Research into Covid-19 vaccines began almost immediately when the virus started spreading across the world. In early December, the first UK citizens received a vaccine that could help the country return back to normal. As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes available to more people, questions regarding its safety are on many people's minds.
Regulators assess all vaccines and medicines before they are rolled out in the UK. The MHRA, UK's medicines regulator, gave the green light to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the end of November. The regulator assessed the vaccine safe to use, and the first people have already received the vaccine. The UK authorities hope to speed up vaccinations in the coming months and rolling it out on a mass-scale next year. But many people continue to remain concerned over its safety. Is the Covid vaccine safe to use?
There is lots of data to support the vaccine's safety
The regulators get to see a lot of data before they accept a vaccine or a particular medicine. Developing companies need to provide all the results from laboratory studies, animal studies and safety trials to authorities. Furthermore, the Covid-19 vaccine has gone through the usual trials, which happen in three phases.
Phase one is a regular safety trial to test side effects and to ensure the vaccine is safe to use. During phase two, the companies examine dosing and figure out the right amount to give to people. In the final stage, more extensive tests are conducted to test the vaccine in action and to make sure it works.
All these tests and studies generate a lot of data. While the public may get to see only a snippet of it in the form of flashy press releases, the regulators would go through all of it to ensure the vaccine is safe to use. No corners have been cut in terms of testing the safety of the vaccine. Authorities and the companies behind the drug also continue to monitor the effectiveness and safety of the drug.
There are side effects to the Covid vaccine
The regulators say the vaccine is safe to use. But a vaccine that is deemed safe doesn't mean it has no adverse effect. The Pfizer vaccine has very common side effects. These include pain from the injection, muscle pain, chills and headache. 1 in 10 people might experience these side effects after getting the vaccination. After the UK began vaccinations, two people had an allergic reaction to it.
The Pfizer trial vaccinated about 20,000 people. The other two vaccines in development have so far had slightly fewer vaccinations. The Moderna vaccine tested 15,000 and the Oxford/AstraZeneca 10,000 people. However, all three trials have undergone wide enough testing to show the vaccines work and enough to detect common side effects.
But rare side effects can still occur. Spotting them can be tricky since they're so infrequent. It's also important to remember that most vaccines currently in use have rare side effects. The seasonal flu jab is linked to a one-in-a-million chance of a rare nerve disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, the flu virus causes more cases of the syndrome than the vaccine.
The benefits outweigh the risks
Most drugs in use today could have a tragic consequence. But these side effects are infrequent and have to be considered against the benefits of using the drug. For example, most people have ibuprofen in their medicine cabinet and would reach out to take one if they were in pain. If you examine the list of possible side effects to ibuprofen, you'll notice that it could cause bleeding and even kidney damage. The risks are there for most drugs, but the rates at which the severe side effects occur are scarce.
An even more extreme example is the use of chemotherapy drugs. The drugs have a massive list of damaging side effects that include infertility and anaemia. However, the drugs can halt cancer cells that could lead to a person's death. Most of us would choose the option to stay alive against the possible side effects.
It is also essential to keep in mind that Covid-19 has killed one in 1,000 people in the UK. The threat is real, and the vaccines can offer protection against it. The Pfizer vaccine cuts Covid cases by around 95%. A mass rollout of the vaccine could protect countless lives and help open up the UK economy once more.
Be aware of fake news around the Covid vaccine
Countless rumours and fake news are circulating regarding the Covid vaccine. The problem is that specific health problems are linked to vaccinations by pure coincidence. A person might have a vaccination and fall sick shortly after with a severe health problem. But many health problems occur despite vaccinations, and the timing could simply be a coincidence. It is essential to stay vigilant, as scare stories could increase in the coming months.
The MHRA continues to monitor and gather data on the vaccine to ensure it is safe to use. It uses a Yellow Card scheme that allows GP surgeries and hospitals to report concerns for any warning signs. If there are any problems with the Covid vaccine, the scheme will pick these up.
If you have any concerns regarding the Covid vaccine, you should contact your GP. Medical professionals have the knowledge to consider any underlying health conditions you may have to ensure the vaccine is safe to use.