In all honesty, some level of skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine is warranted. As a country, we've never experienced a situation such as this. In recent history, there has never been a virus as deadly and contagious as COVID-19. Moreover, there has never been a vaccine developed at such a swift rate.
That's why we're here to break down all of the pros and cons of the COVID-19 vaccine to help you make the most informed decision. It's your health we're talking about, after all, it shouldn't be taken lightly.
1. It doesn't contain the actual virus
First off, let's discuss what's inside of the COVID-19 Vaccine. As it stands, all COVID-19 Vaccines that currently exist are messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for decades with a focus on other viruses such as the flu, rabies, and even Zika.
One benefit of mRNA vaccines is that scientists have the ability to apply a standardized mRNA "template" to new vaccines as new viruses are discovered. This means that scientists can tailor the mRNA vaccine to an individual virus to create vaccines at a rapid pace!
But how does it work? First off, mRNA vaccines contain strands of mRNA that function as a sort of instruction manual within the body. In the instance of COVID-19, these instructions tell the body how to create a fragment of the "spike protein" unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Since mRNA encodes only for spike protein (which is a harmful protein found on the surface of the actual virus), the vaccine itself cannot cause a COVID-19 infection.
2. There are very few side effects if any, and the ones reported are extremely mild
Generally, any side effects reported as a result of taking the COVID-19 vaccine were reactogenicity symptoms. This means that nearly all symptoms were mild to moderate and would dissipate after only a few days. These side effects include pain, swelling, and redness in the area where you are vaccinated (common for any shot), as well as chills, fatigue, and headaches which should also go away in a day or two. It's important to note that these side effects are more common after the second dose of the vaccine.
But what about the more severe side effects that have popped up in the news cycle? Each of these can be considered one-off occurrences as they are not above the rate expected in the general population. In fact, many of these reported side-effects are simply unrelated to the vaccine as these cases tend to pop up sporadically every single year. When comparing the rate of these cases over the last month to the same period last year, there is no data that suggests that these cases are statistically significant. As such, there is no scientific link between the COVID-19 vaccine and any of these harmful side-effects.
3. The development process was not rushed as it went through full regulatory and safety review
One of the biggest fears behind the COVID-19 vaccine comes from the rapid pace at which it was developed and tested in clinical trials. However, relative to previous vaccine R&D, the COVID-19 vaccine was actually developed at a controlled pace. Right from the get-go, several of the biggest pharmaceutical companies signed a pact that stated that corners wouldn't be cut in an effort to be first to market. But if we're being honest, people don't really trust Big Pharma companies, and for good reason. There's an extensive history of big Pharma cutting corners and exploiting others to make a profit.
The important thing to note here is that you don't necessarily have to trust Big Pharma to trust the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. First off, all results from clinical trials are available online and show comprehensive testing for each stage of the development process. In reality, the fast-tracking of the vaccine was the sole result of upfront financing provided by the federal government to ensure that no shortcuts were taken.
In essence, the government paid for vaccines to be mass-produced without knowing whether or not they worked. While this can be interpreted as a waste of funds, it also means that the time between final trials and the first delivery of a vaccine (which can often take months from production to distribution) was basically cut out of the equation. This accounts for why the vaccine was able to be developed, tested, manufactured, and distributed at an unparalleled rate.