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Weigh the Risks

What are the tradeoffs of getting vaccinated vs. not getting vaccinated?

Watch the video to hear from someone who weighed the risks, then explore this page to decide for yourself.

Weigh the risks

serious illness

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If you choose to get vaccinated:

Your chance of getting seriously ill from the vaccine is about 0.012%. Most people have only minor side effects that go away within a few days. Some people have no side effects at all.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

Your chance of getting COVID-19 is 75% higher than the national average. And, one in six people who get COVID-19 develop a serious illness, like having trouble breathing.

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Weigh the risks

wearing a mask & social distancing

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Illustration of group of people together

If you choose to get vaccinated:

You can resume most activities that you did prior to the pandemic without wearing a mask or social distancing. (Note: Masks are still required at some indoor public places like public transportation, airports, and hospitals.) People who get COVID-19 after vaccination represent about 1/100th of 1 percent of those who’ve been vaccinated, so your risk of contracting COVID-19 is extremely low.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

You will be safest avoiding indoor places operating at full capacity, like bars, gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters. You will also want to consider avoiding all non-essential travel and large indoor events. If you are around people who are not part of your household, maintaining social distance (at least six feet apart) and wearing a mask will continue to be essential. Your risk of contracting COVID will be 75% higher than the national average.

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side effects

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If you choose to get vaccinated:

You may experience mild side effects that may disrupt your daily routine, but they will be temporary, often lasting for just a few days. Some people have no side effects at all.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

You will avoid the chance of temporary side effects, but your body will not have help in developing immunity to COVID-19. If you contract the virus, your body will likely produce some antibodies and immune cells that can fight off the infection – the majority of people do – but there is no way to predict exactly how successful or unsuccessful your body’s immune response will be.

1 in 6 people who get the disease will have severe problems, such as trouble breathing

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long-term effects

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Illustration of person sitting on couch looking at smartphone

If you choose to get vaccinated:

You will be protected from getting sick from COVID-19, and that includes the long-term effects experienced by “long haulers.” And, while independent researchers continue to monitor for side effects, people who are vaccinated have very low instances of serious side effects or illness.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

You have a 75% higher chance of getting COVID-19 compared to the national average. This means, you may become ill with COVID-19, both in the acute phase of the disease, and perhaps experiencing some long-term effects for months. This is an emerging area of scientific understanding. Here’s what we know so far about the long-term effects, who gets them, and what’s up with the lost sense of smell.

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immune response

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Illustration of lungs

If you choose to get vaccinated:

With the vaccine, everyone receives the same dose, a dose that research shows is effective at generating an immune response.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

If you contract the virus, your body will likely produce some antibodies and immune cells that can fight off the infection – the majority of people do – but there is no way to predict exactly how successful or unsuccessful your body’s immune response will be.

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allergic reactions

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If you choose to get vaccinated:

Current estimates suggest that allergic reactions occur in about 2 to 11 people for every million vaccine doses given (that’s 2.5 to 11.1 cases to be exact). People who have a history of allergy are more likely to have a reaction, which is why the person giving the vaccine will ask questions about allergies when you arrive. And, while rare, when allergic reaction does occur, it happens right after vaccination and it is treatable. This is why you sit for 15 minutes after receiving your vaccination before leaving the building. A healthcare worker will be present to help you immediately.

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If you choose not to get vaccinated:

You will not have to worry about a potential allergic reaction. However, you will not be able to predict or control how your body will respond to COVID-19, if you contract it.

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What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

Some people suffer from the effects of COVID-19 for months after the acute phase of the illness (often they are called “long haulers”). We are still learning a lot about the long-term effects, but here’s what we know now:  

  • COVID-19 can attack the body in a range of ways, causing damage to the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys, liver and other organs. Mental health problems can arise from grief and loss, unresolved pain or fatigue, or from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU).
  • The most common lasting symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain. Other long-term issues include cognitive problems, difficulty concentrating, depression, muscle pain, headache, rapid heartbeat and intermittent fever.
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Why do some people become “long haulers” while others recover in a few weeks from COVID-19?

While it’s clear that people with certain risk factors (including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions) are more likely to have a serious bout of COVID-19 (during the initial illness), there is no clear link between these risk factors and long-term problems.  

More studies will shed light on why these lingering health problems persist in some people. They could be due to organ damage from COVID-19, a persistent inflammatory or autoimmune response to getting sick with COVID-19, or another reason.

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Can COVID-19 really remove your sense of smell?

Losing your sense of smell—or anosmia, to use the technical term—can occur during a case of COVID-19. Sometimes, it is the only symptom. Other times, it accompanies other mild symptoms such as a dry cough.

It remains unclear why this happens. But, it happens frequently—in perhaps as much as 86 percent of COVID-19 cases. And, it happens slightly more frequently in women.    

The sooner someone recognizes and reports their lost sense of smell, the sooner they can get COVID-19 testing and treatment, and the sooner they can protect others by quarantining while they await the test results.

Lost sense of smell can last from approximately three weeks to several months—and it can be disruptive to mental health. People who feel a greater sense of anxiety, depression, or isolation should reach out to a mental health counselor or trusted friend or family member for comfort and support.

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