The long-term side effects issue

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.


  1. Jazzlet says

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that no other vaccine we use has any side effects after six months, and most don’t have any beyond two months, after the last vaccination.

  2. GenghisFaun says

    Not to mention that these people are ignoring the likelihood of long-term “direct” effects of getting COVID-19.
    From the CDC: “Some people who had severe illness with COVID-19 experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions over a longer time with symptoms lasting weeks or months after COVID-19 illness. Multiorgan effects can affect most, if not all, body systems, including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions.”
    But, then again, these objectors aren’t arguing in good faith to begin with.

  3. says

    Do vaccines have long term effects? Yeah, by keeping you alive long enough for any to appear.

    Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease has long term effects. So does thalidomide and CTE.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    … scientists say that this fear can be allayed by explaining how vaccines work.

    Maybe vaccine scientists say that.

    I betcha scientists who study fear demur.

  5. Bruce says

    Feeling fear about long-term effects of vaccines would be more respectable in a person who refuses to ever travel anywhere by car because of the long-term statistical risk of injury or death. A sensible person would walk a couple of miles to get vaccinated, and then refuse to eat grilled vegetables because of the risks of cancer from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons caused in the grilling process.
    People who pretend to be concerned about stuff need to be consistent if they want to be taken seriously. Do such people buy a house and find a job within walking distance of their favorite hospital? In practice, no such people exist.

  6. garnetstar says

    One problem is, of course, that very few Americans know how vaccines work. They think that they are drugs: the sage Tucker Carlson helps sow disinformation by referring to vaccines as drugs.

    But, I also think that education on how vaccines work won’t sway all that many. Some, yes, and this is a game of inches. But many others are merely parroting what they’ve been told to say: I’ll bet that not one of them, when prescribed a medicine by their doctors, has ever asked how long it’s been on the market, and if 15-year studies have been done.

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