By now, most people who have wanted the COVID-19 vaccine have probably already received it. If you haven’t, or know someone who hasn’t, please read on. With the increasing number of infections in the US right now, it’s important to know the following information:
If you are interested in getting the vaccine, we now have them available to give at our office, so please call us to schedule an appointment.
For those of you who are still hesitant, here are my responses to several of the issues that people may be concerned about:
The vaccine approval process was conducted too quickly
It is true that most vaccines have taken much longer to receive authorization or approval. This is because when a vaccine company starts testing a vaccine, they start off with smaller trials, and only when they are shown to be successful, do they move on to larger and larger trials. Vaccine companies don’t want to spend a lot of money up front since they don’t know if their vaccine will be successful. After their final trials are successful, they then have to manufacture the vaccines, which also takes a lot of time. However, the Trump administration correctly offered to help fund several of the trials to allow them to be conducted much quicker (although Pfizer did not take any such money for their vaccine development), as well as guaranteeing to purchase millions of doses for all their vaccines. This allowed the companies to produce millions of doses even before they knew if their vaccine was going to be successful. If their vaccine was NOT successful, the government would have paid for those doses anyway, they just would not have been administered to people. What this allowed was the immediate distribution of millions of doses that were already manufactured, ready to be given as soon as the Emergency Authorization was received. So while it seems like the time line for the vaccine development and distribution was so short, this was NOT because scientific corners were cut, as all the proper steps were still followed, but instead, this occurred because we conducted and performed all of these steps at the same time, as opposed to waiting for each step to finish before moving on to the next step.
One other important reason why we were able to conduct these studies quickly was because of how prevalent COVID-19 was while the studies were going on in 2020. If you are testing a vaccine against Ebola, you give half the people the vaccine and half the people placebo, and then you have to wait for a while so that enough people get Ebola, and then you can compare the two groups to see if the vaccine group contracted the disease less often. For COVID-19, the disease was so prevalent last year, and we had many high risk groups such as nurses and doctors caring for sick COVID-19 patients in the hospital on a daily basis, that we didn’t have to wait very long before we could see the benefit of the vaccines.
The vaccine is experimental and we don’t know the long term side effects
While it is true that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the first vaccines that utilize messenger RNA (or mRNA) to generate the immune response, that is really not a big deal. Scientists have been researching mRNA vaccines for HIV and Zika virus for years – COVID-19 is just the first mRNA vaccine that has received emergency approval. You should first realize that our genetic material is encoded by DNA in our cells, and in order to translate that DNA into proteins, we use mRNA that our body produces. Therefore, mRNA is not a new substance, and it’s certainly not something that we don’t know anything about. It’s something that is already in each and every one of us right now. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is called a viral vector vaccine, and it is the same method that the current Ebola vaccine utilizes. This video does a good job explaining the various types of vaccines that are currently being evaluated as ways to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine.
With regards to side effects, it is important to know that other vaccines that we currently use (and that already have FDA approval) do not have any real long-term side effects. There are certainly short-term serious side effects that are possible with the COVID-19 vaccines. However, they are still very rare, so it is important to know about them, but they should be put into perspective.
The important thing to know after reading about these possible side effects is that the COVID-19 vaccines are the most studied vaccines in our history. We are constantly on the lookout for possible side effects, and all the data to this point shows that these vaccines are extremely safe. The major side effects occur in less than 10 cases per 1 million people, which is 0.00001%. Putting it another way, every year, more than 100 people out of 1 million in the US will die in a car accident, so your chance of dying in a car accident each year is significantly higher than a serious side effect from the COVID-19 vaccine, and yet people are willing to take that risk and drive every day. The benefits of being protected with the vaccine far outweigh the risks associated with any possible serious side effects.
So for those of you who have not yet been vaccinated, please reconsider and get vaccinated to protect yourself and those you love. Please call our office if you want to schedule a vaccination or would like to set up an appointment to discuss it further.