Side effects from the nation’s two approved coronavirus vaccines were minimal in drug trials, and the same has been true so far as doses are doled out in Tampa Bay.
The most common are soreness at the injection site, fatigue and headaches, experts say — symptoms that can come along with most vaccines as they prompt your immune system to respond.
Nearly 174,000 people in Tampa Bay had received at least one of two doses required for each of the vaccines as of Wednesday, state data shows. The state does not report data on side effects, but a doctor from the region’s largest hospital said none she’s witnessed are surprising.
“We haven’t really seen anything that makes us worry or is unexpected,” said Dr. Kami Kim, director of the infectious diseases and internal medicine division at the University of South Florida medical school, who also practices at Tampa General Hospital.
She got both doses of vaccine herself and experienced body aches and some swelling near the injection site after the second. She took ibuprofen for the next 36 hours, then was back to normal, she said.
A couple colleagues “felt bad enough that they went home or took it easy for the day,” Kim said. Some reported dizziness or racing heartbeats. But there have been no severe allergic reactions to her knowledge.
Nurses and other Tampa General team members who at first were hesitant about the vaccines are now coming around after seeing the limited side effects, Kim said. They see the benefit of protection outweighs the risk of minimal and temporary discomfort.
The vaccines “work spectacularly well, and none of the side effects are serious,” she said. “From a public health point of view, it’s totally worth it.”
Side effects are more likely with a second dose than a first, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can cause muscle and joint pain, chills, fever, swelling and redness at the injection site, nausea, swollen lymph nodes and a general unwell feeling.
Those symptoms occur as the body responds to the drugs and generates an immune response. They’re typical with many vaccines, including the flu shot.
In drug trials by drug manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech, which teamed up to develop the first coronavirus vaccine approved in the U.S., severe adverse reactions affected fewer than 5 percent of about 38,000 participants.
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Eighty-four percent, however, experienced pain at the injection site — by far the most-reported symptom. About 63 percent felt fatigue, 55 percent had headaches, 38 percent had muscle pain, 32 percent had chills, 24 percent had joint pain and 14 percent reported fevers.
Severe side effects were reported among fewer than 10 percent of the 30,000 participants of drug trials by Moderna, which developed the country’s second coronavirus vaccine.
However, 92 percent experienced pain at the injection site, a Moderna report shows. Sixty-nine percent were fatigued, 63 percent had headaches, 60 percent had muscle pain, 45 percent reported joint pain and 43 percent reported having chills.
All side effects should resolve within a few days, Kim said, adding that the symptoms are a small price to pay for near-guaranteed protection from the coronavirus.
“If our choices are, take the vaccine or live like this for another two years, for me, it’s easy,” she said. “Take the vaccine.”
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