COVID-19 presents the risk of death as well as long term effects for people who have even relatively mild cases. First, there are the well-known symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea and pneumonia. COVID-19 can also cause people to lose their sense of smell and taste.
People also experience long term side effects of COVID-19 even following a mild case of the which may involve symptoms ranging from insomnia to heart palpitations as well as changes in mood. A more comprehensive list is available here. People also experience multiorgan effects as well autoimmune conditions with symptoms affecting “heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions.” Children and adults may also experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is a rare and very serious condition that should be treated immediately after any warning signs. Besides these COVID-19 infections can also lead to serious scarring in the lungs as well as other affected organs. There is also of course the risk of death associated with COVID-19.
And, while these are personal risks worth considering, it is incomplete because in remaining unvaccinated you also impact the transmissibility of COVID-19 within your community.
As previously discussed, herd immunity occurs when a disease does not have anywhere to go within a population. What percentage of a population needs to be immune to reach this threshold depends on the nature of the disease itself as well as the population. It is not as if a population will suddenly become immune at some specific percentage. Instead herd immunity comes slowly as more and more of the population becomes immune to the disease and thus the disease has fewer and fewer new hosts to infect. Most estimates for COVID-19 put herd immunity around 70% however the higher the percentage the better.
Herd immunity, it should be noted, will be the only way for people who are unable to be vaccinated to return to normal living.
It is also worth considering that the longer COVID-19 is able to circulate through the population the more opportunity the disease has to mutate, the greater the opportunity there are for more variants to arise. Vaccines are effective against variants that have arisen so far. These variants have different effects ranging from increased transmissibility to resistance to treatments.
In conclusion, there are a number of risks to weigh when considering a COVID-19 vaccine both for yourself as well as your community. For the general population, the risk of serious complications relating to COVID-19 vaccination is very low. Although it is also fairly unlikely that any given healthy individual will become hospitalized from COVID-19, about 580 out of every 100,000 healthy people, it remains substantially more likely than experiencing a serious side effect from the vaccine. It is also worth considering the risks posed to communities as transmission rates continue to increase around the country.