This Is What Getting a COVID Vaccine Feels Like, Volunteers Say

You've subjected yourself to this side effect for much less compelling reasons.

On Nov. 9, Pfizer made a most welcome announcement that its frontrunner vaccine candidate appears to fight coronavirus with 90 percent efficacy. And while it's a bit premature to let out a collective sigh of relief, that news is about as good as it gets in the vaccine world. Pfizer also announced that there were no serious side effects observed during the trial, though some volunteers experienced symptoms directly after receiving the shot. So what is it actually like to get the COVID vaccine? One volunteer spoke about his experience getting the jab, describing his side effects as similar to a "severe hangover."

Texas volunteer Glenn Deshields, 44, reported that these symptoms cleared up quickly. "Basically, I had a headache and a lot of fatigue, injection site pain … maybe three to four days," he told Fox News. "The second one, it was similar but it was much more muted. It wasn't as strong. I think I took some Advil and they basically cleared up."

Deshields shared with the news network that while he couldn't be certain that he had received the vaccine rather than a placebo, he tested positive for antibodies after the fact, leading him to believe he had received the real thing. His symptoms at the time of the injection also tipped him off to the contents of the shot.

Another trial volunteer, a 45-year-old woman from Missouri identified only as Carrie, experienced similar, flu-like symptoms. She reported a fever, a headache and body aches after receiving both injections. Dissimilar to Deshields' experience, she said her symptoms were worse after the second injection.

Deshields shared that he believed everyone should get the vaccine as soon as possible, based on his experience. He recently tweeted, "My Grandad told me that one of his first memories was of bells ringing to mark the end of WWI. If true, this is that kind of moment. I am honored to be a part of this trial." And, besides, as he added in a separate interview, "I haven't had coronavirus, so that's a good thing." Read on for fascinating facts about the coronavirus vaccine, and for more on the current COVID crisis, check out These States Now Have Curfews Again Due to COVID Surges.

The number of Americans that plan to get the vaccine has dropped.

Person getting coronavirus vaccine shot in arm

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans that would "definitely" or "probably" get the vaccine has dropped significantly since May. "About half of U.S. adults (51 percent) now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today; nearly as many (49 percent) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time," the researchers reported. "Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen from 72 percent in May, a 21-percentage-point drop."

Health authorities urge that if a vaccine is ultimately found to be safe and effective, a large percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated to get the virus under control. And for more on when to expect a vaccine, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is Likely When a COVID Vaccine Will Be Approved

There will be major distribution challenges.

clinical trials of coronavirus vaccine

As Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases points out, both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccine candidates come with extreme cold storage requirements, which could hamper distribution.

"It does have cold-chain challenges as it were. In a country like the UK and the United States we can address them and it still would be challenging. But, probably much more challenging in countries in the developing world," Fauci explained at the Financial Times' global pharmaceutical and biotechnology conference.

The rate of efficacy could change.

A caucasian female medical researcher uses a dropper to place a red sample onto a microscope slide

If the results hold, a 90 percent efficacy rate is spectacularly impressive in the vaccine world. Yet there's still time for these preliminary results to shift in either direction. These initial findings were based on a small group of just 94 study participants who became infected with coronavirus out of over 43,000 volunteers.

As the study progresses and more cases are observed (164 positive cases will mark the conclusion of the study), the efficacy rate could go higher or lower. And for more on the fight against coronavirus, check out This Is Why Dr. Fauci Won't Quit Trump's COVID Task Force.

People who have had COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated.

Female doctor in protective suit giving vaccine against covid19 virus to senior man at home

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should still plan on getting the vaccine if you've already had COVID.

"Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before," the CDC explains on its website. "At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long."

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more