Medical Advisers Urge CDC to Warn People About COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

November 26, 2020 Updated: November 26, 2020

Americans should be warned about the potential side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine amid concern that people who feel unwell after the first round might be less willing to seek the second dose, a panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Nov. 23.

“As a practicing physician, I have got to be sure my patients will come back for the second dose. We really have got to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park,” Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, a doctor representing the American Medical Association, told the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in a meeting on Nov. 23, according to The Hill.

“They are going to know they had a vaccine. They are probably not going to feel wonderful,” Fryhofer added.

The comments came during an emergency meeting of the ACIP, convened by the CDC, with published notes from the discussion (pdf) indicating that members expressed concern about barriers some people may have to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Although COVID-19 vaccine will be provided at no cost, personal investments in time and travel (e.g., time off from work to be vaccinated or vaccine-associated side effects) may be a barrier for some (particularly for hourly workers who are not paid if they do not work),” the meeting minutes note.

Meanwhile, top health officials told reporters at a Nov. 24 briefing on the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative that a COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed to all of the nation’s 64 public health jurisdictions within 24 hours of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We have an end in sight,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during the briefing. “The American people can be confident that hope and help are on the way.”

Alex Azar speaks during an event
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 7, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Speaking to reporters at the briefing, Operation Warp Speed chief scientific adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said that the data coming from the recent COVID-19 vaccine trials shows that “this virus can be very, very strongly protected against.”

Sloui said he hoped Americans would keep “an open mind in terms of accepting to be vaccinated.”

Pfizer and partner BioNTech on Nov. 20 applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization of their experimental CCP virus vaccine, reported to have an efficacy rate of 95 percent and no serious safety concerns. Moderna is expected to be the next company to file a petition of an emergency use nod from the FDA, with its experimental vaccine reported to be 94.5 percent effective, with final results and safety data expected in the coming days or weeks.

AstraZeneca, which is working with the University of Oxford on its vaccine candidate, announced on Nov. 23 that a preliminary analysis showed its product had an average efficacy rate of 70 percent, with the findings somewhat perplexing as two full doses administered at least one month apart showing a 62 percent efficacy rate, which jumped to 90 percent when the first dose was inadvertently cut in half.

With more than 43,500 volunteers taking part in Pfizer’s vaccine trial, reports emerged earlier this month of people who took the shot describing its side effects, with some noting injection site pain and aches comparable to the flu jab, while one test subject likened it to a “severe hangover.”

albert-bourla-pfizer
Albert Bourla (R), chief executive officer of Pfizer, waits to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, on Jan. 17, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Stanley Wang, an Australian man who lives in Los Angeles, told Australia’s ABC News that the side effects were like experiencing a hangover.

“Side effects are equivalent to a severe hangover where you get headaches and don’t feel so well from it, and that lasts on average two days, but some people have reported up to five days,” he told the outlet.

Glenn Deshields, a 44-year-old volunteer from Austin, Texas, told Fox News in an interview that after taking the first shot, he experienced “a lot of injection site pain” and that the side-effects “were a little more severe than I thought.” He said he felt unwell for “maybe three to four days,” adding that the symptoms following the second injection were “much more muted.”

A volunteer from Missouri named Carrie, who declined to provide her last name, was cited by Daily Mail as saying she suffered a headache, fever, and aches all over her body after the first shot, with the second injection causing symptoms that were more severe.

During the ACIP meeting on Nov. 23, Patricia Stinchfield of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota said: “These are immune responses, so if you feel something after vaccination, you should expect to feel that. And when you do, it’s normal that you have some arm soreness or some fatigue or some body aches or even some fever,” according to WebMD.

At the Nov. 24 briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Azar said officials have begun running field exercises for shipment procedures using packages that don’t contain the actual product so that, once the FDA approves one or more COVID-19 vaccines for use, they can be quickly delivered to Americans.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM