Vaccine safety - FAQ
How do we know if the vaccine is safe?
It’s important to know that vaccines go through more testing than any other pharmaceuticals. First, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. Next, vaccine is given to people with certain characteristics (e.g., age, race, and physical health). Then, vaccine is given to tens of thousands of people and tested for effectiveness and safety. After that, experts look at the data to see whether the vaccine works and is safe. The vaccine is only approved after all of these steps are done, and the experts are sure that it works and is safe.
How is it safe if it happened so fast?
The timeline to develop a COVID-19 vaccine was sped up but never cut corners on safety. Here is how:
We already had helpful information: The COVID-19 virus is a part of a coronavirus family that has been studied for a long time. Experts learned important information from other coronavirus outbreaks that helped them to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, so we weren’t starting from scratch.
Governments funded vaccine research: The United States and other governments invested a lot of money to support vaccine companies with their work. Working together with other countries also helped researchers move quickly.
A lot of people participated in clinical trials: Many people wanted to help by being in the vaccine studies. Companies didn’t need to spend time finding volunteers.
Manufacturing happened at the same time as safety studies: Vaccine companies were able to make and store doses of vaccine at the same time as studies (called clinical trials) were happening to show that the vaccines were safe and effective. This meant vaccines were ready to be distributed once they were approved.
How is it safe if we don’t know the long-term side effects?
Vaccines have been studied in animal and human trials for years. On the other hand, COVID-19 has only been around for about a year and the long-term side effects of COVID-19 infection are mostly unknown and may be serious. Therefore, getting vaccinated is the best choice for long-term health and safety. Experts will continue to track COVID-19 vaccine side effects. People in clinical trials will be tracked for 2 years.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines have any side effects?
Some people may have side effects after being vaccinated, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. The most common side effects are minor and include tiredness, headache, pain at the injection site, muscle and/or joint pain, chills, nausea and/or vomiting, and fever.
I would like to have a baby one day. Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. People who want to get pregnant in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully now and will continue to be studied for many years, similar to other vaccines. Based on what we know right now, experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for someone who is trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. Here’s why:
The COVID-19 vaccine, like other vaccines, works by teaching our bodies to develop antibodies that fight against the virus that causes COVID-19, to prevent future illness.
There is no evidence right now that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination will cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta.
In fact, there is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine.
Can someone who is pregnant or breastfeeding get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that COVID-19 vaccines be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.. COVID-19 infection during pregnancy can increase the risk of severe illness and might result in an increased risk of outcomes like preterm birth. Currently there are limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, early data on COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy did not identify any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated or for their babies. Getting vaccinated is a personal choice for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Vaccines teach our immune system how to fight against a specific virus. They work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. In order to do its job, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t need to go inside the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the vaccine never interacts with our DNA in any way and has no way to change it. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.