Kwame Akoto, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician with the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. He sees patients at Kaiser Permanente in Baltimore. (Courtesy photo)

Featured Expert: Kaiser Permanente 

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 214 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and we are beginning to see significant progress in our fight to end COVID. Cases are dropping following the Omicron surge and many workplaces and community activities are resuming normal operations. Unfortunately, much conflicting information continues circulating about the vaccine, causing hesitancy and confusion, so it’s important to know the facts. Dr. Kwame Akoto, a Permanente Medicine family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente, addresses some common myths and shares important facts about COVID-19 vaccines.

FACT: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

This is an important fact: you absolutely cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine or booster. None of the authorized 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.

FACT: COVID-19 vaccines and boosters help protect you from getting sick or severely ill and might also protect people around you.

COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against severe illness, including disease caused by Omicron, Delta and other variants. Breakthrough infections are possible even if you’re vaccinated because no vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you’re fully vaccinated, you are much less likely to become infected and therefore less likely to pass the virus to others. Additionally, research has found that receiving the COVID-19 booster significantly increases the efficacy of your vaccine and better protects you against the Omicron variant. If you are fully vaccinated and experience a breakthrough infection you are less likely to become seriously ill, require hospitalization or die. Hospitalization rates are 9 to 15 times higher for unvaccinated individuals compared to vaccinated adults.

FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children.

All children ages 5 and up should receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. More than 22 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with most experiencing only mild, short-lived side effects, if any at all. Symptoms like mild fever, body aches or headaches, which are common with other vaccines, can be relieved with home remedies such as keeping them hydrated; moving the arm they received the vaccine in to avoid arm pain; using a cold or warm compress at the injection site; avoiding strenuous activities; and using over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These symptoms usually subside after one to two days.

FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine does NOT impact fertility and is safe during pregnancy.

There is no evidence that any vaccination, including the COVID-19 vaccine, affects fertility for women or men. Studies have shown, among women undergoing IVF treatments, there was no difference in pregnancy rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Additionally, CDC research shows that being vaccinated during pregnancy does not lead to pregnancy complications like pre-term birth or low birth weight. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends pregnant women to get vaccinated. So far, more than 22,000 pregnant women have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth, stillbirth and serious COVID infection of their newborn. Further, recent research shows that getting vaccinated during pregnancy protects not only mom, but also her unborn baby.

Fact: If you had COVID-19, you should still get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster. 

People who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. COVID-19 poses a severe health risk, and it is possible to be infected more than once with the virus. In fact, researchers have found that reinfection is much more common with the Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated and boosted (for those ages 12 and up) makes you far less likely to die or be hospitalized if you experience a breakthrough infection. 

Fact: Some may experience short-term, mild or moderate side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines.

Some people have short-term mild or moderate reactions to the vaccine that resolve without complications. This may include pain, redness, and swelling on the arm where you got the shot, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. These symptoms are normal after a vaccination and are signs your immune system is responding to the virus to offer protection in the future. Unlike the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection that can be severe and last for weeks, these symptoms should go away in a day or two and can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.

To learn more, get involved or get vaccinated, visit: kp.org/govax

Kwame Akoto, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician with the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. He sees patients at Kaiser Permanente in Baltimore.

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