not seem to be at higher risk for getting COVID-19, they can still get COVID-19 and can spread the virus to others. Most children who get COVID-19 will have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all, but some can get severe illness from COVID-19. Babies younger than 1 year and children with certain underlying medical conditions may be more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is also a rare but serious disease linked to COVID-19 and has been reported in children. Post-COVID conditions, or ‘long COVID’, in children are currently being studied. Post-COVID conditions are ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- You should get a COVID-19 vaccine, even if you have already had COVID-19. Studies have shown that compared to the “natural immunity” in people who had COVID-19 illness before but have not been vaccinated yet, the immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccination in people who also had COVID-19 illness before is both stronger (that is, provides higher antibody levels) and broader (that is, it can better protect against some of the new variant strains). As variants of COVID-19 continue to appear and to spread more widely, COVID-19 vaccination becomes even more important for those previously infected with COVID-19. The recently identified variant viruses are both more infectious and less likely to be prevented by antibodies against earlier forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Fortunately, the available vaccines continue to work well against all variants that have been identified so far.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not cause COVID-19. There are common side effects to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, like pain or swelling of the arm where you got the shot, fever, tiredness, or headache. These are all normal reactions that show your body is developing protection against COVID-19. These reactions do not mean that you got COVID-19 from the vaccine. None of the available COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not alter your DNA. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA to build protection against COVID-19. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cells (where your DNA is). So, it cannot change your DNA. The mRNA dissolves shortly after the shot is given. Learn more about how mRNA vaccines work at Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines. The third vaccine, Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, is a viral vector vaccine. Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different, harmless virus (that is, the vector) that can’t replicate in or harm the body to carry information to cells. The immune system then builds antibodies to fight these proteins. The genetic material delivered by the viral vector does not enter into a person’s DNA. Learn more about viral vector vaccines at Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines.
- The vaccines were not rolled out too quickly. The messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccines is not new. The mRNA technology behind the COVID-19 vaccines has been in development for over 20 years for other diseases, like the flu, Zika, and rabies. Vaccine makers created this technology to help respond quickly to new pandemic diseases, like COVID-19. The same steps that have been used to develop other vaccines were also used for COVID-19 vaccines. But many of these steps could overlap with COVID-19 vaccines (instead of one step following the other), saving critical time. There were also important advances with logistics. For example, clinical trial sites originally built for HIV and influenza were repurposed for COVID-19 to support vaccine trials.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. There is also no evidence that female or male fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines. Many people have become pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and there is currently no evidence that antibodies made following COVID-19 vaccination or the vaccine ingredients would cause any problems with becoming pregnant now or in the future.
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people and their growing baby. We know that pregnant women are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness than people who are not pregnant. Pregnant women with COVID-19 might also be more likely to have preterm deliveries than those who are not infected. Current information suggests that receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk for COVID-19 infection. A report looking at pregnant people who were vaccinated before 20 weeks of pregnancy found that there was no increased risk for miscarriage among people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. CDC and VDH encourage all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated now to protect themselves from COVID-19. Pregnant and lactating women should talk with their healthcare provider if they have questions about the vaccine or to discuss which vaccine is right for them.
- COVID-19 vaccines will not make you magnetic. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection. All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, as well as any manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors. Also, the dose for a COVID-19 vaccine is less than a milliliter, which is not enough to allow magnets to be attracted to your vaccination site even if the vaccine was filled with a magnetic metal.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not have a microchip. Vaccines are built to protect you from disease and not made to track your movement. You can learn more about the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines currently fully approved and authorized in the United States here.
- COVID-19 vaccines do not make you ‘shed’ the virus. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines do not release or discharge any of the vaccine components in or outside of the body. Release or discharge of components can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus. None of the vaccines used in the U.S. contain a live virus. The COVID-19 vaccines that have received full FDA approval and those that are authorized for emergency use during this pandemic have undergone careful evaluation in large-scale clinical trials to prove that they are both safe and effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19. Check out the VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs to make sure you are getting accurate information from a credible source.
- COVID-19 vaccines prevent the spread of the virus and severe outcomes, like hospitalization or death. Even though the COVID-19 survival rate is considered to be high, rates of death due to COVID-19 vary widely depending on age, gender, and underlying health conditions. It's also important to remember that getting vaccinated is not only about surviving. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 works really well to prevent severe illness and hospitalization or long-term outcomes of COVID-19 illness, called ‘long COVID.’ Getting vaccinated helps to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed. Overwhelming hospitals can mean there may be fewer or no beds or healthcare staff to take care of people. To see rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by vaccination status in Virginia, please view the Cases by Vaccination Status dashboard.
- Comirnaty is the new name for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which is marketed as the Comirnaty vaccine, to persons aged 16 years and older. New name, same vaccine: the Comirnaty vaccine is the same Pfizer vaccine as the one that was first authorized for use in December 2020. Full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine means that the vaccine can be used even when there is not a public health emergency.
- Masks do not hurt your immune system. Masks help limit the amount of respiratory droplets that go into the air to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff have been wearing face masks for decades. Disposable masks should be thrown away if they become wet or dirty, and should only be used one time. Cloth face coverings should be washed. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 for more information.
- There is no evidence that wearing a mask can hurt your oxygen levels or cause you to breathe in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Unlike medical N95 respirators, disposable masks and cloth face coverings fit more loosely and air can pass through them. Face coverings should not be worn by children under two or anyone who has a health condition that makes it hard to breathe or take off their face covering without help. Wearing a face covering may feel weird or uncomfortable at first because we are not used to it, and it can be a challenge if it's hot and humid or if your glasses fog up. If you are having a hard time breathing, your cloth mask might be too thick. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 for more information.
- Masks are safe for kids. Masks are made from breathable materials that will not prevent your child from breathing in oxygen. Masks will also not affect your child's lungs from developing normally. Oxygen will flow through and around the mask, while blocking the spray of spit and respiratory droplets that may contain the virus that causes COVID-19. Carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even smaller than respiratory droplets, and cannot be trapped by breathable materials like cloth or disposable masks.
- Staying at home more during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot weaken the immune system (the part of your body that fights off germs). Our immune system is built up over many years and won’t suddenly stop working. Staying at home and being isolated from others can impact our health in other ways, though. Stress, depression, bad sleep patterns, lack of exercise, and eating unhealthy foods can all hurt the immune system. It’s important to work on healthy habits such as getting enough rest, managing stress, staying connected to friends and family, eating a healthy diet and exercising. Getting out into the fresh air can be good for both our bodies and our minds.
- You cannot get COVID-19 from eating food. You should not wash your food with bleach. It could burn your mouth, throat or stomach and make you sick. However, you should not share utensils or cups with other people.
- Eating garlic and onions does not protect you from or cure COVID-19. Garlic and onions are healthy foods that may have some germ fighting abilities, but there is no proof or evidence that eating them will protect you from or cure COVID-19.
- Pepper added to food does not protect you from or cure COVID-19. Hot peppers might make your nose run so be sure to have tissues on hand when enjoying spicy food!
- Drinking alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) will not protect you from getting COVID-19. Drinking too much can lead to many other health issues.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stopped its approval for the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treating people with COVID-19. Research studies did not show that they were helpful in treating COVID-19 and there have been a number of serious and long lasting side effects, including heart damage, from the use of these drugs.
- There is insufficient evidence to recommend ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. The FDA has not approved or authorized the use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin is used in the U.S. for the treatment and prevention of infection caused by parasites, but the National Institutes of Health has also determined that there isn't enough evidence to recommend it for the treatment of COVID-19. Some studies have described the effect of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting, however the amount of ivermectin that a person would need to take to see a similar effect would be dangerously high. Taking large doses of ivermectin is dangerous. Also, animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans. Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous. Therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, have been authorized by the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19 in the U.S. Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, is also approved for COVID-19 treatment by the FDA.
- Drinking or breathing in household cleaners, bleach, or disinfectants will not work to prevent or kill the COVID-19 virus inside your body. These chemicals can cause injuries or poison you. Do not use these products on your skin. Soap and water are all you need to safely clean your skin.
- Ultraviolet (UV) light or lamps should not be used to disinfect your skin. UV radiation can irritate or harm your skin and eyes. If you need to clean up, wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or take a shower and put on clean clothes.
- Gargling with mouthwash does not prevent COVID-19. When the virus that causes COVID-19 enters the body, it is typically inhaled deep into the throat and lungs. Gargling with a mouthwash won’t prevent infection from virus particles that are inhaled into these deeper areas.
- 5G networks did not cause the COVID-19 pandemic. Biological viruses cannot travel through radio waves or mobile networks. This conspiracy theory was started through an uploaded internet video which was later proven to be false.
- COVID-19 can still spread in hot weather. Some people thought that COVID-19 would go away when the weather got hot, like the flu does each year. However, COVID-19 is not the flu and we now know that COVID-19 can easily spread during hot and humid weather.
- The chance that COVID-19 could be spread by shoes is very low. It’s a good idea to take shoes off at the door, especially if there are young children crawling or playing on the floor. This will keep dirt or germs from being brought into the house. Because older people are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, many long-term care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living facilities) are having people sanitize their shoes before entering as an extra safety measure.
If you need help sorting out other COVID-19 facts and myths, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 MythBusters page or WHO's Science in 5 on COVID-19 - Vaccine myths vs science.
- Read VDH’s COVID-19 FAQs
- Read VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs
- Call VDH COVID-19 hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343)
Page last updated: September 16, 2021