If you’ve been offered one of the COVID-19 vaccines, it’s natural to have questions or feel unsure because there is still so much we are learning about COVID-19. You might be thinking, “These vaccines were developed so quickly; I’d rather wait and see if there are any problems.”
You might also think that other people are more vulnerable than you and deserve to be vaccinated first.
Our Chief Medical Epidemiologist, Mini Kamboj, explains five reasons why public health officials say you should not hesitate to be vaccinated when it’s your turn.
We’re in a race against time to stop the virus from mutating.
We know the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing people from getting sick from the current strain of the virus causing COVID-19. They keep people out of the hospital. They prevent deaths.
But there are new strains emerging in many different parts of the world with variants that could spread widely in the US in the coming months. They could eventually make the vaccine less effective.
So, the more people who are vaccinated and protected against the strains circulating now, the less opportunity there is for the virus to keep spreading and changing to outsmart the vaccines.
Think of it this way: The pandemic is a fire that’s raging. It can be extinguished with the help of the current vaccines, but the variants are like embers that can float and escape to start new fires. The more we do right now to put out the fire, the more protected we will be in the future.
The mutated virus strains are not dominant yet in this country, but if they become so, it will be a setback, and we will have to upgrade the vaccine.Back to top
It’s rare to have a serious reaction from the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is carefully tracking all adverse reactions, and they have been extremely unusual — about four cases per one million doses. Of the 17.6 million Americans who were vaccinated as of January 18, 2021, the CDC reports 71 cases of a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. It tended to happen in people who already had a history of severe allergies.
It’s possible — especially after the second dose — to have minor side effects like pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. But these symptoms do not last long — about one to three days. They are a natural part of your immune system’s response to the vaccine. Not everyone has side effects, so don’t worry if you don’t get them. But for those who do have side effects, it’s a sign your immune system is working.Back to top
The COVID-19 vaccines are among the most effective in the history of medicine.
The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine was shown to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 in the more than 40,000 people studied in early trials. The Moderna vaccine was 95% effective in a study of 30,000 people. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 in a study of 44,000 people.
Although new vaccines could become available in the next few months, you should not wait for them. Take the first vaccine offered to you and protect yourself early while the virus is spreading at high levels.
The results of these vaccine studies are astonishing. In the beginning of the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said public health officials would seek to approve any vaccine that was shown to be at least 50% effective. These vaccines surpass that initial goal.
The breakthrough happened fast because scientists had a head start. Researchers had already invested years in developing vaccines for other kinds of coronaviruses. The COVID-19 vaccines were produced so quickly because the technology already existed and using it to develop a vaccine for a new virus became an international priority, unlocking billions of dollars to ensure safety while moving urgently to save lives. Regulators streamlined some steps in the authorization process, but the vaccines still had to meet the FDA’s rigorous safety and effectiveness standards.Back to top
The vaccine supply is limited and not rolling out as quickly as hoped.
When people decline their invitation to be vaccinated, it slows down the process even more to have to find others who meet the criteria and schedule an appointment.
The vaccine is rolling out in phases to protect the most vulnerable people first. Over a million doses of vaccine are being given across the US every day. However, it’s a complicated and often frustrating process that is regulated by state governments. You might think someone else is more deserving of those precious doses, but protecting yourself as quickly as you can will protect other people too.Back to top
Getting vaccinated is your best hope to return to those moments we all miss so much.
The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner we will reach “herd immunity,” which means the virus is no longer spreading easily from person to person. That’s when we can all get back to doing the things we love with the people we love — we can hug grandparents, eat out in restaurants, and go to sporting events. We can feel safe again.
For all these reasons, when you’re offered the opportunity to be vaccinated, say “yes.”
March 2, 2021