Not everyone hesitating to get a COVID-19 vaccination is a crazy conspiracy theorist. Many have reasonable concerns. Here are a few thoughts.
Some want to be sure there are no risks of long-term side effects.
Adverse side effects almost always “show up within the first two weeks, and certainly by the first two months,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
That’s why the US Food and Drug Administration waits two months after trial participants have been inoculated before considering emergency authorization for any vaccine.
However, rare side effects can still happen. A one in a million side-effect may not be identified unless more than a million people are in clinical trials. Even then they could still happen. The oral polio vaccine caused a rare case of polio in one of some 2.4 million doses. Yet thanks to the vaccine, there have been no cases of polio originating in the U.S. since 1979.
So, we must weigh odds of harm from the vaccine against harm from the disease. In West Virginia, 2,919 have died from 164,935 confirmed cases.
Some worry the vaccine does not have full FDA approval. That’s true but only because not enough time has passed to demonstrate how long the vaccines stay effective.
Some worry emergency use authorization means shortcuts. Not according to UNC Health, owned by the State of North Carolina and originally part of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Emergency use authorization speeds up manufacturing and the administrative processes without sacrificing quality while allowing time to pass to conclusively verify results.
It doesn’t reduce time for research, clinical studies or the study of side effects or adverse reactions. The steps are reordered. Manufacturing is done at the same time as clinical testing. If it fails the test, then it’s thrown out. If it passes, the vaccine is ready for distribution.
Others worry that vaccine development was rushed. Not according to UC San Diego Health, originally part of the University of California’s San Diego Medical School. They say vaccine development started decades before by researching the common coronavirus and twenty years spent battling two similar viruses, SARS, and MERS.
Also, decades of DNA research allowed the genetic code for COVID-19 to be mapped within two weeks, helping labs quickly target exactly the kind of vaccine that would attack the virus.
Likewise, a decade fighting the deadly Ebola virus made scientists realize vaccines took too long to develop so worldwide groups began cooperating.
When COVID-19 hit, groups shared the virus’ genome, jointly raised money from government, nonprofits, private citizens (both nationally and internationally), and collaborated on ways to attack it.
This included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, European Commission, UK Government Vaccines Taskforce, United Nations, World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, and Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance).
In the U.S., a special Department of Defense program, Warp Speed, was created to partner with the Department of Health and Human Resources, and other medical research and manufacturing groups to produce the vaccine quickly.
Importantly, clinical trials occurred concurrently. Usually both animal and people trials stretch one-after-another over years. COVID-19 was made a priority. Data arrive faster, they reviewed it immediately, and peer reviewed while clinical trials were ongoing.
The result is 185 million Americans have been given a first dose and 147 million a second. Although some 300 COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, only three have been granted emergency approval.
If we’re not vaccinated, we give the virus time to live by providing susceptible hosts. Time allows it to transform into a different variant, one that could defeat existing vaccines. The next variant might then attack not only the unvaccinated, but everyone all over again.
So, regardless of the reason you’re unvaccinated, COVID-19 can do far more damage in killing you than whatever your darkest concern. Get vaccinated.