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SARS-CoV-2 Virus & COVID-19 quick facts

Updated June 08, 2024


SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19 Quick Facts

  • SARS-CoV-2 is one strain (type) of coronavirus that is part of a large family of enveloped RNA viruses that can infect mammals and birds.  Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like spiked surfaces and most often cause mild respiratory symptoms like the common cold in humans. 

  • A few coronavirus strains can cause very severe respiratory disease with significant mortality, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in China in 2002-2003  and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.  SARS-CoV-2, which was identified in China in late 2019  and declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020,    has a much lower mortality rate than SARS or MERS. 

  • People with SARS-CoV-2 infections can be asymptomatic  or exhibit a constellation of mild or severe illness symptoms known as COVID-19, which include fever; chills; cough; shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue; muscle, joint or body aches; rash; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.  Multiple studies have found that individuals who recover from COVID-19 illness have long-term immunity and rarely suffer a second COVID-19 infection.       

  • Complications of COVID-19 disease include pneumonia; acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS); acute kidney, liver, and heart failure or damage; septic shock; disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC); rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown); chronic fatigue syndrome; blood clots and death.  Serious complications of COVID-19 occur when an infection triggers the immune system to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins (cytokines) that can damage organs and kill tissue.  In some young children and adolescents, SARS-CoV-2 infections may trigger multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).   

  • In 2020 about 94 percent of COVID-19 related-deaths occurred in persons over age 65 and individuals with underlying poor health conditions, with only about 6 percent involving healthy persons or in persons under the age of 65.  Those considered at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease are the immunocompromised; pregnant women; individuals with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease; the obese; type 2 diabetics; and individuals with cancer, Down’s syndrome, sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Other conditions that may be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease include asthma, high blood pressure, dementia and neurologic conditions, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and type 1 diabetes. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Quick Facts

  • On Mar. 10, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency and invoked the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The public health emergency ended in the U.S. on May 11, 2023. However, COVID-19 vaccines remain a public health emergency “countermeasures” and continue to fall under the PREP Act, which shields manufacturers and vaccine providers from liability. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) awards compensation to those injured by countermeasure vaccines.       

  • There are two COVID-19 vaccines for use in the U.S. Comirnaty mRNA COVID-19 vaccine,  developed and manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, and Spikevax mRNA COVID-19 vaccine,  developed and manufactured by Moderna. Both vaccines are monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines containing the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant XBB.1.5. and are approved for use in individuals age 12 years and older.

  • Additional COVID-19 Vaccines available for use through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. These vaccines include two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech for use in infants and children aged 6 months through 4 years and for children five through 11 years of age  and one mRNA COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna for use in infants aged 6 months through 11 years.  There is one protein subunit vaccine, Novavax, authorized for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. According to the FDA, “Under an EUA, FDA may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.”  An EUA status may be given for licensed, experimental, approved or conditionally approved vaccines and require that vaccine recipients must “have the option to accept or refuse the vaccine.” 

  • Serious adverse events associated with COVID-19 vaccines include myocarditis and pericarditis, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), ischemic stroke, TTS,  shingles , Graves’ Disease (an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid),   blood clots,         acute myocardial events,   kidney disorders,  erythema multiforme (allergic skin reaction characterized by red, raised, symmetrical areas over the entire body),  Central Nervous System (CNS) Demyelination, including multiple sclerosis (MS),  Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS),   tinnitus,    prion disease (a rare, fatal, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy),   organ transplant rejection,    anaphylaxis,     and death.             

  • Health officials have warned that, while there is evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 disease, there is a lack of evidence that the vaccines are effective in preventing infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2.            Pfizer company officials have acknowledged that prior to EUA status, clinical trials were not conducted to determine whether the vaccine would stop transmission of the virus. 

  • As of the May 31, 2024 release of data from CDC, there have been 1,640,416 reports of adverse events following vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines submitted to the federal vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS), which noted 315,280 serious adverse events; 40,002 life-threatening events; 216,757 hospitalizations; and 37,647 deaths. Reported adverse events have included pain at the injection site; fatigue; anaphylaxis; headache; muscle and joint pain; fever; chills;  swollen lymph nodes; nausea and vomiting;  immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP) (low blood platelets);    Bell’s Palsy;  tinnitus;  cardiac arrest; neurological dysfunction; rheumatoid arthritis; blood clots; heart, kidney and liver failure;  anaphylaxis; myocarditis and pericarditis;   Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)  and death.      Click for most recent CDC data release.

Additional COVID-19 Information Resources

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)            

National Institutes of Health – NIH

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more.

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more. 

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about covid-19 and the covid-19 vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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