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How can we be sure the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are safe?

Ed Walsh

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University of California San Francisco Photo courtesy University of California San Francisco

One of the nation's leading research and teaching hospitals, University of California San Francisco is reassuring its patients that the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are safe.

In a message updated in late February, UCSF stated, " The COVID-19 vaccines now available were produced in record time and received expedited regulatory review, but they’re based on science that’s been studied for decades. These vaccines were produced quickly in part thanks to strong funding for clinical trials by multiple governments, as well as private organizations. Enrollment was faster than usual because the public was motivated to volunteer. Trials reached their endpoints quickly because of the high levels of COVID-19 disease throughout the world, which made it easy to see a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. None of the necessary scientific steps were skipped. In addition, both vaccines were found to be safe and effective in tens of thousands of adults who participated in double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials – widely considered the gold standard for testing drug safety and effectiveness."

Many who have received the vaccines have experienced side effects but experts say that is a sign the vaccine is working as the body's immune system is tricked into believing the material in the vaccine is harmful. The body's immune system produces antibodies to fight the invader.

Allergies

Many have expressed concern about allergies to vaccinations. UCSF says that although allergies to the vaccine are rare there are some signs to watch out for.

"If you have a history of allergies, check the risk assessment categories below to see whether you might need to visit your doctor for further evaluationj," the hospital stated.

"If any of the following have happened to you after receiving a vaccine or medication, you could be at risk for an allergic reaction: hives or rash, swelling of a body part, wheezing or shortness of breath, repeated vomiting or diarrhea, low blood pressure, treatment with epinephrine, intubation or hospitalization.

"Low risk

  • I have an allergy to food, animals, stinging insect venom (bee, wasp, hornet), pollens, latex and/or oral medications.
  • I had a reaction to a vaccine or injectable medication that was NOT an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

You should be observed for 30 minutes after being vaccinated.

"Medium risk

  • I had a reaction to a vaccine or injectable medication that could be an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
  • I had a reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that was NOT anaphylaxis.

"Discuss with your health care provider whether it’s safe for you to be vaccinated. Your provider can place an e-consult to Allergy at UCSF to determine the need for evaluation or testing.

High risk

  • I had a reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that could be an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

Ask your health care provider to refer you to Allergy at UCSF for possible allergy testing. "

Experts have cautioned that people should not be overly conerned about side effects or rare allergies since the risk of COVID-19 far outweighs any risk from the vaccine.

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