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Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

Updated April 28, 2021

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has spread worldwide since late 2019. Classified as a global pandemic, COVID-19 has caused millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.

Many questions remain about COVID-19, and people are unsure of what is true about the disease. Health officials are learning more each day to provide accurate information about COVID-19.

Based on information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are some COVID-19 myth-busting facts.

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COVID-19 Vs. the Flu

Myth: COVID-19 is the same as the flu.

Fact: Although both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are both respiratory illnesses, they have many differences.

They share some of the same symptoms, but symptoms usually appear more quickly with the flu than with COVID-19. And while the flu causes more illnesses and deaths annually than COVID-19 has, the fatality rate from COVID-19 is much higher.

Learn more about how the flu and COVID-19 compare.

Who’s at Risk for COVID-19?

Myth: Only older adults should worry about COVID-19.

Fact: COVID-19 can affect people of any age.

It is true that older adults have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and of having more serious complications from it. However, people of all ages can get the disease. It’s important for everyone to use prevention tactics, including wearing facemasks, regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning common surfaces, and social distancing.

Other at-risk groups include:

  • People with existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, liver disease, or renal failure
  • People who are immunocompromised due to factors like cancer treatment, HIV, transplants, and other causes

Those factors can put people of any age at risk.

COVID-19 and Vaccines

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe and contain harmful ingredients.

Fact: There is no evidence of the vaccine containing harmful ingredients, and it has followed safety protocols.

There are no harmful ingredients associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. Data surrounding Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines report they are safe, but they will continue to be monitored.

While COVID-19 vaccine development has operated on a faster timeline, manufacturers still must follow the usual process. That includes rigorous testing that measures safety and efficacy.

On April 23, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement lifting a nationwide pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Federal health officials investigated cases of a rare, serious blood clot reported in some people after they received the J&J vaccine.

After their investigation, the CDC and FDA determined the risk of blood clots from this vaccine is very low and the known benefits in preventing COVID-19 are very high for people 18 and older, outweighing the risks. The J&J vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have not been associated with these adverse events. Those vaccines are also safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are reported to be at least 94% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in humans. The J&J vaccine is reported to be about 70% in preventing mild and moderate COVID-19 and even more effective against severe disease.

Side effects associated with getting the vaccine are typically minor.

Before issuing an Emergency Use Authorization, the FDA weighs whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks — including the risk of waiting too long.

Those risks include thousands more infections and deaths from COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Facemasks

Myth: I don’t need to wear a facemask to protect myself against COVID-19.

Fact: Wearing a facemask is an important preventive measure against COVID-19.

Wearing a facemask can protect you and others from COVID-19 spread. The facemask can prevent you from spreading the coronavirus to others, while also providing you a layer of protection.

The CDC recommends people wear a cloth face covering when in public. This is especially important in potentially crowded areas where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

When wearing a face covering, you should still follow other prevention tactics. These include staying 6 feet away from others and practicing good hand hygiene.

People diagnosed with COVID-19 or with suspected cases should wear facemasks until isolated in a hospital or at home, the CDC says. Medical workers and others who are caring for people with COVID-19 also should wear them.

You should continue to wear a facemask even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

For more on COVID-19 and UPMC’s response, visit

About Infectious Diseases

If you have a disease caused by bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus, the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases can help. Our team of experts is specially trained in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, including of HIV-AIDs, postsurgical and transplant infections, illnesses caused by international travel, and more. We research infectious diseases and participate in clinical trials to learn more and develop better treatment and prevention methods. Visit our website to find an expert near you.