We know parents want to make the best decisions when it comes to their children. We, as parents, often fear making the wrong decision. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is not one of those wrong decisions. There has been so much disinformation floating around which has understandably caused parents to have questions and concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine. We want to address some of the biggest concerns and rumors for you now.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe
We’ve heard parents want to wait to get their child vaccinated because they want to give the vaccine more time to hear about potential concerning side effects, adopting a wait and see approach. So, let’s address it.
The speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed has not affected the safety of the vaccines in any way. The exact same rigorous research processes in the clinical trials were followed prior to getting the emergency use authorization. The research process is not any different, and it is not any less rigorous than other clinical trials. All clinical trials are conducted in the same safe way, including this one. They gather the same safety and efficacy data.
So, what is “different” about this study? What changed is only the speed at which the federal government, in this case, the FDA, reviewed the data. The COVID-19 vaccines are a priority because of the pandemic, so all the data went directly for review as soon as it was collected. The FDA makes a decision on the data more quickly only because it was moved to the front of the line. Historically, when a drug company submits for FDA approval, it takes 6 months or more to be reviewed. The review timeline for COVID-19 vaccines has been greatly sped up because of the importance of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe. What is not safe is the COVID-19 virus. It’s important for everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and other people from spreading the virus.
There are no negative long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine
To understand why we know this, it’s helpful to know how vaccines work. When somebody is going to have a reaction to a vaccine, it nearly always happens within the first 2 weeks, but definitely within the first 4 to 6 weeks. The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials collected at least 2 months of data after dose 2 in order to be able to submit to the FDA, knowing if anybody was going to have a reaction from the vaccine, it would have happened by then.
This is really important – in terms of all vaccines, we don't see negative reactions happening from vaccines months or even years after the vaccine. We see them happen right up front. Long-term effects just don’t happen with vaccines. It has never happened in the history of vaccines, and we have a lot of vaccines for kids and adults that we give routinely every day.
What we don’t know the long-term effects of is the COVID-19 virus. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself and your family against COVID-19 with the vaccine.
The COVID-19 virus and myocarditis
Myocarditis can feel like a frightening word when you hear it. It means inflammation of the heart muscle. We know the COVID-19 virus can cause myocarditis. Around 100,000 people per million cases of COVID-19 virus have experienced myocarditis. These cases were in teens and adults and have lasted a long time.
The COVID-19 vaccine causing myocarditis is extremely rare. It’s only been reported in 40 to 50 people out of a million second doses. With these 40 to 50 cases, people have felt some chest pain. It has resolved in 3 to 5 days and then they are reported to feel fine and they are now back to normal.
The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause infertility or reduced sperm count
The COVID-19 vaccine has no effect on fertility for girls. This has been looked at in multiple different ways by researchers and physicians.
In women who are trying to become pregnant, there has been no decrease in pregnancy weight gain rate in women who got vaccinated versus those who didn't. They additionally looked at women who were vaccinated and were already pregnant and there were no adverse birth outcomes for these women. While pregnant, women additionally had the exact same birth outcomes in terms of how long they carried the baby as well as the mom’s overall health at the time of her delivery. All those things were exactly the same, which tells us the vaccine had no impact on either getting pregnant or staying pregnant and had no impact on the baby at birth.
The other thing we know now is babies born to moms who get vaccinated while pregnant have some antibodies after they're born. This is great because then the baby will have some protection, as they're too little to be vaccinated right now. We also know that vaccinated breastfeeding moms pass COVID-19 antibodies through their breast milk to the baby, which is very helpful and protective since there are no approved vaccines yet for children this young.
Regarding male fertility, sperm counts were also studied in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. There has been no decrease pre-vaccination and post-vaccination in terms of sperm counts in men who are vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is some data showing that being infected with the COVID-19 virus can affect sperm count. So, again, it’s important to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus with the vaccine.
Division Director, Infectious Diseases; Medical Director, Center for Wellbeing; Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Kansas School of Medicine
Director, Global Health Education; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Kansas School of Medicine