The Long-Awaited COVID-19 Vaccine is Here. What About the Side Effects?

All across the world, millions of people are receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The race to produce the first approved vaccine went to Pfizer with more pharmaceutical companies now in line to have their version approved. While it will take some time for the vaccine to be available to anyone who wants it, the shot is now being administered to frontline healthcare workers and other high-risk groups.

Here is what you need to know about the first vaccine that has been approved, the possible side effects, and how you can manage these symptoms.

Details of the First Vaccine

The first vaccine to receive the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stamp of approval was the immunization produced by Pfizer-BioNTech. This vaccine is administered in two doses, staged 21 days apart. The vaccine is currently in ongoing stage 3 clinical trials. The results demonstrate a 95% efficacy after both doses have been received. Doctors are also encouraged by the safety profile of the vaccine, with most recipients only showing mild side effects. Severe side effects have been extremely rare and have not been definitively linked back to the vaccine.

Most Common Side Effects

As with any vaccine, recipients need to be aware of the possible side effects. The most common side effect reported by recipients of the Pfizer vaccine is mild pain at the injection site. Approximately 85% of recipients reported this discomfort. This pain is characterized by a little redness, warmth, and possible mild swelling. While it may be uncomfortable to move the arm for a few days, the discomfort will quickly fade away.

About 63% of people have reported fatigue in the hours following the injection of the vaccine. 55% reported headache and 38% reported muscle aches and pain. Most individuals report that these symptoms fade away within one day of receiving the vaccine, sometimes within just a few hours.

There are smaller numbers of individuals who have reported fever, chills, or joint pain as a result of the vaccination. Most of these symptoms are noticeable after the second dose of the vaccine. This is because the body has already had the chance to build up immunity and respond quickly to the second shot.

It is important to note that you should not be alarmed if you experience any of these side effects. In fact, it is actually a good sign that the vaccine is working if you experience any of these symptoms.

How to Best Manage These Side Effects

Because the overwhelming majority of people do report some type of mild reaction to the vaccine, it is a good idea to plan your vaccination schedule accordingly. For example, you probably do not want to head out on a vacation the day after you receive either dose. Planning some downtime the day of and after your vaccine should be sufficient for most people.

You can treat most of the injection site pain, headaches, or fever with over-the-counter medication. Do not be hesitant to contact your medical care provider if you develop side effects that feel outside of the normal range.

Keep in mind that the side effects are normal. If you get the first dose, it is important to get the second dose if you want to maximize your immunity to the virus.

What's Next?

On Thursday, the FDA is meeting to review the clinical data regarding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is expected to receive the FDA's stamp of approval through its emergency use authorization (EUA). If approved, Moderna's version will be the second vaccine to be rolled out globally. Like Pfizer, the vaccine shows an efficacy rate of approximately 95%. The Moderna protection also necessitates two separate doses. However, the Moderna doses are administered four weeks apart instead of three.

There is no doubt that the news of the vaccine distribution will dominate headlines over the next few months. While the world is not even close to being out of the woods when it comes to battling this deadly virus, keeping abreast of the latest news will empower you to make the best decisions for your personal health when you are able to receive the vaccine.

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