"Some bothersome side effects" are possible with the coronavirus vaccine, Chicago health officials said Wednesday as the country braces for the potential authorization and ultimate distribution of a vaccine. But the city's top doc said the risks of vaccine side effects are "far outweighed."
Health officials said side effects associated with the vaccine can last between one and two days and include fatigue, muscle aches and the occasional fever.
“The risk of side effects for 1-2 days after vaccination is far outweighed by the risk of severe illness and loss of life caused by COVID-19 infection,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
The city is preparing to receive 23,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, should it receive approval for emergency use from the Food and Drug Administration this week. The vaccine is currently the center of a Thursday meeting where the agency's independent advisers will debate if evidence is strong enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans with the shot, which is already being administered in the United Kingdom.
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The FDA is also expected to discuss a request for emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 17.
Frontline healthcare workers, specifically those who treat COVID-19 patients, will receive priority for the first shipments of the vaccine, which could be allocated as early as Dec. 14, if approved. Frontline healthcare workers will be followed by residents and staff of long-term care facilities, then workers in essential and critical industries, those at high risk for severe infections due to underlying medical conditions and people 65 and older, according to CDPH.
In addition to the initial shipment of 23,000 doses, CDPH expects to receive additional doses of the vaccine each week, with a goal of vaccinating all adult residents in 2021 "at no cost to any individual."
“The situation is very fluid as we don’t know how many we’ll be getting from week to week, and that will require us to be nimble in how we respond. But I have complete confidence in the team we have assembled to handle this,” Arwady said.
UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said 25-50% of 75,000 patients involved in the Pfizer and Moderna trials experienced some side effects. Fifteen percent of them were more serious and needed more than a day to recover.
“It's your body’s immune system trying to get activated because it’s seeing this new thing and the way that it gets activated is the way you’re feeling which is inflammation,” Chin-Hong said. “The virus is not in the vaccine, this vaccine is completely infection-free.”
One Pfizer trial participant told CNBC that after the second shot, he woke up with chills, shaking so hard he cracked a tooth. "It hurt to even just lay in my bed sheet," he said.
In contrast, Carson Clark, who participated in the Pfizer vaccine in September, said he experienced some fatigue.
“The day I got the shots my arm got pretty sore then the next day I got some sort of general fatigue,” Clark said.
He said he wasn’t alarmed by it because he was given this list of side effects to expect which include tiredness, chills, loss of appetite, muscle aches and sweating.
“It only lasted that one day,” he said. “It was gone the next day after that.”
The FDA said that while side effects of the Pfizer vaccine are common, there are “no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an [emergency use authorization].”
Chicago health experts say "overall, the vaccines have been well tolerated in clinical trials."
"These side effects are not dangerous. They indicate the vaccine is activating the body’s immune response against the virus that causes COVID-19 illness," a release from the city and the Chicago Department of Public Health states.