Side effects you can expect when you take the COVID-19 vaccine

BOSTON — In the U.K., officials have already begun looking through the batch of coronavirus vaccines that arrived at a South London Hospital Sunday, days after the country authorized Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use.

Here at home, we could get approval in a few days and one of the biggest concerns is the potential side effects associated with the vaccine, according to 38% of Massachusetts residents who may not want to take the vaccine even when it’s ready.

“Thirty odd minutes after I got the injection they lasted for the remainder of the day,” said Moderna trial participant Yasir Batalvi. “But they were gone by the evening. The second dose, on the other hand,was a little bit more significant. The onset of symptoms was a little bit faster. I developed a low-grade fever, chills, and fatigue.

The Boston resident was a volunteer guinea pig and is pretty sure he didn’t get the placebo.

“They told me that I shouldn’t be alarmed,” said Batalvi. “It’s a normal reaction that people can have. It basically means that your body is developing antibodies.”

“Ten to 20% may have a reaction, so it’s noticeable but it’s short-lived [and] transient and, in my own view, a lot better than getting COVID-19, said Dr. Lindsey Baden who helped investigate those trials. In most cases, the rare side effects, those are much harder to assess because they’re rare.”

Baden, Director, Clinical Research, Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says the unknown risk of the vaccines doesn’t outweigh the risk of what we know about COVID-19.

“I think that the uncertainty of the possibility of a one-in-a-million side effect down the road cannot be ignored and needs to be thought about carefully but has to be in proportion to the current overwhelming medical illness,” said Baden. “In other vaccines that we develop, almost all side effects occur in the first month or two after vaccination.

Baden says they will be watching closely what happens in the U.K.

“Bottom line is people should get vaccinated,” said Baden. “I trust that the efficacy is high and the safety risk is very low and we are in the middle of a high contagion pandemic all around us. So, in my view, the vaccine is incredibly favorable and many of us - myself included - will line up to be vaccinated when given the opportunity.”

“We don’t need to let this pandemic continue any longer if you get vaccinated when it’s your turn in line, you will help save lives,” said Batalvi.

Baden says an important thing to remember with this vaccine is that, even when it comes, that does not mean society is back open. It’s going to take months of the vaccine being in play while we are still practicing all the coronavirus procedures of washing hands and staying distant. All of those things together are what should get us back to normal, get our schools open to get the economy moving again.

Boston 25 asked Baden if people with side effects will even be willing to go for a 2nd shot and if one shot would be enough.

“That’s not what was studied,” he said. “What we know is that two doses give you 95% protection. We don’t know how much protection one dose gives you, but [one] it’s a lot more than zero.”

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