A new poll conducted Yahoo! News/YouGov during July 13-15, 2021 found that 37 percent of unvaccinated Americans are more fearful of the three experimental COVID-19 biologics currently available in the United States than they are of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can cause the disease. The survey of 1,715 adults in the U.S. found that only 29 percent of unvaccinated Americans believe the virus poses a greater health risk than the vaccines and 34 percent are unsure.1
According to the poll, 45 percent of unvaccinated Americans do not trust the COVID biologics. Thirty-five percent said the most important reason for their distrust had to do with their concern over “long-term side effects.” Sixteen percent said the vaccines are “too new” and another 11 percent noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “hasn’t fully approved the vaccines yet.”1
When unvaccinated Americans were asked to select all the reasons they do not trust the COVID biologics, rather than just the “most important,” many of those surveyed selected all the possible reasons provided in the poll. Seventy percent said they were concerned about long-term side effects. Sixty percent said the vaccines are “too new,” 50 percent said they were concerned about “short-term side effects,” and 45 percent said the FDA “hasn’t fully approved the vaccines yet.”
The FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the manufacturers of COVID vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen to distribute the biologics in the U.S., but it has not officially approved them for licensure.2 3 4
Another recent poll of 2,238 adults in the U.S. conducted by CBS News/YouGov on July 14-17 found similar concerns among unvaccinated Americans. Fifty-three percent said they were “worried about side effects.” In a poll done by CBS News/YouGov in June, 43 percent responded that they were “worried about side effects.”5 An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 adults in the U.S. conducted on July 10-13 found that “90 percent of those who reject vaccination fear possible side effects from the vaccine more than they fear COVID-19 itself.”6
Heart Inflammation, Blood Clots and Paralysis Among Worrisome “Side Effects”
Some of the concerns about side effects may be related to a growing number of reported cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart) following COVID vaccinations. On June 23, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) determined that there is a “likely association” between these cases of cardiac complications and the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna/NIAID messenger RNA (mRNA) biologics.7
There have also been numerous mainstream media reports about cases of a blood clotting disorder called “vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia” (VITT) following vaccination with COVID biologics developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University and J&J/Janssen. The problem has led AstraZeneca and J&J to undertake research to study potential modifications of their vaccines to try and reduce or eliminate the risk of VITT.8 9
Additionally, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been linked to a condition known as Bell’s palsy, manifested by facial paralysis or muscle weakness, while J&J’s vaccine has recently been linked to a serious neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) that can cause polio-like paralysis. The GBS link has led the FDA to announce that it is adding a warning label to the J&J product.10 11 12
Hundreds of Thousands of Adverse Events After COVID Vaccination Reported to VAERS
Concerns about side effects could also have something to do with the fact that 438,441 adverse event reports (including 9,048 deaths) following COVID-19 vaccinations have been filed with the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).13 In an article in The Vaccine Reaction earlier this month, Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) noted:
There have been more deaths reported to VAERS following COVID-19 vaccinations than for any other federally recommended vaccine since VAERS became operational in 1990.13
Although it is sometimes argued that not all cases reported to VAERS can be confirmed to have been caused by a particular vaccination, these cases at least suggest there may be a problem, particularly when you consider that one federally funded study has estimated that fewer than 1 percent of vaccine adverse events are reported to the government.13 14
Consequently, it is reasonable for people to want to do their homework before deciding whether to get a shot, rather than solely relying on safety assurances from the U.S. government and the pharmaceutical industry. And it is understandable for some people to have second thoughts.
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Note: This commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers. The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.
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1 Romano A. Unvaccinated Americans say COVID vaccines are riskier than the virus, even as Delta surges among them. Yahoo! News July 20, 2021.
2 Press release. FDA Takes Key Action in Fight Against COVID-19 By Issuing Emergency Use Authorization for First COVID-19 Vaccine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dec. 11, 2020.
3 Press release. FDA Takes Additional Action in Fight Against COVID-19 By Issuing Emergency Use Authorization for Second COVID-19 Vaccine. FDA Dec. 18, 2020.
4 Press release. FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine. FDA Feb. 27, 2021.
5 Salvanto A, Backus F, Khanna K, DePinto J. Biden nets positive marks for handling pandemic, but vaccine resistance, Delta concern remains – CBS News poll. CBS News July 19, 2021.
6 Frankovic K. Why won’t Americans get vaccinated? YouGovAmerica July 15, 2021.
7 TVR Staff. Pfizer, Moderna COVID Shots Likely Linked to Inflammatory Heart Conditions Says CDC Advisory Committee. The Vaccine Reaction June 28, 2021.
8 Jeong M. Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine: Slight increase in blood clot risk. Medical News Today June 25, 2021.
9 Lovelace B. J&J, AstraZeneca explore modifying Covid vaccines in response to rare blood clot issue. CNBC July 13, 2021.
10 News-Medical.net. Patient’s case report reveals link between Bell’s palsy and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. July 19, 2021.
11 Pruitt-Young S. Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Is Linked To Neurological Disorder In Extremely Rare Cases. NPR July 12, 2021.
12 Edwards E. FDA adds warning to J&J vaccine for possible link to rare neurological disorder. NBC News July 12, 2021.
13 Fisher BL. More Deaths Reported to VAERS Following COVID-19 Vaccinations Than for Any Other Vaccine. The Vaccine Reaction July 11, 2021.
14 TVR Staff. Only One Percent of Vaccine Reactions Reported to VAERS. The Vaccine Reaction Jan. 9, 2020.