Do COVID-19 Vaccines Have Long-Term Side Effects?

There is still a preponderance of hesitancy among a number of people when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccines. Such hesitation has been linked to their belief that the vaccines are not safe and come with far greater risks than getting infected with the novel coronavirus. But experts are speaking up in favor of the vaccines and clearing up some confusion on their possible side effects, especially their alleged long-term impact on the body. 

From the get-go, medical authorities and experts have been very clear about the COVID-19 vaccines causing a number of side effects upon their administration. However, not much has been said about their long-term effects in the media, and there’s an obvious reason behind this. Apparently, there’s not enough data to prove that the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and J&J have long-term side effects.

What The CDC Is Saying

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its website that no long-term side effects have been detected in the millions of people who have received the vaccines. However, the public health agency did not rule out the possibility of long-term health problems from happening. It clarified that though long-term and serious side effects could happen, the likelihood of them occurring after getting vaccinated against the coronavirus is “extremely unlikely.”

In its written guidance, the CDC further explained that historically speaking, side effects generally manifest within six weeks after receiving a vaccine dose. The most common side effects, such as muscle pain, swelling, headache, chills and fever, are even known to show up immediately after the vaccines are administered. But just so the medical community can really keep track of the situation, the FDA has required monitoring of the authorized vaccines at least eight weeks after the final dose. 

Why COVID-19 Vaccines Do Not Have Long-Term Effects

The primary reason why the COVID-19 vaccines do not present long-term health problems lies on its nature. Unlike medicinal drugs that are taken in long-term doses, vaccines are designed to be one- or two-shot doses, without counting the booster shots that are given when needed. According to Paul Goepfert, MD, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, vaccines are typically developed to be one-and-done since their main purpose is to deliver a payload that’s intended to start a series of immune reactions in the body. 

“Vaccines are just designed to deliver a payload and then are quickly eliminated by the body. This is particularly true of the mRNA vaccines. mRNA degrades incredibly rapidly. You wouldn’t expect any of these vaccines to have any long-term side effects. And in fact, this has never occurred with any vaccine,” Goepfert said in a press release

On the contrary, medicines tend to have long-term side effects because most of them are designed to be taken every day over a specific period of time. Because of this, some health problems may reveal themselves over time, especially when the drug components have started to build up and even reach beyond normal levels in the body through months or years of use of a certain medication. 

Does This Mean The COVID-19 Vaccines Are Completely Safe?

The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 from the American manufacturers are mostly but not absolutely safe for all. With the rollout of the vaccines in the country and in many parts of the world, experts now have a large number of data to confidently say that the vaccines are safe. However, Goepfert admitted that some rare side effects have started to show up very recently for a reason. 

There have been reports of one in 100,000 people inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine experiencing a clotting disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenia. And just recently, some recipients of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been diagnosed with myocarditis, or heart muscle inflammation. In response, the CDC started conducting surveys of patients and healthcare providers to gather more information about the situation late last week. 

But Goepfert maintained that the reports of the more-rare side effects of the vaccines were bound to surface as more people get vaccinated. According to the vaccine expert, they are only beginning to see the more-rare side effects because such health issues do not readily show up until millions of people have gotten the vaccine shots. Goepfert added that even with the emergence of these side effects, everyone should still consider that COVID-19 has far greater health risks than the recently reported issues. Furthermore, the occurrence of the rare side effects is known to affect a very minute number of people compared to the billions of lives being saved by the vaccines. 

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