Many people are looking forward to getting a COVID-19 vaccine with excitement, but many have concerns and questions as well. These concerns and questions are valid, and at Chase Brexton, we want to provide our community with accurate, helpful information to address them.

Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccines which will soon be available to the public.

How do the vaccines work?

Both vaccines work by delivering synthetic mRNA into our bodies. The mRNA is a messenger for DNA, which tells our cells what to make in order to fix, build, or maintain things in our bodies.

In this case, the mRNA is a mimic of the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so it teaches our bodies to fight off the virus.

What is in the vaccines?

In addition to the mRNA, the vaccine also includes lipids (oils and lubricants to protect the mRNA), salts, and sugars. Both vaccines contain the lipid polyethylene glycol-2000 (aka: PEG 2000) which is an ingredient used in many products, like toothpaste, shampoo, make-up, and other medications. Some individuals may have hypersensitivity to this ingredient.

What are the side effects of the vaccines?

There are no concerns for long-term side effects. The “ingredients” of the vaccine are completely out of our body within a few days, which is different than with many other treatments which can stay with us for long periods of time. Of the 70,000 individuals who took part in the two clinical trials for the vaccines currently available, no substantive effects beyond the short-term effects have been noted.

Short-term side effects are noted to be more prevalent after the second dose and include:

  • Moderna: Injection site pain, fatigue, muscular pain, joint pain, headache, and erythema/redness at the injection site. 
  • Pfizer: Pain and swelling at the injection site; feeling feverish, tiredness, chills, and joint pain.

Will the vaccines alter my fertility or alter my DNA?

No. Both rumors are false.

The rumor that the vaccine impacts fertility is driven by social media and without any clinical evidence. There are no scientific concerns that even allude to the question of fertility. The same holds true to the DNA rumor, which has been driven by social media and not scientific fact. 

The mRNA in the vaccines is simply designed to mimic the spike protein found in the Sars-COV-2 virus. It cannot do anything else. Once the mRNA is delivered, it disappears. The rest of the ingredients—lipids, salts, and sugars—have been frequently used in many things and are closer to our own body’s natural ingredients. None of the ingredients in these vaccines have any impact on fertility or our DNA.

Are the vaccines safe for persons living with HIV?

Yes, absolutely. Both the Pfizer and Moderna trials included HIV-positive individuals, and no specific side effects related to their HIV status were reported. Remember, the vaccines do not include any virus material, living or dead, so there is no chance that someone can contract COVID-19 from taking the vaccine.

In fact, there’s good reason for those living with HIV to take the vaccines. Data is showing that these individuals who contract COVID-19 often have worse outcomes and are at higher risk of serious complications. Taking the vaccine is important for everyone, but may be particularly important for those living with HIV.

When will I be able to get the vaccine?

Since vaccines are still being produced and distributed, the plan in Maryland is tiered. The tiers are created to reduce the burden on the health care system, especially our near-capacity hospitals. Visit the Maryland Department of Health for more info.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit