Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

Monitoring vaccine side effects

Science | No reports of serious negative outcomes from the COVID-19 shots so far
by John Dawson
Posted 12/17/20, 12:09 pm

Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, became the first American on Monday to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (besides those participating in medical trials). Pfizer, in association with BioNTech, began rolling out the shot just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it on Dec. 11. “I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said while watching Lindsay’s immunization over video conference. “This is the beginning of the last chapter of the book.”

The next day, FDA officials indicated a second vaccine from the drugmaker Moderna would likely receive emergency use authorization soon. The agency’s advisers meet Thursday to review the research into the vaccine and make a recommendation.

Some nine months after the novel coronavirus upended lives around the world, manufacturers and officials are ramping up production and working out ways to distribute hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. The FDA has not cited any major safety concerns with the medication so far, but drugmakers warn those lining up for shots will likely feel some side effects.

For biotechnology companies like Moderna, the creation of the vaccine proved to be the quickest part, but testing took months to complete. Moderna formulated its vaccine in January days after Chinese researcher Yong-Zhen Zhang published the virus’s genetic sequence. By Feb. 24, just weeks after the United States recorded its first COVID-19 deaths, Moderna shipped its first doses to the National Institutes of Health for a Phase 1 study. In the intervening months, Moderna and other companies have raced to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their formulas.

In trials, both Moderna and Pfizer reported high numbers of mild and moderate side effects that typically lasted just a few days. Nine out of 10 people injected with Moderna’s vaccine suffered ancillary symptoms, and of those, more than 90 percent reported some pain at the site of injection. More than half experienced muscle pain or fatigue, and over 60 percent suffered headaches. According to Moderna, most of the side effects lasted just a few days. Recipients of the Pfizer vaccine reported similar experiences.

Health agencies are keeping an eye out for more significant side effects. The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued guidance this week saying patients with a history of allergic reactions to vaccines, food, or medicine shouldn’t receive the Pfizer shot. Officials with the agency reported two cases of anaphylaxis in the early days of the vaccine rollout. Two Alaskan health workers have also experienced allergy-like reactions. All of the affected individuals recovered.

The FDA also recommended watching for signs of Bell’s palsy, a weakening of muscles on one side of the face, in patients receiving the vaccine. Four trial participants developed the condition, but researchers said they didn’t have enough information to demonstrate a causal link between the vaccine and the incidents. All of those affected have recovered.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses separated by three to four weeks. Pfizer’s vaccine requires dry ice to keep the vaccines at temperatures of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna says its vaccine can be stored at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frontline healthcare workers are receiving the vaccine first, along with nearly 3 million mostly older Americans living in long-term healthcare facilities like nursing homes. The FDA said Americans receiving the Pfizer vaccine will have strong protection about a week after the first dose and best protection a week after the second dose. The two doses are 95 percent effective at preventing the disease, the company reported.

Scientists say they don’t know how long the vaccines protect from COVID-19. If the immune response to the vaccine is similar to that from contracting the virus, the benefits may last for months or even years. In a November study, scientists found the number of immune cells capable of fending off COVID-19 to be quite high even six months after infection. They suggested the immune memory of patients who contract the coronavirus might offer years of protection.

“That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” La Jolla Institute of Immunology virologist and study co-author Shane Crotty told The New York Times.

John Dawson

John is a correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and previously wrote for The Birmingham News. John resides in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @talkdawson.

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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 07:31 am

    90% will have side effects. These are not trivial. Add to this the wishful thinking of your last paragraph. We will not watch and see as the vaccine is given to millions. What will happen? No wonder many are skeptical or simply worried about these vaccines. I am a frontline worker and am waiting. There is much more immunity in the population at large than Fauci and complicit experts are telling us, or allowing us to know about.

    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 12:45 pm

    If you want perpetual economic slowdowns, endless mask mandates, etc., etc., then let's not take the vaccine or encourage its use. 

    I have supported reasonable mitigation measures, including imposed measures, because I believe one of government's responsibilities, especially on state and local levels, is to protect the public health.

    But I want to "get back to normal" -- be able to safely have church at full capacity, to be able to safely attend weddings and funerals, safely gather with friends, etc. I think it's important. 

    The same people who, this whole time, have been urging a return to normalcy, are now poo-poohing the vaccine and encouraging people not to take it.

    I will pay attention to the side effects, to the reactions. I will be careful. But I plan to practice what I preach and take the vaccine.

  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 04:45 pm

    90% had pain at the injection site, not the more serious side effects. I've never had a shot without some pain from the injection. We will wait and see how many get the more serious effects when it's given to masses of people. A few days of headache has to be better than a few weeks on a ventilator. Still... we are waiting to see. 

  • family8plus6sofar
    Posted: Mon, 12/21/2020 09:41 pm

    I wanted to reply to Tim Miller's response above, but there's no reply button there, so will do it here.  Mr. Miller, I'm reading articles in the MSM that are quoting doctors who say the vaccine won't get us back to "normal" because we "should still wear masks even if vaccinated."  If the vaccine won't keep folks from spreading it, what exactly is the point?  

    And I agree with the commentor about the manufacturers not being liable for anything that may happen to those who get vaccinated ~ you can certainly take the vaccine if you choose; but I don't want that "choice" forced on me or my loved ones!  

  • LT Jacobson
    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 07:52 am

    Might it be possible the Russian hackers changed data for corona vaccines?   Would it be meant for good or evil?  Maybe all the other hacks are just a brilliant diversion from some deeper nefarious intent. 

    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 12:48 pm

    Did the Russians hack into Pfizer's database?

  • NW
    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 03:29 pm

    Already news and videos are surfacing of health care workers having adverse reactions to the vaccine.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 12/18/2020 05:39 pm

    From what I've gathered, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines tend to produce a stronger immune response than most of the other ones we're used to. So it's fairly common to feel a bit sick the day after the shot as the body fights off the simulated invader. More severe reactions have occured, but have been quite rare. I'm planning to get the shot as soon as it's made available to me, which I'm hoping will be in the next few weeks. (I currently work in healthcare.)

  • cln
    Posted: Wed, 12/23/2020 03:21 pm

    THe Inovia is the DNA one which is similar to the other kinds. I wonder if we will hear about that one? 

  • cln
    Posted: Mon, 12/21/2020 02:27 pm

    I am not sure why anyone would trust a corrupt powerbroker that  makes a risky product for which they have zero liability? They have plenty of news reporters, media, politicians advertising for them and praising the product with zero advertising expense. They can make billions, but you will never get a sympathy card, the flags won't fly half mast for those who gave their lives for their "country" in this way. THey will carry on, the news about the dead will be suppressed, the side effects may show up later in life and no one will make the link. Not many products sold in America are so free from liability and these are injected! Anyone who wants the jab can have mine!

  •  CherylQuilts's picture
    Posted: Tue, 01/12/2021 10:13 am

    I'm a cancer patient undergoing chemo now and am scheduled to have the vaccine on Monday. The doctors and nurses at the cancer center have had it, and most have had minimal reactions (sore arms). One had more adverse reactions, but she advised to take Zyrtec before the shot and said that doctors and nurses will be there and will be watching. I plan to ask to stay 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes since I tend to be a 1% patient and have underlying autoimmune issues. As my husband said, we are following my oncologist's advice and are trusting God.