Yep, everyone is starting to ask me for an opinion, so let me just put it in one place for you all:
It appears that current vaccines are pretty safe, just based on how they were created. Yes, there will be some allergic reactions, plus the typical issues with any inoculation (sore arm, maybe fatigue/chills). I’ve seen people on the internet worried that since they are mRNA based, that somehow the vaccine gets into our DNA forever….that is not at all the case. True safety profile will become more clear as more people get vaccinated–the larger the cohort, the more likely to find some issues, and to date, not that many people have been included in studies, just for expediency.
And the vaccines appear to be effective at what was studied: do they cause the production of antibodies. Yes, they do, at a pretty high success rate. That’s good, but not really enough to get excited about.
You see, even if you make antibodies from the vaccine, we have no idea of the clinical significance of that. We don’t know if it means fewer people will get sick. We don’t know if fewer people will get hospitalized. That part has not yet been studied. Plus, we do know that naturally formed antibodies after infection are not necessarily protective–folks have gotten the illness more than once. And, a large segment of the population lose their antibodies pretty quickly, like in a matter of months. So how effective will the vaccines actually be and how long will it provide protection? Who knows?
Another complication is that the virus is continuing to mutate; there is a newer, more contagious version currently in Europe that I imagine will show up here in the States at some point. Then the vaccines will need to be modified–this is a lot like what happens each year with the influenza vaccine. It’s my understanding that modifications could be made to the vaccine fairly rapidly, but it’s not certain if it would be fast enough to stay ahead of the mutations for this year. Getting the vaccine out to the population will also be a challenge, as there simply isn’t a good supply chain set up yet. Hospitals and nursing homes are getting it first (after the politicians did!), which is fairly easy to do. Getting it into the hands of primary care docs, urgent care centers and in-pharmacy facilities will be another thing altogether, since we can hardly get masks and gloves!
My thinking is this: if you are truly at risk (you’re a health care worker), or you could put others at risk (you work in a nursing home), then it might make sense to get the vaccine. The potential benefits are likely worth it. However, getting the vaccine changes nothing for you on a personal level. You still wear a mask, you still social distance, etc. That’s because we don’t know the true efficacy or length of coverage of this vaccine! This was reported in the New York Times recently: