Eligibility to receive the different COVID-19 vaccines is expanding throughout the United States, yet, many people are opting not to receive the vaccination. It is not only important to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for individual safety, but it is important to understand the several reasons why one should get the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to help others make the decision to receive the vaccine themselves.
First, the vaccines available have been shown to be highly effective in reducing the rates of COVID-19 infection.1 As discussed in a previous post, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are more than 90% effective and AstraZeneca is shown to be 79% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.2,3 Although the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine was not included in the previous post, it has since been marketed at over 65% effective within the United States.4 Additionally, the corresponding clinical trials for each vaccination have shown that each one not only reduces infection rates, but also reduces rates of severe infection which is a major cause of hospitalizations, prolonged complications, and death.1 With the level of efficacy reported by each vaccine, receiving any vaccine is recommended to help reduce infection, hospitalizations, and deaths.
As a consideration for any new vaccine or medication, safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is a main concern of many people. It is important to remember that each vaccine approved for use in the United States has undergone FDA investigation and approval, including in depth evaluation of safety parameters. The results for each vaccine indicate that, the safety risks are minimal and are greatly outweighed by benefits.1
The most recent safety concern for a COVID-19 vaccination surrounds the AstraZeneca vaccination and increased risk of blood clots. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been approved and largely used in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). As of March 8th, 17 million people in the EU and UK had been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Of those, 37 people had a thromboembolic event, which is actually less than what could be expected in the general population without vaccination. After reviewing the information available, the European Medicines Agency released a statement that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk and encouraged continued administration of the vaccine.5,6 For this, and all safety data, extensive post-marketing surveillance will continue to be conducted, ensuring timely identification of any (if any) important safety concerns.
Each of us can help lead this endeavor to bring the pandemic to an end. We can do this through educating ourselves, receiving a vaccination, wearing masks, social distancing, and be mindful of CDC updates. Additionally, we can offer education to others with primary literature and personal insight. By receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccinations, you take a step toward bringing an end to the pandemic.
As always, comments are welcomed with enthusiasm!
About the Author: Dr. Emily Uebbing graduated with her PharmD from University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy in 2020. She currently is a PGY1 Pharmacy Resident Stratton VA Medical Center Albany, New York and has accepted a position commencing June/July 2021 at Stratton VA as the incoming PGY2 Pharmacy Pain and Palliative Care Resident.
- Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 5, 2021. Accessed March 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/how-they-work.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fvaccines%2Fabout-vaccines%2Fhow-they-work.html
- Gamelli A, Mataraza A, Fudin J. An updated look at the COVID-19 vaccine candidates – storage, distribution, and barriers to access. Pain Dr. Published December 16, 2020. Accessed March 21, 2021.
- Kemp A. AZD122 US Phase III trial met primary efficacy endpoint in preventing COVID-19 at interim analysis. AstraZeneca. Published March 22, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2021. https://www.astrazeneca.com/content/astraz/media-centre/press-releases/2021/astrazeneca-us-vaccine-trial-met-primary-endpoint.html#!
- Information about Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated March 4, 2021. Accessed March 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/janssen.html
- European Medicines Agency Press Office. COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: benefits still outweigh the risks despite possible link to rate blood clots with low blood platelets. European Medicines Agency. Published march 18, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2021. https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca-benefits-still-outweigh-risks-despite-possible-link-rare-blood-clots
- Talmazan Y. Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is ‘safe and effective,’ European Medicines Agency rules. NBC News. Published March 18. 2021. Accessed March 21, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-safe-european-medicines-agency-rules-n1261395