COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time and use new technology never before implemented in these types of drugs, making many Americans leery of getting inoculated.
However, vaccine hesitancy could delay the process of containing the virus and reducing the number of cases and deaths caused by the pandemic. Experts say that we need to vaccinate 70% to 90% of the U.S. population to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. That means 248 million people will need to be vaccinated. As of Tuesday, more than 32 million doses have been administered, representing just 7.8% of the population, according to NPR.
“We have to regard everybody’s hesitation and skepticism seriously,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He told CNN that the anxiety over COVID-19 itself and the pressure to get vaccinated make people understandably nervous.
However, transparency about what we do know based on science may help sway a loved one into getting protection against the virus. Here are some expert answers from Schaffner and other authorities to common concerns.
People are worried about what is in the vaccines. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines contain mRNA, which is short for messenger ribonucleic acid. It is a genetic code that teaches your body to make the spike protein of the virus so that if you get infected, your immune system recognizes the invader and appropriately neutralizes it. After the mRNA does its job, it disintegrates. The vaccines also contain fatty lipids that protect the mRNA and salts and sugars to balance your body’s chemistry, according to CNN.
Another concern is the speed in which they were developed. Schaffner explains that the vaccines were granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration because of the deadly severity of the pandemic. But he says that extensive clinical trials and reviews verified their safety and efficacy. According to CNBC, experts say “no corners were cut” to get the vaccines safely into the marketplace.
Some believe that the vaccine can give you COVID-19. Definitely not, say experts, who point out that both the Pfizer and Moderna shots do not contain live virus, according to CNBC. Even the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine that contains a weakened virus that triggers the common cold in chimpanzees has been modified to prevent infection.
Dr. Ruth A. Karron, a vaccine expert and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN that you may experience “intense but brief” symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and low fever after being vaccinated but these vaccine-induced side effects should go away within 48 hours.
The potential side effects are worrisome to many. Schaffner says it is rare for anyone to suffer a severe reaction to the vaccine, but you may experience a localized reaction and soreness to your arm. Karron added that side effects may be more severe after the second dose, so you may want to plan ahead and take time off from work. “It’s a small price to pay to prevent COVID-19,” she said, according to CNN.
There have been allergic reactions to the vaccines. Karron said only about 11 cases of allergic reactions per one million vaccinations have been noted. According to Newsweek, scientists say that the vaccine is safe for people with common allergies to drugs, certain foods, inhalants, and other products, and they are unlikely to suffer a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to the shot. People with any extreme allergies to the components of the Pfizer drug should not take it, say healthcare officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that individuals who previously have experienced severe reactions to vaccines or other injectable drugs can still get the COVID-19 vaccine but should discuss the risks with their physicians and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward, according to STAT News.
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