Why You Can Trust the Safety of the COVID-19 Vaccines

By February 16, 2021March 29th, 2021Expert Advice Featured Well-being

In my previous post about the COVID-19 vaccines, I talked about the importance of getting vaccinated and the health measures you should take until you can receive your vaccination. Now I want to reassure you about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness.

There has been some misinformation shared about this, so I’d like to take you through the facts.

The Safety of mRNA Vaccines

Most vaccines you’ve received in your lifetime used samples of either live or inactivated viruses to stimulate an immune response in your body. But these newly approved vaccines don’t contain any coronavirus at all; they work in a completely different way. They use messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach our bodies how to fight the COVID-19 virus.

Decades of research have gone into the use of mRNA vaccines, and this technology has already been successfully used against specific types of cancer. The CDC has published a very clear explanation of how and why these vaccines work.

You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccines. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms after being vaccinated, but that is only because their bodies are generating an immune response, which is exactly what the vaccines are there to achieve.

An Appropriate Response To An Incredibly Devastating Health Crisis

There is some misperception that the manufacturers and the FDA somehow cut corners in order to get these vaccines authorized. It is true that no vaccine has ever gotten through the developmental, clinical trial, and FDA authorization pipeline in such a short timeframe. But there are good reasons for this.

Due to the severity and catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world invested a lot of money to help expedite this process.

Without such a heavy investment, this whole process would have taken much longer…at the cost of countless more lives and an even more devastating economic impact.

It’s also worth pointing out that the researchers who developed the vaccines were not starting from scratch. While COVID-19 has been more devastating than other coronaviruses, the virus itself is not so different from the others. Researchers were able to use what they knew about those other viruses to kick-start the process of developing these new vaccines.

Rigorous Regulatory Review Process

The FDA reviewed the clinical trial data for the COVID-19 vaccines meticulously, and voted to grant them authorizations based on that data. The FDA was no less rigorous in making that decision than they are in granting authorizations to any medicine or vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines had to go through all of the steps that any product of this type would be required to undergo. You can read more about the stages of vaccine development here.

The vaccines have only been tested in people at least 16 years old, and the FDA authorizations don’t allow vaccination of anyone below that age — because there is no data available on its safety in this group. This, too, should reassure you that these authorizations were granted entirely “by the book.” There are now clinical trials underway to evaluate the vaccines’ safety and efficacy in those who are 12 years old and above.

Statistically Huge Benefits

In clinical studies involving tens of thousands of people, the vaccines were found to be about 95 percent effective! That’s an incredible rate of efficacy, and it’s tremendously encouraging.

By contrast, the flu vaccine is typically between 40 and 60 percent effective…and yet it still makes an enormous difference in reducing influenza transmission, decreasing disease severity, and saving lives.

Statistically Tiny Rates of Adverse Reactions

The clinical trials also assessed the safety of the vaccines. While a certain number of participants experienced symptoms like headaches, mild fever, and soreness at the injection site, there were very few severe reactions.

You are much more likely to have serious health problems if you get COVID-19 than if you get the vaccine.

If you’ve ever had a serious reaction to other vaccines in the past, or are immunocompromised in some way, ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for you to get vaccinated. I would say the same thing to you about any vaccine.

Dr. Stanford Got Vaccinated

Dr. Ala Stanford is the founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. And noting that many in the Philadelphia-area African-American community were reluctant to receive the vaccine, she made a point of getting vaccinated herself to set an example.

In an Instagram video, Dr. Stanford explained, “I understand the hesitancy. I understand the atrocities that Black people have endured previously and current day. Please, do not allow things of the past and the present prevent you from protecting yourself and those whom you love. I don’t want to see another life lost, especially if it can be prevented.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Dr. Reetika Kumar

About Dr. Reetika Kumar

Dr. Reetika Kumar has served as medical director and vice president of Clinical Services at Independence Health Group since 2017. Her expertise and commitment to improving the health of our members is focused on proven practices, evidenced-based medicine, and cost-effective health care delivery. Reetika is a mom of two amazing kids and stays active during the pandemic with the Peloton Female Physicians group.