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VERIFY: How can the COVID-19 vaccine be safe when it was developed so quickly?

Experts fact-check claims and questions by the vaccine-hesitant.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Sunday for the Anti-Vaccine Mandate rally.  WUSA9 was there and heard several claims about the vaccines. So, we wanted to set the record straight on one question we kept hearing:

Question:

How can the COVID-19 vaccine be safe if it was developed so quickly?

Sources:

Answer:

According to Johns Hopkins, typical vaccine development takes between 5 to 10 years. The COVID-19 vaccine was developed and received emergency FDA approval in one year. But the NIH emphasizes scientists were not starting from scratch.  

According to this NIH document on coronaviruses, SARS COV has been around since November 2002. COVID-19 or SAR COV2 emerged in December 2019. Based on prior research, the NIH states, “scientists and grantees are well-positioned to rapidly develop COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.”

“Millions and millions of people worldwide have received the vaccine it is safe,” explained Dr. Monto. “The reason for speed is twofold: We've got a pandemic, we've got a lot of people sick and dying and we want to control it. Therefore, the only corners that were cut was in the original approvals. We didn't wait for the usual six months of follow-up. We approved with two months of follow up in that time frame as long past.”

Dr. Monto said the COVID-19 vaccine underwent the same approval process as previous vaccines, just faster. He points to the polio vaccine which was developed on a similar fast track during the epidemic in the 1950s.    

“You’d say the same thing about the polio vaccine,” said the doctor. “We’ve only given it to a few thousand people how can we trust it, but people took it and there were no long-term side effects.”

Speaking of side effects, Dr. Monto said time is on our side since it’s been more than a year since the first shots went into people’s arms.

“We've given it to millions of people, if there were real concerns, they would have showed up by now because vaccines typically, if you're going to have side effects that typically in the first six weeks,” he said.

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