Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe? Can I trust them?

“That the COVID-19 vaccines are new and, therefore, not safe, is a misconception,” said Matthew Ferrari, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State. “The mRNA technology that is used in the vaccines has been studied for decades.”

In fact, Ferrari said, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had been working on mRNA vaccines for influenza, and scientists had already conducted clinical trials of an mRNA vaccine for HIV. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an adenovirus to deliver the instructions for building the coronavirus’ spike protein. This technology is not new either; the Zabdeno/Mvabea Ebola vaccine uses a similar strategy.

Since they became available to the public last winter, the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to 175 million Americans; that’s more than 369 million doses of vaccine. Over 600,000 people have died due to COVID-19 in the U.S., but a recent study estimated that this number would have been as high as 750,000 had the vaccine not been available. Though there are limited risks associated with the current COVID-19 vaccines, there have been less than 1,000 confirmed cases of myocarditis, pericarditis or severe blood clots. 

“Consider the other areas of your life where your health and well-being have benefited from science,” Ferrari said. “You take antibiotics when you have an infection; you take insulin for your diabetes; you receive chemotherapy for your cancer; and beyond disease, you eat foods every day that have been crafted using laboratory-produced ingredients. Whether you’ve thought about it or not, you put your trust in science every single day. The COVID-19 vaccines are no different. They are the product of the most objective process that humanity is capable of — the scientific method — and they can save your life.”

Last Updated September 16, 2021