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CDC report on COVID vaccine: Fewer than 7,000 of 14M vaccinated people had side effects; most mild

The report on the side effects looked at the first 13.8 Million people vaccinated in the U.S., from mid-December to mid-January. Here's what it found.

ATLANTA — Researchers in Atlanta and around the world continue to work around the clock, aggressively looking for evidence of any bad side effects from the COVID vaccines—short-term or long-term.

The latest evidence available, released on Friday, comes from right here in Atlanta, from the CDC.

It’s a study of the millions of people in the U.S. who actually got the vaccines, from mid-December, when the vaccines became available, to mid-January.

The CDC report showed that of the nearly 14 million people in the U.S. who were vaccinated during that period, fewer than 7,000 of them - about one in every 2,000 people vaccinated - experienced any side effects at all.

Most of the side effects - 90.8% of them - were minor, and expected. Those side effects included achiness and fatigue that went away in a day or two.

Of all those with side effects, 640 people - or 9.2% - experienced serious side effects, and 113 of the people with serious side effects died. Two-thirds of those who died were residents of long-term care facilities.

The CDC report said it is investigating every one of the deaths, and that there is no evidence, so far, that any of the deaths were caused by the vaccines. Rather, the evidence gathered by the CDC shows they were caused by underlying medical conditions unrelated to the vaccines.

“They’ve not been able to associate deaths with COVID vaccine, per se,” said Richard Rothenberg, MD, MPH, a Regents’ Professor with the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

Rothenberg said the CDC report confirmed the levels at which that the risks of taking the COVID vaccines are present. He likened the side effects to the risks of taking any other vaccines or medicines - such as the risks that drug companies list in their television commercials and print ads that include the risk of “death,” and such as the risks printed on the bottles of over-the-counter medicines.

"If you look at the potential side effects of virtually anything that we take ... it doesn’t mean that the drug is dangerous," he said. 

"Somehow, people think that, perhaps, zero risk is achievable. But I can’t think of anything that has zero risk," Rothenberg added. "The thing that stands out the most is that this is a very safe vaccine. Both of them (Pfizer and Moderna) are extremely safe vaccines. It really is very good news.”

And any evidence of any long-term effects, he said, has not yet emerged after months of trials and hundreds of millions of vaccinations, world-wide, so far—even as the CDC continues to try to find if there are any long-term effects.

“I mean, I think it’s patently clear that getting the disease is so much worse than anything the vaccine might be doing, that the risks of disease vastly outweigh the risks of prevention,” Rothenberg concluded.