What about long-term effects of the vaccine?

It is important to ask this question for all treatments in medicine.  Unfortunately, long-term effects of many treatments are unknown, either because they are new and/or because we haven’t yet studied them.  Thus far, we have data looking at short-term and intermediate effects related to COVID-19 vaccine administration and vaccine efficacy (see FAQ questions about vaccine efficacy and about allergic reactions).  Over time, more data will be collected to understand long-term effects (both positive and negative) of the vaccine.

Health care systems and public health experts are recommending this vaccine because based on current evidence, they believe the risks of COVID-19 disease outweigh the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine.  This recommendation is based on the best evidence available today, understanding that recommendations may change over time as we learn more about COVID-19 and/or its treatments.

Just as it is important to think about the long-term effects of the vaccine, it is also important to consider long-term effects of COVID-19 itself.  While true long-term data is lacking, we are starting to learn about COVID-19 “long-haulers,” those who experience issues months beyond their initial recovery. Chronic symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain.  There is concern that lung scarring from the virus may lead to more chronic problems.  Imaging tests taken months after recovery have shown damage to the heart muscle, even in people who experienced only mild COVID-19 symptoms. This may increase the risk of heart failure or other heart complications in the future. Even in young people, COVID-19 can cause strokes, seizures and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

As with the vaccine, researchers will continue following individuals who have had COVID-19 to better understand the long-term effects of the disease.


Reviewed (No Change): March 1, 2021