One of the lesser-publicized objections to taking the covid-19 vaccines is the fear that side effects may appear after many years. This is, on the surface, a more plausible cause of concern since the vaccines have been around for less than a year and we do not have any data on what effects it might have after periods longer than that. So it is not surprising that some people feel that the verdict is not yet in on long term safety.
But scientists say that this fear can be allayed by explaining how vaccines work. The fact that the vaccines provide immunity for long times, sometimes for life, is not because they stay in the body that long. After triggering the immune response and creating antibodies to the virus, they quickly degrade and go away.
The chair of Germany’s top vaccine advisory body, Thomas Mertens, said Kimmich was mistaken if he believed there were no designated long-term studies, or that monitoring programmes were not looking closely at serious side-effects.
“It’s clear that there can’t be any 10-year observational studies for vaccines that have been in use for barely a year,” Mertens told the dpa news agency. The scientific consensus among the medical community was that side-effects that only revealed themselves at a late stage “do not exist, or are an extreme rarity”, he added.
Carsten Watzl, the scientific director of the department of immunology at Technical University Dortmund, said it was a common “misunderstanding” that vaccines could have long-term effects that showed up years after the first and second shot.
“Say: I let myself get vaccinated and perhaps next year I will have some grave side-effects. That’s not how it works,” Watzl told the public broadcaster ARD. “The side-effects of a vaccine always appear directly after the vaccination, within a few weeks.”
Unlike drugs, which can build up in the body after prolonged use, vaccines are designed to perform a one-off function and degrade rapidly.
It is of course theoretically possible (anything is theoretically possible) that some weird and previously undetected mechanism causes these vaccines to somehow create a serious health issue ten years down the road. But if we are going to indulge in fact-free speculation, why be so negative? Why not speculate that ten years later we will find that people who took the vaccines have aged much less than those who didn’t and have also developed immunities to cancer and heart disease and strokes? That is as likely as the idea that it will cause you to drop dead suddenly.