Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?

Dr. Paul Offit discusses the safety record of COVID-19 vaccines, including the magnitude of doses administered and the rare, but real, side effect called myocarditis. He also discusses the risk-to-benefit assessment of any medication and provides a historical context for why we would not expect new side effects caused by COVID-19 vaccines at this point.


Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It's Thursday, December 1st, 2022. So, I think probably the most common question I get asked is, how do we know a vaccine is safe? And certainly, any vaccine or any drug that is given that has a positive effect can have a negative effect. Vaccines are no different. The good news is this vaccine, the mRNA vaccines, have been out since December of 2020, so we have almost two years' worth of data. These vaccines have been given to billions of people in the world, and so we have an excellent safety record. It's not absolutely safe, these vaccines, but nothing is absolutely safe.

I think anything in medicine that has a positive effect can have a negative effect. I think the negative effect that we've seen here is the so-called myocarditis, which is a short-lived, transient, self-resolving inflammation of the heart muscle, which is also a much more serious consequence if you're naturally infected with the virus or if you have the so-called MIS-C, which is a post-infectious inflammatory syndrome of children.

So, I think the price to pay here has been very small. In the world of medicine, the word safety means that the benefits have to clearly and definitively outweigh the risks, and we know that to be true here. And we also know historically, when you look at vaccines and you find safety problems, and certainly there have been safety problems, severe safety problems associated with vaccines, they've virtually always been found within two months of getting the vaccine, and now we have really two years' worth of data. So, I don't think there's going to be any surprises at this point. That's why it's important to be vaccinated.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Dec 20, 2022