Is the COVID Vaccine Safe? A Letter from our Chief Medical Officer
I want to address concerns and questions around the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
One of the most common concerns is the speed at which the vaccines were developed. Given it usually takes several years of development and research for most vaccines before they’re approved, I do understand. However, there are a couple of important factors at play that make development of COVID-19 vaccines quite unique.
First, the type of vaccine is different from others. It’s not the whole virus but parts of the virus’ genetic makeup. With advances in genetic research today, scientists were quickly able to sequence the genetic material of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They were then able to promptly identify the parts of the virus to which our immune systems would likely mount a response. It’s important to understand that the science that led to the development of the vaccines is not new. Scientists were able to take advantage of years of work around viral genetics to create the COVID-19 vaccines.
Another reason scientists were able to develop the vaccines so quickly is funding. Lack of funding is a significant issue that delays the speed of research and development. With the COVID-19 vaccines, funding was expedited through government agencies, private companies and individuals. The government funding, nearly $1 billion, also allowed companies to mass produce the vaccines even before the final clinical trials were completed, helping to ensure the vaccines would be available to millions very soon after approval. The vaccines were created quickly only because we had the science and the funding in place.
So far, more than 346 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given in the US with 164 million people being fully vaccinated. This adds to the wealth of research on the vaccines. And to date, serious side effects are very rare.
It’s not nearly enough. It’s less than half of the US population. And it’s why we’re seeing a sharp rise in cases and deaths once again.
The COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, even against the delta variant. There’s no question it’s our best defense. As a significant number of people remain unvaccinated, more continue to get infected. More infections will likely mean more strains. It’s how viruses work as they look for ways to infect more people. But we can stop the vaccine in its tracks with millions more vaccines.
The current outbreak of the delta variant is affecting the unvaccinated much more significantly. The overwhelming majority of those who are seriously ill and hospitalized are unvaccinated. If a vaccinated person gets COVID-19, symptoms are much more likely to be mild.
Over 600,000 people in the US alone have died from COVID-19, making it a leading killer of Americans. With more cases and hospitalizations, we’re now seeing the numbers of daily deaths rise once again. If more people don’t get the vaccine, experts, including me, don’t see a way out of this pandemic without losing hundreds of thousands more.
I hope this information has answered questions about the safety and efficacy as you make a decision on what’s best for you and your family.
Dr. Michael W. Smith
Chief Medical Officer
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