Since Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines have been officially cleared for distribution and Americans have already begun receiving them, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to debunk a myth that has hindered public health efforts for years now: the idea that vaccines can somehow make you sick.
I have heard, time and time again, stories from individuals who have claimed to have gotten the flu after receiving the flu vaccine. Now, then, they have developed a distrust of vaccines in general.
In the midst of a pandemic, this distrust is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our entire nation. When it comes down to it, this myth stems from a complete lack of understanding.
And while I can sympathize with hesitation about taking a COVID-19 vaccine this early, I can at least promise you this: it will not give you coronavirus, because, well, it can't. Let me begin by explaining how a vaccine works.
The purpose of a vaccine is to essentially "train" your body's immune system to recognize and fight off certain pathogens. To do this, select molecules from a pathogen, called antigens, need to be introduced to the body so that it can form an immune response and learn how to combat the "intruder".
When you receive a vaccine for a virus (such as COVID), you are not being injected with the full-strength live virus that causes the illness, so it cannot make you sick.
However, your body does not realize that the injection poses no real threat. All it knows is that something it does not recognize has entered your system, so it is going to react as though there is an actual intruder and will trigger an immune response.
So, if you have gotten a flu vaccine and have experienced flu-like symptoms as a result, your body is doing its job. It is 100% normal and completely healthy for your body to have a mild immune response to receiving a vaccine.
The fever, chills, or other symptoms that you may experience after receiving a vaccine are ways that your body tries to fight off illness to keep you safe. They are your body's response to intruders in your system, not proof that you are sick.
Once your body safely learns to fight off these invaders in the body, your immune system will remember the antigens and, should it ever reappear, can attack the pathogen well before it does any damage.
So, if your hesitation about taking a COVID-19 vaccine stems from a belief that it could actually give you COVID, I promise that is not true. It is scientifically impossible for the coronavirus vaccine to make you sick since it does not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
If we're going to fight off this pandemic once and for all, we need to first make sure we are circulating facts about vaccines, not perpetrating myths.