Key Facts About COVID-19 and Vaccines

Sharing factual, credible information about COVID-19 and the vaccines is one of the most important things you can do to encourage people to get vaccinated. Check out these fast facts and share them with your campus community.

COVID-19 basics

  • COVID-19 can affect anyone. People of all ages can get COVID-19. Even young people have gone to the hospital, developed serious health problems, and died because of COVID-19.
  • More than one million people have died from COVID-19 in the United States. In 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.
  • Many people are tired of hearing about COVID-19 — but we still need to protect ourselves. Even if you’re young and healthy, there’s still a chance that COVID-19 could make you very sick. So it’s important to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and take steps to protect your health.
  • COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms. Some people have cold-like symptoms — like coughing, running a fever, or feeling tired and achy. Other people have more serious symptoms, like having trouble breathing or thinking clearly. Researchers are working to find out why some people get sicker than others.
  • People can spread COVID-19 without having any symptoms. Some people who have COVID-19 feel totally fine. But even if you don't feel sick, you can still spread the virus to other people.
  • COVID-19 mainly spreads through the air. People who have COVID-19 can spread the virus to other people around them when they talk, cough, sneeze, sing — or even just breathe.
  • You can get COVID-19 more than once. If you’ve had COVID-19 recently, you may have a short period of natural immunity, meaning you’re less likely to get it again. But researchers aren’t sure how long natural immunity lasts, and it works better for some people than others.

Long COVID (long-term health problems)

  • COVID-19 can cause serious, long-term health problems. Most people call these health problems “long COVID.” (Some people use the term “PASC” — short for “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2.”) Long COVID is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Scientists are still working to find out why some people develop these long-lasting health problems and others don’t.
  • There’s no way to predict how COVID-19 will affect you. You may know people who’ve had COVID-19 and barely felt sick at all. But even young and healthy people have gotten very sick and developed long-term health problems.

Reasons to get vaccinated

  • Think of the COVID-19 vaccines like a study guide. They teach your body how to fight off the virus — and you don’t have to get sick for your body to learn the lesson.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing people from getting very sick. Vaccinated people are much less likely to go to the hospital, develop long-term health problems, or die from COVID-19.
  • When you get vaccinated, you’re not just protecting yourself. You’re also protecting other people around you who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 — like older people, pregnant people, and people with disabilities or chronic health conditions.

COVID-19 boosters

  • A booster is another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Boosters give you a “boost” of protection to help your body fight off COVID-19.
  • Many other vaccines have boosters. For example, many schools require students to get booster doses of the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) and MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines before coming to campus.
  • It’s okay to mix and match boosters. You can get a booster from Pfizer or Moderna. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you had before.
  • We need boosters because the protection of the first 2 doses (or the first dose, if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) fades over time.
  • If it’s been 5 months since you got your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer (or 2 months since you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), it may be time for you to get a COVID-19 booster. If it’s been 5 months since you got your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer (or 2 months since you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), it may be time for you to get a COVID-19 booster. Learn more about boosters from the CDC. Learn more about boosters from the CDC.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for people with serious health issues

  • If you have serious health issues that affect your immune system (the system in your body that fights off infections), talk to your doctor. You may be able to get an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or your doctor may recommend a different timeframe for getting vaccinated and boosted. For more information, check out this CDC webpage.

Tip for campus communicators

ACHA uses “up to date on COVID-19 vaccines” to describe people who are vaccinated and boosted. This phrase helps to normalize boosters, and as an added bonus, it’ll still be accurate if CDC recommends more booster doses in the future.

Some organizations have shifted away from saying “fully vaccinated,” because people may interpret it to mean that boosters are optional — and we know that boosters provide important protection from COVID-19. However, many campuses use “fully vaccinated” and “boosted” in their COVID-19 policies. No matter which terms you use, the key is to define them clearly and use them consistently!

Natural immunity

  • You may have heard that people can have natural immunity from COVID-19. The idea is that if you’ve had COVID-19 before, you may be less likely to get it again — at least for a short period of time. But researchers aren’t sure how long natural immunity lasts, and it works better for some people than others.
  • Even if you’ve had COVID-19 before, you can still get it again. Because natural immunity varies from person to person, you can’t be sure that your body will protect you from getting COVID-19 again in the future. Studies show that if you’ve had COVID-19 before, your body might not recognize variants, or new versions of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The bottom line: COVID-19 vaccines offer more reliable protection than natural immunity. So staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is your best chance to avoid getting very sick.

COVID-19 vaccine development

  • Clinical trials have proven that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Tens of thousands of people from different races and ethnicities have participated in clinical trials to make sure the vaccines are safe — and that they work.
  • More than 4 billion people worldwide have been vaccinated against COVID-19 — and we know that the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine trials were randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for proving that vaccines work. Researchers in each trial gave one group of people a vaccine and another group a placebo (a shot with no vaccine in it). Then they compared how many people in each group got COVID-19. Based on these trials, researchers learned that fully vaccinated people are much less likely to get very sick from COVID-19.
  • Experts around the world worked together to develop the COVID-19 vaccines quickly and safely. The development process was fast because international researchers, scientists, and government agencies worked together in new ways to put an end to the pandemic. They didn't skip any safety steps.
  • Scientists have been working on the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for more than 20 years. These vaccines work by delivering a small strip of genetic code (the mRNA) that teaches your immune system to protect against a key protein — in this case, the spike protein on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine — an older kind of vaccine that medical professionals have been using for more than 30 years. The Novavax vaccine contains proteins from the COVID-19 virus and an ingredient that trains your immune system to fight off the virus. (The vaccine can’t give you COVID-19 because it does not contain any live COVID-19 virus.)

Vaccine side effects

  • It's normal to have some side effects — like feeling tired and achy — for a day or 2 after getting vaccinated. These side effects are signs that your body is building up protection, and that means the vaccine is working.
  • There's no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can affect your ability to have kids. Scientists have studied more than 40,000 people who got vaccinated during pregnancy. They’ve also compared the pregnancies of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Scientists found no connection between COVID vaccines and early birth, lower weight babies, or health problems in pregnancy.
  • Researchers haven't found any long-term side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.
  • You can't get COVID-19 from a vaccine. The vaccines teach your body to fight off COVID-19. There’s no live COVID-19 virus in the vaccines, so they can't give you COVID-19.

COVID-19 variants

  • Variants are new versions of COVID-19. Some variants spread more easily, and some may cause more serious health problems.
  • Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is the best way to protect yourself from variants. Vaccinated people are less likely to get very sick, go to the hospital, or die from any type of COVID — including variants.
  • When more people get vaccinated, it's harder for new variants to form. That's because the COVID-19 virus needs to infect someone before it can change into a new variant, and vaccinated people are less likely to get infected.

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