The Benefits and Risks of the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Typhoid Fever vaccine took 34 years to perfect. The Smallpox vaccine took centuries to develop. The Influenza vaccine took almost 30 years to get right, and it was shortly rendered ineffective after scientists discovered the different types and strains of the flu.
But the COVID-19 vaccine? It took just under a year. (Isn’t modern medicine amazing?) And although it’s not 100 percent rolled out yet, more and more people across the globe are being vaccinated every day, getting us one step closer to putting the COVID-19 crisis in the rearview mirror.
Most people are full of questions about the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. DispatchHealth is here to help. We’ve rounded up all the latest data to arm you with knowledge as you approach the question of vaccination, especially as a healthcare professional.
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The Benefits of Getting Vaccinated
The vaccine could open the door to life as we once knew it through the effects of herd immunity. But while most people are excited to visit with friends and family again, the benefits are far greater for healthcare professionals: Keeping ourselves and our patients safe to bring this crisis to an end.
Did you know that the vaccine is about 95% effective at preventing both mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19? Compare that to the yearly flu vaccine’s 40-60% efficacy, and you can see how vaccination can stop the spread of the coronavirus in a hurry. And, the 5% or so of individuals who do experience symptoms even after being vaccinated are much less likely to suffer from severe or critical illness. That translates to a lower risk of death or permanent disability as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in the U.S. right now. And 5% of people who contract the virus will suffer from critical illness, including septic shock and respiratory failure. Even more—around 15%—will suffer from severe illness, like pneumonia. But perhaps one of the most compelling cases for vaccination is the fact that contracting COVID-19 puts you at risk of developing complications even after the infection has cleared. These complications include:
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Heart inflammation/dysfunction
- Damage to lung tissue, sometimes lifelong
- Long-term cognitive defects
Protecting Your Patients
If you’re a healthcare professional, it’s your responsibility to use all means available to protect your patients from contracting COVID-19. This is especially true for those who work with elderly or immunocompromised patients. Not only does this help protect your patients from developing complications themselves, but it gets us one step closer to stopping the spread within our communities for good. It’s also important to note that less than 60% of COVID-19 transmission comes from infected people without symptoms (35% in the presymptomatic phase of infection and 24% who remain asymptomatic). Therefore, infected individuals may spread the virus without even knowing it. For those who do develop symptoms, they’re most infectious within the one to two days before their symptoms even develop. While those with known symptoms should place themselves in quarantine, asymptomatic individuals have no way of knowing there’s a necessity for them to do so. These facts make it difficult for healthcare workers to prevent contracting the virus by merely avoiding patients with symptoms.
For healthcare professionals working in assisted living facilities and/or nursing homes, this has huge implications. About half of nursing home COVID-19 cases can be attributed to cross-facility staff movement, meaning that if you work in more than one facility, your vaccination could mean the difference between your patients staying healthy versus contracting the virus. And when you consider that 40% of COVID-related deaths can be traced to nursing homes, it puts that decision into a greater perspective! You have the power to help protect your patients from contracting COVID-19.
Are There Any Risks?
Like any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t 100% without its risks. Fortunately, however, risks are pretty rare. The rate of serious adverse events definitively traced to the vaccine is less than 0.6%, or 6 out of every 1,000 people. And just 11 per every one million vaccinations resulted in an allergic reaction, with more than 80% of these being in people who have a history of allergic reactions.
How About Side Effects?
Aside from the risks, many are also curious about potential side effects. On that front, we’re pleased to report that side effects are minor. Most last fewer than three days, and include things like:
- Arm pain
- Body aches
If you can handle symptoms of the common cold, you’ll likely manage any potential vaccination side effects just fine!
The Bottom Line
As healthcare professionals, it’s our job to protect our patients—and we can do that by first protecting ourselves. Every healthcare worker who chooses to get vaccinated gets us closer to bringing this crisis to an end, once and for all.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article:
- McIntosh K et al. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Clinical features. Up-To-Date. Dec 17, 2020.
- Koh HK et al. Deaths from COVID-19. JAMA. 2021;325(2):133-134. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.25381
- Chen MK et al. Nursing home staff networks and COVID-19. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. January 5, 2021 118 (1) e2015455118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2015455118
- Local Reactions, Systemic Reactions, Adverse Events, and Serious Adverse Events: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine; CDC
- Local Reactions, Systemic Reactions, Adverse Events, and Serious Adverse Events: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine; CDC