The Biggest Myth About the COVID Vaccine You Need to Stop Believing

The COVID-19 vaccine may not do the one thing you're expecting it to do.

Many people are holding out hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will be a miracle elixir that, once injected, will prevent you from contracting the virus altogether. Although this sounds ideal, it's unrealistic. While the answer to putting an end to this pandemic may lie with a vaccine, the creation of a vaccine won't be the end of the virus altogether. Scientists are urging the public to have realistic expectations of what a vaccine will and won't do in its first iteration. According to experts, the COVID-19 vaccine might not even prevent you from getting infected.

While the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccine is being worked on is unprecedented—with almost 200 potential vaccines in the works—any vaccine will behave similarly to the first-generation vaccines that came before it, in that it probably will not completely stop the virus from infecting people. Scientists are setting their sights on damage control more than fully eradicating the transmission of the virus.

"Right now, we just need something that's going to mitigate the damage this virus causes," Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious diseases expert at Johns Hopkins University, told Axios. "Maybe it doesn't prevent you from getting infected, but it prevents you from getting hospitalized, or prevents you from dying … that would be huge."

close up of doctor using needle to draw out vaccine

According to Axios, "Some vaccines, like the one for measles, mumps, and rubella, produce near-complete and long-lasting immunity. Others, like the annual flu shot, are important tools to help contain a virus but don't achieve sterilizing immunity." Per The Hill, sterilizing immunity means that the "immune system is able to stop a pathogen, including viruses, from replicating within your body," which can ideally lead to life-long immunity.

Although many current vaccine trials seem promising, coronaviruses are notoriously challenging to create vaccines for. Mark Poznansky, MD, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital told Axios, "It doesn't mean it's not possible but it is a challenge, especially with COVID-19, where we don't yet understand the inflammatory response to the virus and what part of the immune response is critical to prevent infection."

While the first-generation vaccine may not be a cure-all for COVID-19, later vaccines could prove more promising. According to Pozansky, second- or third-generation vaccines are more likely to generate longer-lasting immunity. The first approved vaccine may not curb the transmission of the virus altogether, but it could significantly improve the current state of the pandemic. And for more on the COVID-19 vaccine, Here's Why One Coronavirus Vaccine Shot Won't Be Enough.

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