Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Shed?
May 20, 2021
You might have heard some rumors that COVID-19 vaccines cause people to shed the virus, mRNA, or spike proteins, putting unvaccinated people at risk. But do COVID vaccines actually cause someone to “shed”? And is there any truth to other claims such as an unvaccinated woman’s menstrual cycle can be altered by being near a vaccinated person?
Thankfully, the science is pretty clear on this one. There’s no reason to fear your vaccinated friend, partner, or family member. Here’s why.
While there are potential side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines, shedding isn’t one of them.
“Shedding” is when the body releases viral particles that could infect someone else. This can happen when you get infected with a virus or (in extremely rare cases) after getting vaccinated with “live” vaccines.
Shedding can’t happen with COVID vaccines. To start, none of the COVID vaccines currently used in the U.S. contain live virus. The two types of vaccines available are mRNA vaccines (which don’t contain any virus at all) and a viral vector vaccine (which contains no live virus).
Both vaccines use the body’s own cells to create a spike protein found on the coronavirus’ surface. That’s what prompts us to make an immune response (which can cause side effects). After a short while, the body breaks down the mRNA and spike proteins and clears them away. But this doesn’t happen in a way that would pass them along to someone else.
COVID-19 vaccines can’t cause someone to shed coronavirus particles, including mRNA and spike proteins. It’s not biologically possible.
Being near a vaccinated person cannot alter a woman’s menstrual cycle, cause infertility, or lead to miscarriage.
Some people worry about shedding because they’ve heard claims that being around someone who’s been recently vaccinated could affect another person’s menstrual cycle or fertility, lead to them having a miscarriage, or alter their DNA. But there’s no evidence to support this. In fact, there’s no biological reason to think this is even possible. Getting a COVID vaccine can’t cause you to shed mRNA, proteins, or anything else that would enter another person’s body.
The one caveat: Passing along antibodies while pregnant or breastfeeding. Some early research suggests that when those who are pregnant or breastfeeding get vaccinated against COVID, they could pass antibodies that protect against COVID onto their babies.
Have you read:
- The Vaccine Mom Explains Natural vs. Vaccine Immunity: Which Is Better?
- Coronavirus Vaccine Side Effects: What to Expect and How to Manage Them
Back to shedding: A person infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus.
Getting the vaccine doesn’t cause a person to shed the virus. However, someone sick with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others.
There are incidences, however slim, that you could get sick with COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated. It’s important to note that you are not protected from COVID-19 immediately after getting the vaccine. Your body needs at least two weeks after your final dose to develop immunity (1 dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine or 2 doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s). Likewise, the vaccines work really, really well, but they aren’t 100% effective. So a small number of vaccinated people could go on to get sick with COVID and spread the virus.
But again, the virus, not the vaccine, causes people to catch COVID-19.
Beware of the rumor mill.
Anti-vaccine activists spread rumors like these to discourage people from getting vaccinated. It’s so important to be careful and look further into claims shared on the internet, social media, and your community. Be sure you are using reputable resources when you search for information, including Vaccinate Your Family’s Questions and Answers about COVID-19 Vaccines webpage and CDC’s Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines webpage. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself (and others!) from COVID-19.
By Dr. G. Panisri Rao I’m a family physician and a mother of two. My kids — ages five and seven — are both vaccinated against COVID. Here’s why. We know that even though...
Note: This post has been updated to reflect the latest CDC recommendations, as of November 19, 2021. There’s been a lot of confusion lately over COVID vaccine boosters and third doses. What is the...