Long-term side effects from COVID vaccines unlikely, data shows

Central Florida doctors and scientists said they know some are still hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine and want to wait to see what potential long-term effects might be.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term effects are unlikely and serious side effects are very rare. The Pfizer COVID-19 2-dose vaccine now has full FDA approval in the U.S., but some people are concerned about how their bodies will take the shots.

"Any medicine and any vaccine has side effects associated with it. There are some people that have problems with the vaccine, there's no doubt about that. But compared to other medicines, compared to other vaccines, this is up there towards the top in terms of safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. So I really don't know what folks are waiting for," said Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the deputy director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.

Lauzardo said the vaccine makers tested their vaccine first in clinical trials for months. When the shots rolled out to the public last winter, the government tracked how people did with the shot.

"For example, is with the Johnson and Johnson found blood clots were an issue when it happened, only one out of a million people that got the vaccine. We were able to pick that up," said Lauzardo.

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Serious allergic reactions happened in fewer than 5 people out of every million vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC reports. Severe side effects are rare and would become apparent in the first six weeks.

USF Health virologist Dr. Michael Teng said long-term effects are unlikely in the COVID-19 shot.

"In some cases from other vaccines, there might be some long-term effects. I have to tell you, though, there are long-term effects from getting COVID. We already know that 10 to 15 percent of the people that get COVID symptoms develop what we call long COVID or this post-acute respiratory syndrome. These are long-term effects from the virus," said Teng.

Medical and health experts say there is no doubt in their minds about the shot.

"Three and a half billion doses have been given around the world. There's not a lot of doubt in our mind about how people tolerate and how people deal with it," said Lauzardo.

As for people concerned about how fast the vaccine rolled out, Teng and Lauzardo said it was much faster because the government cleared the path of bureaucracy and added money so the companies could focus only on developing the vaccines.