A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

LETTER – Don’t let ‘guinea pig’ concern play a factor in getting the COVID vaccine

Dear editor,

“I don’t want to be a guinea pig” – a common concern amongst those who are hesitating to get a COVID vaccine.

Did you know over 300 million people worldwide have had a COVID vaccine already? There is no evidence of death due to the vaccine and only very, very few cases of major side effects. This is also rooted in science. A recent study in Israel of 2.8 million vaccinated people had no deaths, and only 1 in 400 people sought medical help for side effects (all of which were non-life-threatening).

COVID vaccines were developed quickly because to study vaccines you need:

1. Money – governments were happy to invest to overcome the pandemic.

2. Willing volunteers – the original “guinea pigs” for vaccine trials were keen to come forward to help in a once in a century pandemic

3. High disease prevalence to test the vaccine – COVID prevalence was very high in countries where the initial studies were conducted (think UK, USA, Brazil, South Africa). The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are not new. mRNA therapies and vaccines have been in development since the 1990s and are understood by scientists. Other vaccines are built from knowledge of vaccine development during SARS and MERS – they never reached us because those pandemics died out before vaccines were needed.

The risk of complications appearing in two or three years? Very, very remote. These vaccines have been studied for nine months in trials of 10s of thousands and now millions of people. Unvaccinated it is likely you could get COVID in the next two to three years, with a 1-in-10 risk (if you’re 18-49 –even higher risk for older ages) of getting long COVID (significant symptoms for greater than eight weeks).

These vaccines continue to be studied and we have robust reporting systems worldwide for any and all side effects. For example, we know the risk of a severe allergic reaction is 11 per one million people vaccinated for the Pfizer vaccine. All patients recovered quickly, and so we wait 15 minutes after the vaccine because that’s when a reaction happens.

The sooner we’re all vaccinated, the sooner we can get back towards normality.

Dr. Adam Thompson,

COVID-19 spokesperson, Comox Valley Division of Family Practice

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