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GDMeds Look Deep: COVID-19 vaccines – Effectiveness and Safety Details

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As a pharmacy and the distributor of anti-COVID-19 medicines, e.g. Remdesivir, Alltera, etc. GDMeds works on the frontline, and wish could support most people get necessary medicines and overcome this pandemic.

As the pandemic rages on, it’s increasingly clear that widespread vaccination is essential to help contain it. Physical distancing, universal face coverings, and frequent hand washing are effective, but not foolproof. And of course, these measures don’t work if they are not followed.

So, the rapid development of mRNA vaccines and other vaccines to prevent COVID-19 is welcome — some say miraculous — news. But while many people are scrambling to get a vaccine, others are hesitating.

Start here: Are these vaccines safe and effective?

It’s natural to wonder if brand new vaccines against a novel coronavirus, developed at unprecedented speed, are effective and safe to take. Let’s review some of what we know.

Overall effectiveness has been reported in the range of 70% to 95%. That’s well above the average effectiveness of the flu vaccine, for example.

  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trialinvolving nearly 44,000 volunteers found vaccination to be 95% effective. This vaccine is authorized for use in the US.
  • Moderna vaccine trialenrolling more than 30,000 volunteers reported an effectiveness of 94%. This vaccine is authorized for use in the US.
  • An AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine trialreported average effectiveness of 70% with full doses, but even better results (as high as 90%) with a lower dose. This vaccine is authorized for use in Great Britain, but not in the US.
  • In a press release, Johnson and Johnsonannounced overall effectiveness of 66% in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. The company has applied for emergency use authorization in the US.

Not only do these vaccines appear to lessen risk of developing COVID-19, but they also appear to lessen the risk of severe disease.

What are the most common COVID vaccine side effects?

In large clinical trials, most side effects have been minor. When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily all bad, by the way; it may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus.

For the four vaccines listed above, common side effects include

  • pain at the site of the injection
  • painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle or joint aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever or chills.

What else should I know about possible side effects?

  • Severe allergic reactions.Rarely, a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, most often in people known to have had severe vaccine reactions in the past. CDC estimates suggest anaphylaxis occurs in 11 cases per million doses among people receiving the Pfizer/Biotech vaccine. The signs are trouble breathing, swelling of the face and throat, rash, and low blood pressure. It usually occurs soon after vaccination, and can be treated with epinephrine (as in an EpiPen). That’s why people are observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine with epinephrine at the ready.
  • Unexplained deaths.A recent report of 23 deaths among elderly vaccine recipients in Norway raised understandable safety concerns about the new COVID-19 vaccines. However, further investigation is needed to determine whether these deaths were related to the vaccines, or represent an expected number of deaths among frail individuals who already may have had a limited life expectancy.

So far, we know COVID-19 is an unpredictable and potentially deadly disease. And the information we have about the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations is encouraging. Minor side effects should be expected; severe allergic reactions may rarely occur. Side effects from the vaccine are not reasons for most people to avoid vaccination.

As the number of vaccine recipients and the number of different vaccines grow, vigilance is warranted. What we know today about side effects and safety won’t be the last word. Volunteers in clinical trials and members of the public who have received vaccinations continue to be monitored, and are encouraged to report problems.


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