March 11, 2021

UW Health Highlights Safety and Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines, Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy

Madison, Wisconsin - Questions and concerns among the public are nothing new to vaccines, nor to COVID-19, and with the rapid development and availability of COVID-19 vaccines those questions may create a hesitancy in some patients to receive the vaccine.

UW Health is responding to those questions, helping provide the public accurate information and raise the level of confidence in a decision to get vaccinated.

Questions about the vaccines can be fueled by natural skepticism, confusion from media reports or online misinformation. Where lingering concerns exist, they are normally around two primary questions, according to Dr. James Conway, professor of pediatrics, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and a vaccine expert and pediatrician at UW Health.

"It really comes down to the fact that people want to know that these new vaccines are safe and effective," he said. "It's natural to be a little skeptical given how quickly these vaccines were created."

The three vaccines created by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, are all extremely effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death, Conway said, and to date there have been virtually no significant safety concerns.

The process for approving the vaccines was dramatically faster than for previous vaccines against chicken pox or tetanus. In the United States that involved streamlining rather than changing the process, conducting robust clinical trials and moving through the Food and Drug Administration approval process with more urgency and fewer delays, he said.

Versions of many of these vaccines already existed or were in development, and the amount of collaboration between scientists, countries and companies has been unprecedented. Additionally, a major hindrance to the speed of previous vaccine clinical trials was the ability to find volunteers, but in the case of the COVID-19 vaccines trials there were many thousands of volunteers instantly available when the trials opened.

The pandemic has also allowed the public to see in real time how the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines is determined, according to Conway.

"As tens of millions of people have been vaccinated to this point in the U.S., we can see that they are working, but just as important, they are proving to be very safe," he said.


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