As vaccination rollouts are underway across the world, more and more people will have the chance to take the inoculation against COVID-19. After over a year of the global coronavirus pandemic, the successful development of the jab seemed like a glimmer of hope for the world. However, with the vaccination being fairly new, it can be a daunting undertaking for many. Further, as there are several different reports and a lot of information out there, it can be rather overwhelming to prepare yourself for what is involved.
The COVID-19 jab is a vaccine. The World Health organization defines a vaccination as thus: ‘Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defenses – the immune system – to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. After vaccination, if the body is later exposed to those disease-causing germs, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness.’
The full inoculation for COVID-19 takes two injections in your upper arm, the injections are given separately, the second being administered three to twelve weeks after the first one is done. The length in between doses is dependent on the country in which you reside and their vaccination program, the UK for example is giving the second jab up to twelve weeks later in order to administer the first for as many people as possible. The reason why the vaccination is given in two doses is to allow for the immune system to generate the strongest response.
Like most vaccinations, there may be some small side-effects from the inoculation, which include a soreness where the vaccine is injected, fatigue, headaches and muscle soreness. Side effects will vary from person to person are normally a sign that the vaccine is prompting your body to conjure an immune response and can indicate that the vaccine is working.
They are caused by the release of natural chemicals called cytokines and chemokines in the body which signal to the immune system that a response is needed. Although there is not a clear correlation between side-effects and immune system response, they are expected as part of the process.
Several vaccines have been approved, in the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has thus far approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna Vaccine, and the Janssen Vaccine. The approved vaccines are continually monitored for safety after the vaccine is approved, approval is given after their safety is tested in large trials of tens of thousands of people. The Guardian recently reported the side effects gathered from FDA clinical trial data. In the case of the Moderna Vaccine The Guardian, ‘used results from the vaccine’s trials to describe how likely it is for people aged 18 to 64 to experience a given side-effect within one week of a dose of the vaccine. On average, these symptoms cleared up within three days, and often less.’
It showed that on average, the Moderna vaccine’s main side-effect in the first dose, was pain at the injection site, with an average of 86.9% of people experiencing it.
After which, Fatigue (38.5%), Headache (35.4) Muscle soreness (35.4) and Joint pain at 16.6%. Following this other side effects included; enlarged glands, nausea and vomiting, chills, swelling, skin redness and fever, which all fell below 12% decreasing respectively to the fever side effect at 0.9%. Dose two saw many of these side-effects again at a slightly increased likelihood.
On the Pfizer vaccine results, The Guardian outlined ‘Unlike Moderna, Pfizer studied side-effects in two separate age groups: people between aged 16 and 55, and people older than 55. Because people older than 55 are slightly less likely to experience side-effects, the younger group is presented here.’ The side effects were: Pain where the vaccine was injected (83.1%), Fatigue (47.4%), Headache (41.9%), New/Worse muscle pain (21.3%), Chills (14%), Diarrhea (11.1%), New/worse joint pain (11%), Swelling (5.8%), Skin redness (4.5%) Fever (3.7%) and Vomiting (1.2%). Again, similar results showed with the second dose, increasing or decreasing slightly.
In the UK, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have approval in the UK, alongside the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination which is yet to be approved in the USA, but is being used in many other countries. The Oxford vaccine is a traditional vaccination, different from the newer RNA technology that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines utilize.
The side effects of the Oxford vaccine, listed by the UK government, are either very common – more than 1 in 10 (tenderness, pain, warmth, itching or bruising where the injection is given, generally feeling unwell, feeling tired (fatigue), chills or feeling feverish, headache, feeling sick (nausea), joint pain or muscle ache.); common – up to 1 in 10 (swelling, redness or a lump at the injection site, fever, being sick (vomiting) or diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, such as high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, cough and chills); or uncommon up to 1 in 100 (feeling dizzy, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, enlarged lymph nodes, excessive sweating, itchy skin or rash).