Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccines

Global health pandemics tend to have serious detriments to the overall wellbeing of human beings. The most recent pandemic, coronavirus (COVID-19), has spread across the entire planet, causing massive deaths and hospitalization. The unique nature of the virus and the unpreparedness of countries to handle it meant that the initial responses included isolation, bans on movement, physical and social distancing, and even lockdowns. It can be argued that vaccines are among the first and immediate responses for fewer novel pandemics, assuming vaccines are already in existence. However, the vaccines for COVID-19 have emerged long after the pandemic has already affected the lives of millions. Even so, the emergence of vaccines has been met with skepticism by many people either for the uncertainties regarding their effectiveness or the real and perceived side effects. The focus of this paper is to defend the position against COVID-19 vaccination, with the major rationalization being these side effects. The main argument is that with better prevention measures, then avoiding vaccination is a better option than risking the side-effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

Before defending the position against vaccination, it is important to acknowledge that the need for and benefits are acknowledged. There are few ways of dealing with such pandemics as COVID-19, and this paper does not seek to make a case against vaccination as a necessary action. According to Sadarangani et al., the primary goal of a vaccine is to prevent infections or boost immunity (2021). An effective vaccine also prevents diseases caused by an infection. In the case of COVID-19, it can be argued that if vaccines had existed before the outbreak, the toll on human lives could have been far less than what has been witnessed. However, this argument is subject to several assumptions, including that the vaccine would have been readily available and accessible. Many illnesses preventable through vaccinations have the potential to cause pandemics and they make a perfect case why vaccinations are critical to public health. Not many people anticipated the COVID-19 outbreak, which means vaccines were not ready by the time of an outbreak. Even so, vaccination is the best tool to prevent infections and their potential from causing pandemics.

Even though this paper supports the argument that vaccines are a critical tool for countries in the fight against pandemics, there is also a need to explore the contextual factors and make a risk-benefit analysis. Lee argues that governments have to seek a balance between the prevention benefits and the adverse events after vaccination (1138). In the case of COVID-19, critical benefits include the prevention of the disease itself and the subsequent hospitalization or death caused by the ailment. The risks of the vaccines are in the form of side effects as will be discussed later, some of which are perceived to be adverse and have the potential to cause harm to the recipients. Arguably, only the COVID-19 vaccines have caused debates, disagreements, and defiance by people who do not believe in their effectiveness. The main argument is that without proper clinical testing, it appears that the vaccines have been hurried, which causes people to lose trust in them. Additionally, the current vaccination environment worldwide remains controversial, leaving a roof for people to contemplate the possibility of avoiding them altogether.

As mentioned earlier, the development of the COVID-19 vaccine may have been hurried, which has resulted in skepticism. Additionally, multiple types of vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means the healthcare providers and the patients are not aware of which option is the best. Most importantly, earlier clinical trials revealed certain side effects, some of which are still experienced even after all modifications. Many people have often decided against taking the vaccines, raising a nationwide debate on whether people have the right to reject the vaccines. Vaccination policies are also developed around these debates, which means there is a need to present a comprehensive view of the side effects that prevent most people from getting vaccinated. Researchers have made significant contributions towards understanding these side effects by offering a scientific view of how they work and why certain side effects can be experienced. The scientific evidence is the best reference point for forming an opinion on vaccines that have the potential to save humanity from the pandemic.

Multiple studies have explored the prevalence of side effects of different vaccines to different population groups. For example, Riad et al. examine mRNA-based vaccines on young adults between 18 and 30 years (1). The findings indicate that approximately 95.2% of all those who took these vaccines reported at least one side effect. The major side effects included vaccine-related anamnesis and orofacial, local, and systemic side effects. Among the most common side effect reported in this study was injection site pain, reported by 91.8%, followed by fatigue, headache, and muscle pain, which recorded rates of 62.5%, 36.4%, and 34.9%, respectively Riad et al. 1). It is important to acknowledge that these statistics have not been recorded in a clinical trial, but in a real-world setting where the vaccines have already been approved for use. The high rates of the reported side effects are an indication that the drugs are not perfectly developed, which warrants the skepticism around them. However, the study may not have taken place in the United States, but the assumption is that the same drugs are approved and used across the world.

To support the assumption presented above, a study on similar drugs conducted in another country may prove useful. The context of Germany reveals that mRNA-based drugs recorded a higher prevalence of local side effects as signified by a reporting rate of 78.3% (Klugar et al. 1). In medical anamnesis, the mRNA-based vaccines caused thyroid disease where 7.6% cases were recorded, whereas chronic hypertension cases reached 6.1% (Klugar et al. 6). Other side effects include cardiac disease, COPD, bone disease, allergy, blood disease, asthma, renal disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and hepatic disease. When a vaccine causes more than five side effects, which are diseases, then an individual would have every right to refuse them. In this case, serious illnesses include cancer, diabetes, and cardiac diseases. Even though the percentages for these health outcomes are relatively low, the evidence is there to suggest that it is easier for people to use other preventive measures than to risk cancer or heart-related diseases, which might prove difficult to address once they reach chronic levels. Therefore, this study proves that country or context is irrelevant in determining the side effects of the mRNA vaccines.

The mRNA-based vaccines are not alone in causing these critical side effects. In the case of Germany, vector-based vaccines (AstraZeneca) have also been explored in light of the side effects observed. In their study, Klugar et al. found that vector-based vaccines were associated with a higher prevalence of systemic side effects, including fatigue and headaches (1). However, most of these side effects were resolved between one and three days, which means that this category of vaccines can be perceived as relatively safer. The rationale is that illnesses that easily go away within a short period pose acceptable risks, especially considering that the dangers of failing to vaccinate may include death and prolonged hospitalization. If these were all the side effects, then a position can be taken for vaccination using vector-based vaccines. However, over 8.8% of the respondents reported thyroid disease, while chronic hypertension recorded a 5.6% prevalence. Apart from hepatic disease, diabetes mellitus, ophthalmic and otolaryngologic disease, all other side effects associated with mRNA-based vaccines have been observed with vector-based vaccines. Also notable is the higher rate of cancer and neurologic disease.

The causes of the side effects may not have received adequate attention across most of these studies. In medicine, some drugs are not fit for use by individuals with certain health conditions, including allergies. According to Sprent and King, there are rare cases when the side effects of the mRNA-based vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna, have been the result of local allergic reactions or delayed onset (1). It can be argued that the hurried development means that most of these vaccines have not considered the influence of other health conditions of patients on the side effects and the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing the virus. However, this position is taken considering the failure of the studies to mention allergy or prior health issues. Similarly, the healthcare institutions or other bodies responsible for producing and administering these vaccines have also failed to address this issue. Overall, it can be argued that skepticism towards vaccines emanates from many people experiencing dangerous side effects.

As mentioned earlier, a balance must be struck between the risks of the side effects and the benefits of the vaccines. It has also been mentioned that the COVID-19 leads to death and hospitalization, which sound more extreme than such local side effects as fatigue and headaches (Klugar et al. 1). However, once chronic illnesses are associated with the vaccines, including cardiac diseases and cancer, the choice can be based on the current conditions and environmental factors. Individuals with a higher perceived risk of contracting Covid-19 can take the risk and seek treatment for the chronic side effects. However, individuals with lower perceived risks can take more preventive measures, including isolation and sanitizing and other guidelines offered by the government. However, the main effect of avoiding vaccination is increasing the risk of contracting the virus and other health problems that occur once one is infected. The side effects have been analyzed using scientific means, which means that this question should also be approached similarly. In other words, there needs to be significant evidence linking high rates of vaccination and declining infections.

Across the United States, a few studies indicate that higher rates of vaccinations are directly correlated with decreased incidences of COVID-19 at the county level. An example of such studies has been presented by Puranik et al., who used data from 580 counties (1). An interesting finding is that the study focuses on mRNA-based vaccines that were approved by the FDA. In all the countries where the rate of vaccination goes up, the rate of new cases recorded has significantly reduced. In this case, failing to get vaccinated could reverse these trends and, if entire populations remain opposed to the vaccines, then the pandemic can get even worse. However, this argument can only hold under the assumption that the general public fails to take other preventive measures. The coronavirus has some unique characteristics in the mode of transmission since physical contact with an infected person is the main mode. In this case, distancing and other measures have proven effective in many countries where vaccines were not a critical necessity. Therefore, failing to vaccinate does not necessarily raise the possibility of getting infected.

It can be argued that the United States presents one of the best case scenarios for conduct the risk benefit analysis. The rationale is that statistics available make a case for both sides of the argument. In the USA, almost 1 million people have dies from the COVID-19 pandemic despite the vaccination efforts (Yong). Therefore, the proponents for vaccination can ask a critical question of what could have happened if there were no vaccinations. Additionally, if one was to ask those who have recovered from the pandemic or those who have experienced it in some way, they would most likely prefer the vaccines. Such a response would be based on the rationale that a sore arm or nausea would be more preferable experience than dying or spending time in the intensive care unit (ICU) with ventilators struggling to breath. Overall, the side effects of the vaccines seem to have minor consequences as compared to what happens when there is no vaccine.

However, the above argument can only hold when the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing the pandemic is established, considering that the vaccines were used in addition to other preventive measures. In other words, even the people who received vaccines did isolate and sanitize as opposed to exposing them to the virus. Considering that many countries have resolved the outbreak using these measures, the vaccines can be considered an additional line of defense as opposed to the only protection. The question of what could have happened without the vaccine is not answered by stating that even more people would have died. Such an argument would be based on the assumption that all unvaccinated people will contract and die from the virus. for example, the total infections in the United States to date are estimated at 82000 (Statista). The total deaths are about a million, while the total recoveries are over 80000 (Statista). In this case, it can be argued that the responses in addressing active infection have been more effective than the preventive mechanisms.

Therefore, there is a valid for other preventive measures and interventions as opposed to vaccines. Isolation and sanitation are feasible options and more efforts should be on the treatment drugs as opposed to vaccines. Arguably, the death figures would have been more pleasing had the treatment been made available to all the infected individuals. It is important to emphasize that the argument made is not that the vaccines are useless. However, a case is made for alternative preventive measures which, when properly implemented, could help a country overcome the pandemic. Rather than risk the side effects, an individual can find alternative prevention measures. Furthermore, scientists believe that if enough people have caught the virus and produce an immune response to it, then the country could reach the herd immunity. The heard immunity can prevent the virus from spreading further (Pitt). This does not mean individuals should expose themselves, hoping to help develop the heard immunity. On the contrary, the country should not prioritize vaccines for an outbreak to which people will soon become immune. Treatment drugs for active is what prevents the deaths and not the vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a contentious one and it can be made based on what individuals feel about both the pandemic and the vaccines. As stated in this paper, a vaccine’s primary goal is to boost an individual’s immunity and prevent the disease caused by the infection. Therefore, it might seem wise for all individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccines considering the dangers of this pandemic. However, these vaccines have been associated with critical side effects, with a vast majority of recipients reporting at least one side effect. Those that cause the most fear include cardiac diseases and cancer, which can be chronic and even fatal. Therefore, the position to avoid vaccination is justified by the fact that the vaccines have too many side effects.

Works Cited

Klugar, Miloslav, et al. “Side Effects of mRNA-Based and Viral Vector-Based COVID-19 Vaccines among German Healthcare Workers.” Biology 10.8, 2021, pp. 1-21.

Lee, Grace. “The Importance of Context in Covid-19 Vaccine Safety.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 385, no. 12, 2021, pp. 1138-1140.

Pitt, S. “Coronavirus: What Will Happen If We Can’t Produce A Vaccine?”2020. The Conversation.

Puranik, Arjun, et al. “Higher COVID-19 Vaccination Rates are Linked to Decreased County-Level COVID-19 Incidence Across USA.” medRxiv, 2021, pp. 1-11.

Riad, Abanoub, et al. “Side Effects of mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines among Young Adults (18–30 Years Old): An Independent Post-Marketing Study.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 14, no. 10, 2021, pp. 1-16.

Sadarangani, Manish, et al. “Importance of COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy in Older Age Groups.” Vaccine, vol. 39, no. 15, 2021, pp. 2020-2023.

Sprent, Jonathan and Cecil King. “COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects: The Positives about Feeling Bad.” Science Immunology, vol. 6, no. 60, 2021, pp. 1-3.

Statista. “Number Of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cases, Recoveries, And Deaths Among The Most Impacted Countries Worldwide As Of April 19, 2022.” 2022. Statista.

Yong, E. “How Did This Many Deaths Become Normal?” 2022. The Atlantic.

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