The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and 7 other things you should know

They're 95% effective. They won't give you COVID. They won't alter your DNA.
Vaccine info graphic

People should get vaccinated. That's the message experts from UCLA Health want everyone to know.

The two current vaccines against COVID-19 have been tested and approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and have been shown to be both safe and highly effective.

While about 43 million Americans have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, a recent poll showed that about 1 out of 4 are hesitant about getting vaccinated.

Hesitancy is understandable. This is a new and unfamiliar situation. But medical experts and public health officials are concerned that it is misinformation about the vaccines, rather than actual facts, that may be discouraging some people from getting it.

To reassure those who might still be skeptical and provide some truth about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, UCLA Health doctors have answered the questions below.

Remember, UCLA is committed to eventually offering vaccines to all faculty, staff and students free of charge. Campus leaders have encouraged all members of the UCLA community to get vaccinated as soon as they have an opportunity, whether that's through UCLA, their primary care doctor, the county or any other official vaccination site.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to data collected and released by the FDA, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic illness for COVID-19 after both doses are received.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. The vaccine does not contain the live virus and cannot cause COVID-19.

Can the vaccine change my DNA?

There is no way for the COVID-19 vaccine to alter your DNA. The mRNA in the two vaccines is a short-lived, temporary messenger, and it only works in one direction. This means that the RNA does not interact with your DNA and never enters the part of the cell where your DNA is located.

How is the COVID-19 vaccine administered?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given in two shots that are injected into a muscle. The Pfizer vaccine shots are administered 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine shots are 28 days apart. You must receive the same vaccine for both doses.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The vaccine increases the body's immune response by making antibodies that block the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the virus that causes COVID-19 — from entering your cells. If the virus cannot enter your cells, it cannot reproduce and make you sick.

What are the potential side effects of the vaccine?

In ongoing clinical trials, the most common side effects included:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Mild fever

Side effects are generally mild and last a day or two. They were more pronounced after the second dose.

As with any vaccine, there is a low chance of allergic reaction. If a patient has a history of severe allergic reaction to other vaccines, they should talk to their doctor.

Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Nearly everyone should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

As of Feb. 1, Los Angeles County is offering the vaccine to health care workers and those 65 and older. Additional groups will become eligible when supplies of the vaccine are available.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people who are immunocompromised, have bleeding disorders or have severe allergies should consult with their primary care physicians.

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