Doctors Have This One Worry About the COVID Vaccine
Medical experts say patients should be warned more about how the double dose of shots can make them feel.
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna made global headlines when both announced that they had developed coronavirus vaccines with over 90 percent success rates in early November. But medical experts have begun to express concern that while the vaccines may help bring about the end of the pandemic, not enough is being done to prepare the public for their release and what the process will be like. Now, doctors are saying they worry that patients won't expect some of the side effects caused by COVID vaccines and will skip the vital second dose that makes it effective as a result. Read on to see why some medical professionals are concerned, and for more on who will be in the front of the line for shots, check out These Will Be the Very First People to Get the COVID Vaccine, CDC Says.
While public health officials roundly agree that an approved vaccine has the potential to save countless lives and begin to bring about the end of the pandemic as we know it, some have voiced concern that the rollout could prove to be difficult for many patients who don't understand what they're signing up for ahead of time, CNBC reports. Namely, they feel that patients should be educated that their first dose can create symptoms similar to a mild case of COVID: otherwise, it's likely that some won't show up for their second shot.
"We really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park," said Sandra Fryhofer, MD, of the American Medical Association, during a virtual Nov. 23 meeting with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "They are going to know they had a vaccine. They are probably not going to feel wonderful. But they've got to come back for that second dose."
However, some medical experts argue that the symptoms some people experience should be spoken about in a positive light, calling them "responses" instead of "side effects."
"These are immune responses," Patsy Stinchfield, a Children's Minnesota nurse practitioner who has been a voting member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told CNBC. "And so if you feel something after vaccination, you should expect to feel that. When you do, it's normal."
Read on to see what you could expect to feel after getting your COVID vaccine, and for more on the vaccine, check out If You're This Age, You May Be Last to Get the COVID Vaccine, Fauci Says.
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According to CNBC, a 50-something woman in North Carolina who participated in the Moderna trial said she had a migraine "that left her drained for a day and unable to focus." While the symptoms were gone the next day, she warned that the whole experience could be difficult enough for some to have to change their schedules.
"If this proves to work, people are going to have to toughen up," the volunteer told CNBC. "The first dose is no big deal. And then the second dose will definitely put you down for the day for sure. … You will need to take a day off after the second dose."
Fever and body aches
Luke Hutchison, another participant in a Moderna study, told Science Magazine that just hours after he got his shot, he experienced bone and muscle aches, an "unbearable" high fever (over 102 degrees Fahrenheit), and cold and hot flashes. "I started shaking," he said.
Even though his symptoms cleared up after 12 hours, Hutchinson said that he was unprepared for how intense the experience would be. "I was sitting by the phone all night long thinking: 'Should I call 911?'" he remembered thinking. And for more on what to know with the vaccine, check out You Need to Quit This Bad Habit Before Getting a COVID Vaccine, Study Says
Muscle pains and arm soreness
According to the results of the same Moderna study, 8.9 percent of subjects reported muscle pain as a side effect of the vaccine, ranking it a very close second behind fatigue.
"We are asking people to take a vaccine that is going to hurt," William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News. "There are lots of sore arms and substantial numbers of people who feel crummy, with headaches and muscle pain, for a day or two." And for more COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Nausea and vomiting
Another Moderna trial volunteer, Ian Haydon, who received the highest dose in May, experienced "headache, muscle ache, fatigue, nausea" as a result. But that wasn't the worst of it. Haydon also vomited and fainted and eventually admitted himself to urgent care. While it's important to note that reactions like Haydon's are what led Moderna to reduce the dosage of the vaccine to 100 micrograms from 250 micrograms, even those who experience these adverse side effects see it as a "small price to pay" for the protection the vaccine can offer.
"For me, this was a rough day," he told Science. "But if you compare it to what COVID can do, I think it really pales in comparison." And for more on the vaccine, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Many People Need to Get Vaccinated to Stop COVID.