Vaccines to prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are perhaps the best hope some say, for ending the pandemic worldwide. However, some are still sceptical about the new vaccines, and are likely to have questions. How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
Scientists look for safety issues during the testing phase and continue their monitoring as shots roll out around the world. So far, the only serious warning to emerge is a rare risk of severe allergic reactions.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are given as a shot in the upper arm, and both vaccines require two doses. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses given 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots spaced 28 days apart. You must receive the same type of vaccine for your first and second shot.
The chances of getting sick after vaccination are minimal. Studies show even if you develop COVID-19 after being vaccinated, you are unlikely to get severely ill. Flu vaccines are less effective than the COVID vaccines, but they can protect you from more severe flu illness and hospitalization. The COVID-19 vaccines are even more powerful. Of the more than 30,000 people who received the vaccination during the research trials, only one developed a severe case. The efficacy of the vaccines in the prevention of severe COVID-19 is almost 100%.
Studies found they both work extremely well. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective in its study involving about 43,000 people. The Moderna vaccine was 94% effective in a study involving more than 30,000 people.
However, since extremely rare problems might not turn up even in large tests, the vaccines still are being monitored. The U.S. and British governments and the European Medicines Agency track reports filed by health workers and the public about suspected side effects. Extra scrutiny in the U.S. includes tracking insurance claims for red flags. And U.S. vaccine recipients can sign up for a program that sends text messages to see if they’re feeling side effects.
How do the vaccines work?
Both are a new type of vaccine made from messenger RNA (mRNA). Unlike traditional vaccines, which put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response if someone gets infected. When the vaccine is injected, the mRNA enters cells and tells them to start making the same protein that is found in the COVID-19 virus. The mRNA quickly breaks down in the body after triggering production of immune cells. Neither vaccine exposes you to the virus that causes COVID-19 or alters your DNA in any way.
Let’s face the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine has been developed in a shorter time frame than most vaccines. This was possible due to many factors, including unprecedented scientific collaboration, a large body of previous research, increased funding, and accelerated timelines.
Despite the quick development of the vaccine, no corners were cut with regard to the science. The current vaccines were still tested rigorously in human clinical trials in order to assess their safety and effectiveness.
The most common short-term side effects include discomfort at the injection site and mild flulike symptoms. Allergic reactions to the vaccine can happen, but are rare. The potential long-term effects of the vaccine are currently unknown.
Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is important for preventing illness and stopping the spread of COVID-19. If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, talk with your doctor.