How do we know COVID-19 vaccines are safe in the long term?


Welcome to Video 3 of our series on Understanding Vaccines with Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Discovery Health Centre for Clinical Excellence. In this article we learn how we can be assured that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for use over the medium and long term.

The virus that causes COVID-19 may be relatively new, but vaccines in general are not. Humans have been using different kinds of vaccines around the world for many decades and most of us received vaccines in childhood. So the building blocks, basic technologies and techniques of vaccine development have been around for a while.

What we know so far

The short-term safety and efficacy of all the current COVID-19 vaccines has been well-established in clinical trials, and over the last few months, they have been widely administered to the public, with billions of people around the globe having already received their vaccination. The short-term data shows that the side effects people may be concerned about mostly appear - and completely resolve - within a week of getting vaccinated.

Remember, that after vaccines are developed and tested they are authorised for use byregulatory organisations such as South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) following an indepth review of all available clinical data. Expert understanding of vaccine technology and how vaccines work can help reassure us that long-term safety, even though not yet established, should not be an issue.

To vaccinate or not - are you weighing the risks?

The adverse effects of getting infected with COVID-19 itself are well-documented and for some people, life-threatening. So it's important to weigh up the potential risks of rare severe vaccine side effects to those of severe COVID-19 infection, and realise that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

As with any other medicine, COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be monitored for safety and long-term effectiveness for many months and years to come. Watch Dr Noluthando explain here:

Learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines here, and join the millions of South Africans who can proudly say, #IGotMyVaccine.

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