More than a year after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic in the U.S. we are now seeing a glimmer of hope on the horizon. A return to normalcy–or some form of it–appears within reach. And that is due in large part to the continued distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The COVID-19 vaccine, like any medical decision, is one we each must make based on what’s best for our health and aligns with the recommendations of our healthcare providers. But wading through the ocean of information on the vaccine to make that decision can be daunting.

To help break down the details of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Matt Felber, Pender Community Hospital & Medical Clinics Physician is sharing helpful information to clear up misconceptions and explain why it’s a safe choice for most people to make.

“Vaccines in general are very safe,” Dr. Felber said. “They’ve been around for decades and have saved millions of lives and prevented a lot of diseases so well that people don’t even remember them. They’re an important part of society’s well-being and healthcare.”

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines and the perception that they were developed too quickly to be fully safe, Dr. Felber notes that they were still required to pass the same rigorous testing protocol as other vaccines. Due to the urgent need for them and the funding provided for the research, they were simply able to move through the development and testing process much more rapidly.

“Most vaccine trials have 5-10,000 volunteers in their trials. These vaccines had over 100,000,” he explained. “Because so many people had COVID it made it easier to get volunteers for the study and there was a great amount of funding invested into them, which helped accomplish the testing more quickly than other vaccines. In my opinion, the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe.”

Currently, there are three vaccine variations available–from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. None of them contain any live virus, so they can’t make you sick with COVID-19.

Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which teach cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response against COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus-based vaccine, in which the COVID-19 virus spike protein is added to an adenovirus to generate an immune response.

“Research on the technology used for the Johnson & Johnson vaccines has been studied for more than 10 years,” Dr. Felber shared. “An Ebola vaccine approved for general use last year uses the same technology. It just wasn’t as widely known until now.”

Besides the accelerated timeline of their development, there are other questions and rumors that have arose about their safety. Dr. Felber shares that most of the extreme negative side effects that people may be anxious about simply aren’t true. 

“There is no live virus in these vaccines, and there is no evidence they will alter your DNA,” he said. “The same goes for causing miscarriages or that they’re harmful to pregnant or breastfeeding women. Unless you have an allergy to a component of the vaccine, they are generally safe for the majority of the adult population.”

In Dr. Felber’s opinion, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks.

“Of course, you should always ask your healthcare provider if you are uncertain about getting the vaccine,” he said. “But overall, these vaccines seem very safe. And research shows that the immunity they provide increases with time. By getting vaccinated you help keep yourself, your family and your friends safe.”