Myth-busting COVID-19 and the vaccines


Arely Sun

An illustration of the COVID-19 virus. This article addresses common myths surrounding COVID-19, the delta variant and vaccines and provides accurate answers from the CDC and The New England Journal of Medicine.

by Arjun Barrett and Nicole Tian

Do I still need to wear a mask if I’m vaccinated?

Yes. Though the CDC only requires unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask, all vaccinated individuals are encouraged to continue wearing masks. Unvaccinated people are more likely to contract the virus and spread it to others, but those who are vaccinated are still susceptible to breakthrough infections since vaccinated individuals can still carry the delta variant. So, if you interact with anyone who is unvaccinated, you could still transmit the virus without a mask.

Can the COVID-19 vaccines cause side effects? Are they dangerous?

Yes and no. The common side effects of the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines include pain and swelling at the vaccination site and occasionally headaches and muscle pain. In about two cases per million, vaccine administration causes a severe allergic reaction. However, the allergic reaction can be immediately treated on site by the vaccine provider. There are no long-term side effects from any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Does the vaccine work against the delta variant?

Yes. Since the delta variant is derived from the original virus, the COVID-19 vaccine is effective against both. For instance, the Pfizer vaccine is about 94% effective against the original virus and 88% effective against the delta variant.

How much more dangerous is the delta variant?

According to the CDC, the delta variant is up to two times more contagious than other strains of the coronavirus and can cause more severe reactions in unvaccinated individuals. In cases in which vaccinated people contract the virus, also known as “breakthrough cases,” the delta variant can still reproduce and spread to others, but breakthrough cases are usually infectious for less time than cases in unvaccinated people.

Will COVID-19 weaken over time?

Probably not. As organisms reproduce, random mutations can occur. In accordance with natural selection, the mutations that are most conducive to reproduction become most prevalent. In the case of the coronavirus, random mutations eventually enabled the creation of variants such as the delta variant that are more dangerous and therefore more likely to reproduce.

Do any COVID-19 vaccines release the coronavirus into the body?

No, Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, which means that they contain instructions for making a protein piece. The immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and begins creating antibodies to defend against it. When the body actually comes into contact with COVID-19, it already has the instructions on how to prevent infection. Since mRNA vaccines do not contain a weakened form of the virus, it does not shed or decompose into the body.