COVID-19 Vaccine - FAQs

Jon Sangeorzan, MD, infectious diseases physician at McLaren Northern Michigan, answers your COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions. 

How did they make these vaccines so quickly?
     > Messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology has been in the works for decades, but received more attention with the start of the pandemic and got more funding.
     > Manufacturing started while the clinical trials were still underway, (but not released for use until their safety and efficacy were proven).
     > mRNA vaccines are faster to produce than traditional vaccines.
     > Because we’re in a pandemic, the Federal Government Medical Agencies put priority and resources toward getting these out safely and as fast as possible.
     > Enrollment in safety and effectiveness trials was faster due to the large number of participants available.

Were the vaccines tested on people like me?
     > Vaccine trials included all adults 18 years of age and above.
     > It was mandated that 25% of participants in Moderna and Pfizer trials were to be greater than 65 years of age.
     > It was mandated that 30% of participants in Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) trials were to be greater than 60 years of age.
     > Study participants included at least 25% of people with common health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer.
     > There were no exclusions for diseases or medications.

Do the vaccines work for all races and ethnic groups?
     > Yes. There is strong evidence that the vaccines work well for all people, regardless of their genetic background.
     > I’ve heard the mRNA vaccines...
               > Will give you COVID-19. No, that is not true.
               > Affects women’s fertility. No, that is not true.
               > Contains fetal tissue, microchips and other devices. No, that is not true.

Do mRNA vaccines change my DNA?
     > Absolutely does not change your DNA.
     > mRNA is a signal to your cell. It stays in the outer part of the cell and does not enter the nucleus, where DNA is located.
     > The mRNA in the vaccine is present in the body for only 1-3 days; then it degrades, and the immune system is primed and ready.
     > The Jannsen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine (not an mRNA vaccine) can stay in your body for more than a week, but it does not reproduce itself; this may lead to increased protection over time.

Should I get a vaccine now or “wait and see?”
     > Over 60 million U.S. residents have already received the vaccine, and 156 million globally as of March 8, 2021.
     > They are proven to be safe and effective, and monitoring is still occurring.
     > We are currently in a wave of new COVID cases. The major new strain is more contagious and probably causes more serious illness.

Which vaccine is best?
     > All the vaccines (Janssen, Moderna and Pfizer) are very good at preventing severe disease, so they will greatly reduce rates of severe disease progression, hospitalization and death.     
     > When you are offered a vaccine, you should take it.

What type of reactions have been reported after vaccination?
     > Common reactions are sore arm, headache, aches and a fever may appear within 48 hours. These are similar to reactions seen after shingles and influenza vaccines.

Why do I have to wear a mask after getting immunized against COVID-19?
     > The vaccines prevent COVID-19 disease, severe disease and death. We know much less about whether vaccines prevent asymptomatic infection, as this question was not studied. Until we know that, we must assume that vaccinated people might get COVID-19 and not know it.
     > Masks, social distancing and handwashing are still required until we have more information.

View a list of organizations offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics.