[MUSIC PLAYING] AVERY AUGUST: Let's talk about vaccine safety.
CYNTHIA LEIFER: So these vaccines were made really quickly. How do we know they're safe? What you need to know is that scientists have been working on these coronavirus vaccines for decades. We learned a lot about coronaviruses from our experience with SARS, and so we use that information to make these vaccines as well.
Because the coronavirus was spreading in our population so quickly last year, the clinical trial data came back very rapidly that these vaccines were safe and effective. Manufacturing these vaccines can be done at large scale very quickly. We also took a huge financial bet to manufacture large amounts of these vaccines so that once they were approved, it would give us a leg up to distribute those to the communities so that we could get them into people's arms. So even though they were made very quickly, they're safe and effective.
AVERY AUGUST: Will the vaccine alter your DNA? The short answer is no. There are three vaccines that are currently approved. Two are based on mRNA, and basically what mRNA technology does is tell your cells to make a protein that comes from the virus so that the next time your body sees the virus, the true virus, your immune system can respond and protect you. The third vaccine actually just uses a harmless cold virus to tell your cells to make the same protein. So it's all harmless and it will not affect your DNA at all.
CYNTHIA LEIFER: Have people had severe reactions to the vaccine? The risk of severe reactions to these vaccines are only slightly greater than being struck by lightning. If a severe reaction does occur, it's going to happen within 15 to 30 minutes, it's due to an allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine, treatment is provided immediately on-site, and hospitalizations are very rare.
Most people will have mild or moderate symptoms. Soreness at the injection site, muscle soreness, maybe fatigue, sometimes a fever and chills. These are all normal immune reactions and are commonly referred to as flu-like symptoms because they're actually shared between respiratory viral infections like the flu and getting the vaccine.
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Cornell immunology experts Avery August and Cynthia Leifer discuss COVID-19 vaccine safety and how different vaccines work.