Is the information you’re getting about the coronavirus vaccines actually true?

We're breaking down what's true and what's not, with UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof
Un: ‘concerning News’ Vaccines May Not Work Against Variants

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, a vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 at a hospital in Sofia, Bulgarian. South Africa on Sunday Feb. 7, 2021, has suspended plans to inoculate its front-line health care workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial suggested that it isn't effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

MADISON, Wis.– 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that doctors call ‘discouraging’ if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity this year.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated, 15%  won’t, and 17% aren’t sure. Many expressed doubts about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

News 3 Now brought several of the latest vaccine claims to Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer, to find out what’s true and what’s not.

If you’re offered a vaccine, take it. It doesn’t matter which one.


“It’s human nature to look for the best and then to try to hold out and get the best,” Pothof explained. But he said that should not guide your thinking when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think the important thing to look at is not so much the efficacy, which means, ‘Do you get any symptoms of COVID at all?’, but the percentage of people who either have severe disease or die of COVID because that’s what really matters. Sure, we don’t want to have cold-like symptoms. But if we have cold-like symptoms that are guaranteed not to land us in the hospital, we’d be pretty okay with that.”

All three of the existing vaccines provide that kind of protection. Dr. Pothof said you should get the first vaccine you are offered.

People in Wisconsin have only gotten the Moderna or Pfzier vaccines so far.


So far, the only vaccinations approved in the United States are the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Wisconsin doctors are using both of them right now.

Johnson & Johnson is the next vaccine that has submitted its application for emergency use authorization, so in the next few weeks, there might be another option.

“That would be very welcome news,” said Pothof.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested against the new strains of the virus, so it’s more effective than originally thought.

Partially true.

For the most part, all three existing vaccines are actively being tested against the new strains of the virus. The original efficacy statistics for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were based off of limited data, which means doctors don’t know how well they will protect people from new strains of the virus.

But here’s what they do know: some protection is better than none, and all vaccines perform about the same when it comes to preventing hospitalization or death, which is their main purpose.

“We almost never say 100% in medicine, but they seem to be very effective against preventing severe disease or death,” said Pothof.

If you don’t experience minor symptoms after getting your second dose, the vaccine isn’t working.


“I can see how people think that,” Pothof explained.

However, he said some people will experience no symptoms at all, while others will have arm soreness, fatigue, and other minor reactions.

“When you have symptoms after getting a vaccine, whether it’s irritation or fatigue, that is your body telling you, ‘Hey, I’m up to something,'” said Pothof. “And that can be reassuring.”

“You can’t really tell what your response to the vaccine was by your symptoms. Instead, I’d look at the huge studies that are done and know that 95 out of 100 people mounted an immune response. That’s really good.”

If you’ve qualified to get a vaccine and have a clean health record, you can transfer your appointment to someone else.


“You can imagine the complexity of trying to determine everyone’s specific factors as to where they fit on a hierarchy of needing to get the vaccine,” said Pothof. “That would be so challenging, we’d be spending all our time deciding who gets a vaccine instead of vaccinating people.”

Instead, a team of researchers looked at the data and concluded that age and occupation are the two biggest factors in determining whether a person is more likely to be exposed to or die from COVID-19. Until the U.S. has enough supply on hand to vaccinate everyone, most states are vaccinating the oldest Americans, and those with high-risk jobs, first.

You no longer need to double mask after getting the vaccine.

Partially true.

“There is a strong recommendation, and it could even be more strong, to definitely wear a mask,” said Pothof.

Earlier this month, the CDC updated its recommendations to endorse “double masking.” But Pothof says whether it’s one mask or two, what’s most important is plain and simple: cover your face.

“All along, the mask has never been about the person wearing the mask,” he added. “The mask has been about protecting everyone else. And when we do that, we’re protected.”

If you’re wearing a cloth mask that’s at least two layers thick or you’re wearing a surgical mask, Pothof says both provide enough protection.

To learn more about the coronavirus vaccines, click here to visit the CDC’s website.