If you don’t believe that COVID-19 exists or that its danger is greatly exaggerated by experts and public health officials or that the vaccine shot actually implants a microchip into your body, there’s really no need for you to read this column.

If you ascribe to any of these conspiracy theories, there’s simply no convincing you otherwise.

If, however, you are reluctant to get the vaccine because you fear unknown long-term health consequences, please read on.

I recently had discussions with a family member and a friend who are hesitant to get vaccinated precisely for that reason.

The family member was concerned primarily about potential long-term effect on fertility and about the possibility that the vaccine might cause autism in children. The friend was worried about a range of possible health consequences in general.

As Americans, we’re somewhat conditioned to feel anxiety about the potential health effects of new products. Sometimes decades later, we learn that a food or a cleaning product or a type of insulation or a household item causes cancer or another health hazard.

So this particular concern about COVID-19 vaccines is understandable. And it’s fairly common.

The Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, a research project that tracks the public’s attitudes about the vaccines, found in August that the top reason given by survey respondents who are reluctant to get vaccinated was that the vaccine is new and too little is known about its long-term effects.

To address this concern directly, I scoured the internet looking for articles from trustworthy sources. The best I found was published in February on the website of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Here are the most salient points of the article, which cites statistics from the Food and Drug Administration and other well-established health organizations:

• “The history of vaccines shows that delayed effects after vaccination can occur. But when they do, these effects tend to happen within two months of vaccination,” the article notes.

It goes on to cite side effects from various vaccines, including the oral polio vaccine. About 1 in 2.4 million who ingested it developed paralysis. This vaccine is no longer used in the United States.

• A 1976 swine influenza vaccine caused Guillain-Barré syndrome, a paralysis involving muscles used in breathing. Subsequent studies have found that vaccines do not cause the syndrome.

Although COVID-19 vaccines are new, this type of vaccine has been studied in people before. Similar vaccines against HIV, rabies, Zika and flu have been tested in trials involving people. Similar vaccines have also been used in clinical trials for cancer treatment.

• About 1 in 1 million who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have experienced clots in a vein that drains blood from the brain.

The history of vaccines, the clinical studies of COVID-19 vaccines and the current record of side effects all offer strong evidence that the vaccines will not cause long-range health problems in the vast majority — well over 99.9% — of cases.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 is killing about 1,500 Americans a day.

History, statistics and science all point overwhelmingly to one fact: You, your family and your community will be much, much, much less likely to suffer dire health consequences if you get the shot.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845.

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