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Debunking common COVID-19 vaccine myths with USF virologist

A recent Gallup Poll shows just 58 percent of Americans are willing to receive the vaccination, highlighting concerns about safety.

TAMPA, Fla — In less than two weeks, the FDA will meet to consider emergency approval for the first COVID-19 vaccine, meaning vaccines could be ready for distribution just days afterward. 

Yet a recent Gallup Poll shows just 58 percent of Americans are willing to receive the vaccination, highlighting concerns about safety.

10 Tampa Bay's Emerald Morrow asked virologist Michael Teng of the University of South Florida to clear up the most common points of confusion.

NOTE: This conversation has been edited for clarity and length

Will this vaccine give me COVID-19?


Dr. Michael Teng: 
This vaccine is totally dead. It doesn't cause infection at all. So, you're not infected. You're not going to give infection to anybody else.

Note: According to the CDC, "None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19."

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Will this vaccine make me sick when I take it?


The initial side effect from the vaccine in the first shot is just local soreness at the point of injection…After the second shot though, you tend to get a little bit more side effects. This is actually because your immune system is ramping up.

The second time you get the booster shot after 28 days, there are a little bit more side effects. Again, the same thing with that localized pain, but some people reported low grade fever, chills, headache or fatigue. 

For the most part these were mild symptoms, mild to moderate symptoms, so…it’s not expected to change your behavior over the course of the day. You may feel a little bit down, but you're not going to be sick.

RELATED: Side effects from COVID-19 vaccine likely will be unpleasant, doctors advise

What if the virus mutates? Will the vaccine still protect me? 


...People are concerned that, you know, maybe the virus mutates and the vaccines are no longer viable.

The way that they've made the vaccines, it's for the entire protein that's on the outside of the virus. And then within that one protein, there are a lot of sites that antibodies can bind to to neutralize the virus. 

So, mutation of one of those sites is probably not going to do much in terms of the efficacy of the vaccines.

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Once I get the vaccine, do I have to continue wearing masks and adhere to social distancing?

It all comes back to cost benefit analysis really, right? What's your risk tolerance? Yes, if you get the vaccine, the vaccine is highly effective. And if those numbers hold up, that's 90 plus percent efficacy, which is crazy, but that doesn't mean 100%.

That means, five to 10 percent of the people will not be protected by the vaccine. So, if you're one of those unlucky people and you decide that you're going to go out and go to the crowded karaoke bar and say all night long, that's taking risk, and you very well could be infected again. 

Even for people who have been affected by the natural virus. There are cases where people have been reinfected again…So, it's not a license to go out and just be free of everything….I don't think it's going to be one of the things that you can discard all of the public health measures that we're doing right now.