COVID-19 Information

2020 will always be identified with COVID-19. This coronavirus, consisting of less than three dozen proteins, is changing the world. The good news is that we humans are endlessly inventive. In response to COVID-19, we are sprinting to learn, innovate, and change our knowledge as needed.

Check this page for timely and relevant information about our growing understanding of this virus, local and regional trends and news as well as wider perspectives from global health experts, futurists, and innovators about how we move forward into the future.

To our guests, members, and donors, learn about our guidelines, how to make a reservation and our new hours.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ Sheet

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the name of the respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus (called a coronavirus because of its shape). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals.

The virus is composed of genetic material encased in a waxy layer of fat molecules. Using soap when you wash your hands breaks up the waxy membrane holding the virus together, destroying it!

In this fat layer, there are embedded proteins that help the virus replicate after it has infected a host cell. Special proteins that actually stick out of the viral membrane, called spike proteins, help the virus latch onto and break into host cells. Current COVID-19 vaccines target just this spike protein rather than an entire coronavirus. The vaccines introduce this recognizable spike protein to your immune system so it can prepare to recognize, remember, and attack anything with this protein that your body is exposed to.

The name of the COVID-19 virus is SARS-CoV-2, and is genetically similar to the virus that caused the SARS outbreaks in 2003. Work on SARS vaccines has been done for many years, and researchers were able to apply that work in vaccine development for SARS-CoV-2 as well. This, and also having researchers from all over the world focusing their efforts on one vaccine target at the same time allowed for quicker discovery and production of effective vaccine candidates. No shortcuts were taken, especially in the areas of clinical and safety trials.

Can COVID-19 vaccines make you sick?

No vaccines (against any disease) use a living, functioning infectious agent of any kind, so they can’t cause infection or disease. COVID-19 vaccines in particular only introduce your immune system to an outer piece of the COVID-19 virus, and it works like a photo of the virus, allowing your body to naturally recognize and build up defenses against that specific germ.

Due to how they work, vaccines cannot create cancerous cells, change your DNA, cause infertility, affect brain function, or cause disease.

Why do some people feel so sick after getting the vaccine?

Sometimes people say they ‘feel like they got hit by a truck’ after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This doesn’t mean that they’ve contracted COVID from the vaccine; instead, this is evidence of their immune system using the information (mRNA) delivered by the vaccine to create antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Think of it like a training simulation: your immune system is confronted with an “enemy” (in this case, a piece of ‘intel’ on that enemy – a description of the virus’s spike proteins) and it launches a counterattack against it. You haven’t actually contracted COVID-19, but your immune system is responding like you have so that it can learn how to protect you from a real attack.

Your immune system is constantly working to protect you — Sneezing, a runny nose, a bit of redness or inflammation around a paper cut or scrape – these are all signs that your immune system is fighting off potential attacks by pathogens. This is true for both small, every day threats (like pollen or common bacteria) and for large-scale attacks by viruses or bacteria.

So why get a vaccine when your body is doing this anyway? Because vaccines are a quick and easy shortcut to immunity against a pathogen that has the potential to overwhelm your immune system before it has a chance to destroy it.

How do mRNA and DNA vaccines work?

Messenger RNA (mRNA) and DNA vaccines provide your immune system with the instructions on how to make identifiable pieces of an infectious agent, like an outer shell or outside protein that can’t do anything on its own. This way, you don’t have to be exposed to an actual germ that can make you sick in order for your body to build up immunity to that pathogen.

mRNA vaccines never go near your DNA, can’t change it, and because mRNA is very unstable, it’s only around long enough for the protein factories in your cells to translate the mRNA instructions (message) into a working protein your immune system needs to protect itself from certain germs. [Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA]

DNA vaccines also fall apart quickly, and can’t change your DNA. They are DNA pieces carrying information about specific germs that your immune system can use to protect you against those infectious agents. [Johnson & Johnson is a DNA-based vaccine]

Why can’t I go back to my normal activities right after getting a vaccine or recovering from COVID-19?

The vaccine protects YOU from infection. That said, it takes time for your body to build up all its defenses (immunity) against the COVID-19 virus after vaccination. This is typically about two weeks, so you could still get infected after exposure while your body is building up its defenses. Also, if you are exposed to the virus, even if you don’t become infected, it’s possible you could unknowingly spread virus particles to others. The vaccine has shown effectiveness in keeping COVID-19 symptoms mild in vaccinated individuals if they are infected, so it’s still a safer way to build immunity rather than getting COVID-19.

The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine uses and gets your body ready to attack just the spike proteins on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This keeps the virus from being able to break into your cells, multiply, and cause an infection if they reach you. So the virus will just die off eventually, but until it does die off, you could possibly spread these first viruses to someone else. Studies are showing it’s less likely for vaccinated individuals to have asymptomatic infection, so potentially less likely to spread the virus to others, but studies are ongoing and we’ll continue to learn more as we move forward.

Fully-vaccinated individuals can visit with other fully-vaccinated people indoors or other unvaccinated people not in a high-risk category (elderly, immunocompromised, etc.) without mask use or social distancing.

Refer to current CDC guidelines for updated information

Why do I need an additional shot with some vaccines?

Sometimes your immune system benefits from more than one exposure to a vaccine to “boost” its response to building up its defense response. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the first shot provides an average of 53% and 70% efficacy; the second shot increases the efficacy to 95% and 94%, respectively. That doesn’t mean you have a 5% change of being infected by COVID-19. It means unvaccinated people are 95% more at risk than vaccinated individuals to get COVID-19.

Over time, your immune system’s ability to remember and build up defenses to certain infectious agents can diminish over time. Some vaccines cause a strong enough immune response the first time they are used. Others benefit from an additional dose to promote a stronger and longer lasting defense. Tetanus booster shots are one example of a vaccine used once every 10 years to keep one’s defenses up against a bacterial toxin that can cause painful, debilitating muscle spasms.

Sometimes, infectious germs like viruses change (mutate) enough that a new vaccine needs to be used against the new strain for effective protection. Seasonal flu shots are given every year because the influenza virus can change enough each season that one’s immune system needs to be introduced to the new spreading strain through a new vaccine for effective protection.

Health professionals are watching and studying current and new strains of the COVID-19 virus to determine the best way to keep people protected.

What do those statistics about effectiveness of the vaccine mean? If it’s not 100% effective, why get it?

Effectiveness percentages refer to results in formal clinical tests (also called vaccine efficacy). To say a vaccine is 95% effective does not mean that if you get the vaccine, you have a 5% chance of being infected or that 5% of vaccinated people get infected.

It means that within an observed number of people who developed COVID-19 symptoms, 95% of those were unvaccinated. In other words, unvaccinated people have a 95% greater risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms than people with the vaccine.

The actual percentage of people who got COVID-19 after being vaccinated was .04% (about a hundred times less than 5%).

For comparison, according to the CDC, the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is 97% effective against measles and 88% effective against mumps. The seasonal flu vaccine is between 40-60% effective, “but still prevented an estimated 7.5 million cases of the flu during the 2019-2020 flu season.”

All of the current COVID-19 vaccines were 100% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 symptoms six to seven weeks after one dose, and no vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized or died after getting the vaccine and having it take full effect.

Was fetal tissue used in the production of current COVID-19 vaccines?

Manufacture and production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses retinal cells derived from an electively aborted fetus from 1985. The vaccine itself does not contain fetal cells of any kind.

Other historic fetal cell lines used in current vaccine research include fetal kidney cells from 1973.

Neither Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines use fetal cell lines in their development or production, but fetal cell lines were used in testing the effectiveness of these vaccines after development.

No vaccines actually contain any fetal cells.

Will the COVID-19 vaccines eliminate COVID-19 entirely?

The goal of using a COVID-19 vaccine is to help prevent infection and spread of the virus, as well as reduce the severity of disease symptoms. Unvaccinated individuals are 95% more at risk at getting COVID-19. All of the current COVID-19 vaccines have been 100% effective in preventing severe symptoms six to seven weeks after one dose, and no vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized or died after getting the vaccine and having it take full effect.

In some examples of disease, such as smallpox, widespread use of vaccines has led to the disease being eliminated worldwide. The use of polio vaccine has eliminated that disease in all but 2 countries in the world. Measles was considered eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but cases reappeared since then from travelers bringing it in from abroad, and through spreading in groups of unvaccinated people.

Members-Only Event – Chat With A Scientist: Vaccine Development

In January, members virtually sat down with a panel of experts via Zoom from Saint Louis University to discuss vaccine development and COVID-19. Members got the opportunity to ask questions to our panel and have an open discussion with each panelist. They were joined by Dr. Daniel Hoft, MD, Phd, Director of Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, Dr. Enbal Shacham, PhD, Associate Director of the Geospatial Institute at Saint Louis University and Dr. Ricardo Wray, PhD, Department Chair Behavioral Science & Health Education.

Check out the recorded discussion.

GermBusters! at Energy Stage

Join John Nahon, Manager of Energy Stage and Earth Sciences for a deeper look at our latest Energy Stage STEAM Performance, GermBusters!

What is a virus made of? How do masks work? And exactly how does soap and water get rid of viruses? Find answers to these questions and more at the Energy Stage’s new STEAM Performance, GermBusters! On this Member Mission, you’ll get a special look at this exciting (and timely) new show and see behind the scenes of our new Energy Stage.

Virtual Exhibits


Facts In the Time of COVID-19

During a pandemic it’s more important than ever to avoid falling for or spreading misinformation and disinformation. But with so much new and changing information, how do you know what to trust? Follow along with the team from the Pacific Science Center and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public to help you navigate COVID-19 and the 24-hour news cycle.

Learn More


COVID-19 Glossary of Terms

Explaining the terms that will help you fully understand the news you’re reading as the pandemic story unfolds. Explore the glossary from the Pacific Science Center and use it as you read along to other scientific articles.

Learn More

Have we flattened the curve?

Federal guidelines advise that states wait until they experience a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before proceeding to a phased opening. In the state-specific view of the graph, this two-week period is highlighted in orange if cases are trending upward, or green if they are trending down.

Snapshot taken June 9, 2021

See the latest at John Hopkins University

Daily confirmed new cases in Missouri (3-day moving average)
Daily confirmed new cases in Missouri (3-day moving average)
Vaccine Information
Research and Innovation

Mask FAQ

Why is wearing a mask important?

Wearing a multi-layer cloth mask helps in stopping the spread of respiratory droplets by 50-70% and slows down the forward spread of particles that do get through so they cannot travel as far.

Why is it important to wear a mask properly over my nose and mouth?

Studies have found that the nose might be a place in the body where the virus can thrive and multiply faster, therefore making it better at spreading COVID-19. The cells found in the lining of the nose were significantly more likely to become infected and shed the virus compared to the throat or lungs which means that it is not only the best place for the virus to enter your system, but it is also creating a higher concentration of infectious aerosol when exhaling through your nose than your mouth.

Does the type of fabric really matter?

Yes, some fabrics work better than others from stopping the spread of respiratory droplets. One of the better masks to wear other than a N95/99 mask is a multi-layer cloth mask made with tightly woven cotton that you can breathe comfortably. If it doesn’t let light through, that is a good indicator that it’s a tight enough weave to be effective.

How often should I wash my mask?

It is best to wash and cycle through masks regularly. It is recommended to wash your cloth mask whenever it gets dirty or at least daily after use. If wearing a disposable mask then it is best to throw it away after wearing it once, making sure to clip the strings off before disposing of them to keep wildlife from getting tangled in them.

Is a face shield as effective as a mask?

A face shield is not as effective as a mask because they are meant primarily to protect your eyes. They do not block respiratory droplets from spreading as well as a mask due to the large open spaces around the face shield. If you need to wear a face shield for any reason, it is best to wear one that is similar to a mask that can reach below the chin and wraps around the face.

Why should I social distance even if I’m wearing a mask?

Even if you are wearing a mask it is best to still socially distance because masks can only block so many particles. With a mask on, the ones that make it through do not travel as far as they usually would.

When putting on a face mask
Clean your hands and put on your face mask so it fully covers your mouth and nose
DO secure the elastic bands around your ears.
DO secure the elastic bands around your ears.
DO secure the ties at the middle of your head and the base of your head.
DO secure the ties at the middle of your head and the base of your head.
When wearing a face mask, don’t do the following
DON'T wear your face mask under your mouth
DON’T wear your face mask under your mouth.
DON'T wear your face mask under your nose.
DON’T wear your face mask under your nose.
DON'T allow a strap to hang down. DON'T cross the straps.
DON’T allow a strap to hang down. DON’T cross the straps.
DON'T touch or adjust your face mask without cleaning your hands before and after.
DON’T touch or adjust your face mask without cleaning your hands before and after.
DON'T wear your face mask on your head.
DON’T wear your face mask on your head.
DON'T wear your face mask around your neck.
DON’T wear your face mask around your neck.
DON'T wear your face mask around your elbow.
DON’T wear your face mask around your elbow.
Additional Information

For more information and to stay-up-to-date on the evolving situation, see these sites: