Facts About COVID-19

Facts About COVID-19

There are many myths and a great deal of misinformation on the internet about COVID-19. The good news is that reliable information is available from trusted public health sources, such as the VDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the American Academy of Pediatrics , and 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 of getting COVID-19, they can still get infected and  can also spread the virus to others. Although most children who get COVID-19 will have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all, some can get severe COVID-19 illness. Babies younger than 1 year and children with certain underlying medical conditions may be even more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C)  another rare but serious childhood disease reportedly linked to COVID-19. 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 looked at people who had COVID-19 illness in their past. Protection that comes from “natural immunity” after COVID-19 illness can vary. The amount of protection can depend on the amount of time that has passed since COVID-19 illness, severity of illness, and the variant of the virus.  The strength and duration of this protection is unclear more than 10 to 12 months after the infection. With natural infection, there is an added risk of developing severe illness and complications like long COVID. Even people with COVID-19 who have mild illness or no symptoms can suffer from long COVID. 

Vaccination is the safest way to get protection from severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 Protection from vaccination decreases over time, which is why CDC recommends booster doses. Being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations , including being boosted when eligible, provides protection against severe outcomes caused by variants (though a bit lower protection against the Omicron variant and its BA.2 subvariant). For those who have already had COVID-19, getting vaccinated strengthens protection and lowers their risk of getting COVID-19 again even further. 

FACTS: COVID-19 Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause COVID-19.

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. There are common side effects to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. A few examples are pain or swelling of the arm where you got the shot, fever, tiredness, or headache. These are all normal and expected reactions that show your body is developing protection against COVID-19. These reactions do not mean that you got COVID-19 from the vaccine. 

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 found) 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 COVID-19 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). They can’t replicate in or harm the body to carry information to cells. The immune system then builds antibodies to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. 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.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology behind the COVID-19 vaccines is not new and COVID-19 vaccines have now been in use since the middle of 2020. More than 250 million Americans have received at least one dose of these vaccines. The mRNA technology has been in development for over 20 years. It helps against 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 taken to develop other vaccines were also used for COVID-19 vaccines. But in the COVID-19 vaccine development process, many of these steps could partially overlap with each other, saving critical time. There were also important advances in logistics. For example, researchers adapted clinical study sites originally built for HIV and flu to support COVID-19 vaccine studies.

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy. This includes the development of the placenta. Female or male fertility problems are not a side effect of any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people and their growing babies.

Many people have become pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Antibodies made after COVID-19 vaccination do not cause any problems with becoming pregnant now or in the future. The same is true for ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine. We know that getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant reduces the risk for COVID-19 infection. A report that focused on people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy found that pregnant people, even those vaccinated before 20 weeks of pregnancy, had no increased risk for miscarriage. CDC and VDH encourage pregnant people to get vaccinated now to protect themselves from COVID-19. This recommendation also is true for those thinking about becoming pregnant and those currently breastfeeding. Pregnant and lactating people with more questions should talk with their healthcare provider about vaccination and about which vaccine is right for you.

On the other hand, COVID-19 disease is a very large problem for pregnant people and for pregnancies. We know that pregnant people are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness than those who are not pregnant. Pregnant people with COVID-19 might also be more likely to have miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and low birth weight babies than those not infected.

COVID-19 vaccines will not make you magnetic.

COVID-19 vaccines do NOT  contain any metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and lithium or any other ingredients that could possibly create an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection. They are also free from manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors. Also, the dose for a COVID-19 vaccine is less than one-thirtieth of an ounce. Even if the vaccine had a magnetic metal, this amount is too low for magnets to be attracted to your vaccination site.

COVID-19 vaccines do not have a microchip.

Vaccines are built to protect you from disease, not to track your movement. You can learn more about the ingredients at Use of COVID-19  Vaccines in the United States.

COVID-19 vaccines do not make you ‘shed’ the virus.

Shedding of a vaccine’s components can only happen when the vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, so shedding is not possible. The COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. have full FDA approval or are authorized for emergency use. These vaccines were carefully evaluated in large-scale clinical trials. The trials proved 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.

Now, more than one million Americans have died from COVID-19. Even though most COVID patients survive, death rates due to COVID-19 vary widely, for example, by age, and underlying health conditions. The vaccine does more than just prevent death. It works well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and long COVID. Vaccination can also help keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed again with COVID-19 patients to the point that they do not have enough staff or beds to care for people with other serious illnesses. You can view cases and deaths by vaccination status on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status dashboard . Virginia data are expected to be included by this summer.

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. Their vaccine 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. See the CDC’s full list of ingredients for the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine .

Spikevax is the new name for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On January 31, 2022, the FDA granted full approval of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is marketed as the Spikevax vaccine, to persons aged 18 years of age and older. New name, same vaccine: the Spikevax vaccine is the same Moderna vaccine as the one that was first authorized for emergency 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. See the CDC’s full list of ingredients for the Moderna Spikevax vaccine .

FACTS: Masks

Masks do not hurt your immune system.

Masks help limit the amount of virus-containing 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 the VDH Masks web page for more information.

FACTS: Food and Alcohol

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 who might have COVID-19. Foods like garlic, onions, and pepper 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. Also, 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. Spending time in poorly ventilated places such as bars can increase your risk of being exposed to COVID-19, because people are often in close contact in bars for long periods of time.

FACTS: Medications and Other Substances

There is no current scientific evidence to recommend ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

The FDA and NIH have not approved or authorized the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 in humans. In a recent randomized clinical trial (RCT) of 490 patients, researchers found that the use of ivermectin during early illness did not prevent the progression to severe COVID-19 disease. Doctors use ivermectin to treat and prevent infection caused by parasites. Some studies described the effect of very large doses of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting. However, a person would need to take a large and dangerous dose of ivermectin to see a similar effect. Also, the ivermectin given to animals is very different from the ivermectin used for humans.

Therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals, have been authorized by the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19 in the United States. Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, is also approved for COVID-19 treatment by the FDA.

The FDA no longer approves the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treating people with COVID-19.

Research studies did NOT show that these drugs were helpful in treating COVID-19. And in fact, their use has caused a number of serious and long lasting side effects, including heart damage.

Other Facts 

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.

Cell phone networks did not cause the COVID-19 pandemic.

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


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Page last updated: May 25, 2022