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Home » COVID vaccines are safe — that’s the science

COVID vaccines are safe — that’s the science


I just had to write this article because we need to clarify that COVID vaccines are safe, and we have the science to back up that statement. I know this will make the anti-vaccine community grumble with anger, but emotions have nothing to do with that.

I’m just going to provide the evidence that supports this claim. I’m not saying that COVID vaccines are perfect, they aren’t. But no medical procedure, whatever it is, is 100% safe. What every science-based physician does is weigh the risks and benefits, and they don’t accept the Nirvana fallacy, which states that if something isn’t perfect, it’s worthless.

I often share this — reducing a fracture (or setting the fracture) to a broken leg seems like it should be done. If you don’t, the leg can become non-functional, which isn’t good. If you’re a parent of a child with a broken leg, you will take them to the emergency room to reduce that fracture, without thinking about it. However, reducing fractures of the leg has a small, but significant, chance of harm, including death from fat embolisms. Despite that, you would choose to have the fracture reduced because you want your child to live a long life with a “normal” leg.

The same can be said of COVID vaccines. They prevent a disease that has many long- and short-term risks, up to and including death. Are there risks? Yes, but they are minor and infrequent. It’s so infrequent that it’s hard to determine if the adverse effects are caused by the vaccines or random chance.

This article is going to review the evidence that shows that the COVID vaccines are safe. I am not going to address the wild claims made by the anti-vaccine activists that this or that happens with the vaccine. There is almost no evidence to support their claims, and even when we debunk it, the anti-vaxxers move the goalpost. They’ll claim that we didn’t examine the data when there was a crescent moon and Mars was in retrograde. Or something.

Moving the goalposts is a logical fallacy called, “argument from ignorance.” That is, the claim that the COVID vaccines are safe is not true, because science cannot “prove” that it is true under every possible condition, like when there is a crescent moon and Mars is in retrograde!

pexels-photo-5863389.jpeg covid vaccines safety
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

COVID vaccines safety — the facts

According to the CDC, “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.” I do not know what else there is to say. The CDC is made up of thousands of scientists who are experts in immunology (the study of the immune system), epidemiology (the study of diseases), physiology (the study of the functions of the body), virology (the study of viruses), microbiology (the study of microorganisms), and public health, all of the fields that make up the science of vaccinology.

These people are not blowhard politicians, fake scientists, or tech bros who have zero background in any of those fields — CDC vaccine scientists, on the other hand, are experts in all of the fields of vaccinology and are dedicated to the public health of humans.

For the risks of vaccines, the CDC also states:

In rare cases, people have experienced more significant adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination. Any health problem that happens after vaccination is considered an adverse event. An adverse event can be caused by the vaccine or can be caused by a coincidental event not related to the vaccine, such as an unrelated fever, that happened following vaccination.

The largest safety study for COVID vaccines to date, published on 12 February 2024 in the journal Vaccine, shows that major adverse events are extremely rare, much more rare than found in unvaccinated groups. This study included over 99 million individuals and 243 million doses of COVID vaccines. This study itself should be enough to conclude that these vaccines are safe.

However, the anti-vaxxers used bad math to try to spin this study into a negative one. David Gorski, MD, Ph.D., stated that anti-vaxxers used two tactics for their spin:

One is to falsely portray the risk-benefit ratio of vaccines as unacceptable by falsely decreasing the denominator (the benefit) by claiming that the vaccines have little or no benefit. The other is through the Nirvana fallacy, in which any deviation from a perfectly safe vaccine with zero adverse events is used to portray the vaccine as hopelessly dangerous. 

In the world of real science, the benefits of the COVID vaccines far, far outweigh the extremely rare risks. I’m not trying to exaggerate, I am stating evidence-based facts, not an uninformed opinion. The risks of the adverse reactions that the researchers studied were so tiny they could be measured in less than one event per million doses.

For example, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis was observed in 7 cases out of 183 million doses, which works out to 0.038 cases per 1 million doses. And given the benefits of the vaccine, it is the benefit-to-risk ratio is overwhelmingly on the side of benefit.

There’s one more thing from this data — people don’t die from the COVID vaccines, despite the wild claims I’ve read on social media. Once again, the data is lacking supporting those claims.

The benefit side of the equation

As Dr. Gorski mentioned, the anti-vaxxers want to reduce the benefit of the vaccine to zero. If that were true, and it isn’t, then yes, the minor risks outweigh the benefits. But it isn’t true.

Let’s take a look at some of the data on the risk side:

I could go on and on, but it is very clear to real scientists that COVID is a dangerous disease that has numerous short- and long-term complications for humans. And that includes death. And COVID vaccines prevent all of these complications of the disease.

I know many people want to reduce the risk side of the equation by saying that COVID is a benign disease that causes little or no harm. But that’s just plain false.

The safety of the COVID vaccines is clear — it far outweighs the extremely rare and, mostly, minor risks. But if you want to fall for bad math where someone overstates the risk or understates the benefits, then there’s not much I can write to convince you otherwise.

But the science is clear and settled — the benefits of the COVID vaccines are huge and the risks are minor.

Citations

Michael Simpson

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