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Serious Side Effects From COVID Vaccines: Here’s What We Know

SCIENCE NEWS – Many people have experienced sore arms and feeling wiped out for a couple of days after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some get fevers, chills and headaches. Those familiar side effects have become widely accepted as the price of protection against the too-often-deadly coronavirus.

But it’s the rare, more serious side effects that have grabbed the headlines — and given some people pause about whether to get vaccinated or get the shots for their children.

Such side effects include rare allergic reactions to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines (SN: 1/6/21) and rare blood clots in young women associated with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine (SN: 4/23/21).

Now, a group that monitors vaccine safety for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether there is a link between Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine and a few mild cases of heart inflammation, called myocarditis, in adolescents and young adults.

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So far, cases of myocarditis have not risen above the number normally expected in young people, and no one actually knows whether the vaccine triggers the heart inflammation or not.

“We are seeing these potential side effects because we are looking for them, and that’s a perfect example of how our safety system is supposed to work,” says Alexandra Yonts, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “We’re being very aggressive and proactive, and that’s good.”

Here’s what is known, the experts say:

  • The risk of serious side effects from vaccination remains far smaller than its benefits.
  • The vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, even against variants (SN: 5/11/21).
  • The vaccines may also help block infection and transmission of the coronavirus (SN: 3/30/21).

As of May 28, worldwide, more than 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given, according to Johns Hopkins University.

No vaccines are completely risk-free, says Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. But the side effects known to be caused by the vaccines are usually short-lived and clear up on their own or are treatable or reversible, she says.

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Out of every million doses given of the mRNA vaccines, overall about 2.5 to 11.1 severe allergic reactions to an ingredient called polyethylene glycol will happen. That’s why people are typically monitored for at least 15 minutes after the shot … Click here to read more. 

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