RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The latest CDC data says 1,063 adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines have been reported in Virginia.
Those cases were submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a nationwide database that tracks abnormalities to provide early warnings of possible safety problems. Since both healthcare providers and individuals can enter reports, the CDC emphasizes that some information may be “incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.”
The issues reported to the CDC so far represent 0.02% of the more than 5.1 million doses administered in the state as of Friday afternoon. According to the Virginia Department of Health, more than 3.3 million people have gotten at least one shot so far.
Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine in the University of Virginia’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said it’s proof that problems with the vaccine are extremely rare.
“Your risk of dying from COVID-19 is higher than your risk of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine,” Bell said. “Some of the things that we do in the regular course of living, like getting in a car and crossing the street, are things that are going to represent higher risk.”
According to VAERS, “serious” cases are even rarer, accounting for 164–or about 15 percent–of the state’s total adverse reaction reports for coronavirus vaccines.
“The difference would be what kind of treatment you would need. So if you needed to go to the emergency room or the hospital,” Bell said.
At least 84 reported cases required hospital stays, with nearly 70 percent being discharged after 3 days. Bell said many of these were likely severe allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients.
Earlier this week, the CDC confirmed that they are investigating the death of a Virginia woman. She is one of at least six people who experienced a rare blood clot after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those shots are now on pause out of “an abundance of caution” while more information is collected.
Dr. Kate Langwig, an infectious disease ecologist and assistant professor at Virginia Tech, said the suspension was the right call to maintain transparency and public trust.
“I think it says that our vaccine tracking system is extremely sensitive,” Langwig said. “Vaccines are one of the safest things we put in our bodies for that reason. They are so closely scrutinized and monitored.”
According to VAERS, 34 people in Virginia died in 2021 after reporting an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. Langwig said that doesn’t mean the shot had anything to do with it.
“It’s difficult to attribute causality to a lot of these cases,” Langwig said. “Given the number of people that we’re vaccinating, you expect that some of these people are going to die.”
Of the three vaccine manufacturers authorized for emergency use in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson had the least adverse reactions reported in Virginia with 114 cases. As of Friday morning, Pfizer-BioNTech had 598 cases and Moderna had 351.
Langwig said those numbers could be biased because Johnson & Johnson was approved later than the other two.
Langwig said, if you think you’re experiencing an adverse reaction to any vaccine, you should tell a healthcare provider immediately. She said they are required by law to report that information.