Pfizer Vaccine Side Effects and Why Some Chose To Get Vaccinated
Dr. Katie Passaretti said she was the first person in North Carolina to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As an infectious disease attending doctor at Atrium Health in Charlotte, the 44-year-old has seen first-hand how COVID-19 affects patients and their families, and healthcare workers.
Passaretti views the vaccine as a “ray of hope at a time that’s been clouded by darkness with rising cases and hospitalizations.” By receiving the vaccination on December 14, Passaretti said she wanted to set an example for her peers and do her part to “protect others in my community and my workplace.”
After getting the vaccine, Passaretti said she had muscle soreness for 24 hours. Muscle soreness is one of several side effects people have experienced after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines.
In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to allow Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to distribute their COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.
Vaccines from both companies require recipients to receive two doses. The shots are given in the middle of the upper arm. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine recipients receive the second dose three weeks after getting the first dose. Moderna requires an interval of 28 days between the first and second doses.
According to the FDA, the most commonly reported side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine that last several days are:
- Pain at the injection site
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
The FDA listed swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, and nausea and vomiting as additional side effects for the Moderna vaccine.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccines teach the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC said the vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, which means the vaccine cannot make recipients sick with COVID-19.
Since it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination, the agency says it’s possible for a person to become infected with COVID-19, just before or just after vaccination, and still get sick.
Wilbur Chen, M.D., a professor of medicine and chief of adult clinical studies at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland, said it’s “ultracritical” that health experts are transparent with the public about what to expect after getting vaccinated.
It could be a mistake letting people be surprised or not prepared for experiencing side effects, said William Moss, M.D., executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
CDC Monitoring Allergic Reactions to Vaccines
Contagious diseases, such as polio and even chickenpox, have decreased significantly in the United States due to vaccinations that many people receive as infants, according to Dr. Michael Bernstein, who works in the ICU at Stamford Health Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut.
Bernstein, 43, was among the first to be vaccinated at his hospital in December because he said he sees COVID-19 patients every day. Like Passaretti, Bernstein said he had muscle soreness for about 24 hours after he was vaccinated.
Many people only experience muscle soreness as a side effect but some patients are having severe allergic reactions after getting vaccinated. The CDC discourages anyone who had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose from getting the second dose.
The CDC defined “severe” as needing the medication epinephrine or treatment in a hospital. And, the reaction, such as hives, swelling, or wheezing (respiratory distress), would have occurred within four hours of getting vaccinated.
The CDC also warns people who have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine to avoid the vaccine formulation containing the ingredient. This includes allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polysorbate.
According to the agency, polysorbate is not an ingredient in either COVID-19 vaccine. However, it is closely related to PEG, which is an ingredient in vaccines. The CDC advises people allergic to PEG or polysorbate to avoid getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Doctors Believes Vaccinations Will Help End COVID-19
Dr. Nick Kessener, 35, received the first of the two-dose vaccine on December 15. Kessener, a fourth-year resident in internal medicine and pediatrics at OSF Medical Group in Peoria, Illinois, said he had a little muscle soreness after getting vaccinated.
Kessener said he works extensively with coronavirus disease patients, which places him at high risk for contracting the virus. Because of this, Kessener said he was happy and thankful to get vaccinated because it feels like “the beginning of the end of the wild era that is COVID-19.”
Kessener said he has seen patients suffer short- and long-term complications from the coronavirus including a woman in her 30s who suffered a stroke.
So, when hospital administrators said that they would receive a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine early, Kessener did not hesitate to sign up. Kessener said it was a “risk versus benefit decision” since he felt like it was only going to be a matter of time when, not if, he would contract the virus.
Bernstein believes the vaccines will have a “major effect” on the COVID-19 pandemic when a “good majority of the population” gets fully vaccinated.
Until then, Bernstein plans to continue following the CDC guidelines of wearing a face mask, social distancing, and observing other safety and sanitary precautions.