JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the entire country waits for word about when and how much of Pfizer’s vaccine will be released, we are learning more about what kind of reaction recipients should expect and who should wait to get it.
Dr. Mobeen Rathore, Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease at UF Health Jacksonville, attended the virtual meeting yesterday when an advisory committee voted to recommend the FDA approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. “This is a vaccine that seems to be very safe,” he explained. “This is the first good news we have gotten about coronavirus in a long time. I think this is the beginning of the end of this pandemic. I am very comfortable with the vaccine.”
He described what a person should expect when they receive it as an injection in the arm. “You could have some local reactions. You may get a little fever, may get mild muscle aches. You may not feel very well, you know, headache and some swelling and tenderness of the arm. That is to be expected”, said Dr. Rathore. “That is not necessarily a bad thing. That basically tells you that your body is responding to the vaccine and so you are going to have a protection from that (COVID- 19).”
The FDA advisory council has recommended the vaccine for use among people who are 16 years old or older. Dr. Rathore said it will likely be a while, however, before it is approved for use in younger teenagers and children. “There were some concerns mostly by the pediatricians on the advisory committee that there is not enough data for children 16 to 17 years old. There is really no expectation that this will be any worse in those age groups or that they won’t respond as well, he said. “I think as a scientist, as a physician and as an advocate for children, we just want to make sure it is safe for children also. It is going to be awhile before we know if this vaccine is safe and the effect for children,” said Dr. Rathore.
Dr. Rathore said pregnant woman should also wait to get vaccinated. “I think right now the vaccine is not going to be recommended for pregnant women because the studies were not conducted for pregnant women. Again, there are no expectations that this will be any worse, but it has to be studied,” he said.
Pregnant women have not been part of the clinical trials, but Dr. Rathore expects that some women participating in the trials, which last for several months, will become pregnant and as a result can be studied.
Dr. Rathore also said he thinks the FDA will recommend anyone with severe allergies wait until more research can be done to determine if the benefits out-weight the risks of having a severe reaction to the vaccine. Two nurses, with allergies so severe they carry an epi-pen, had allergic reactions when they received the vaccine in the United Kingdom earlier this week.
If you get the vaccine, Dr. Rathore said that does not mean you should stop wearing a mask or stop socially distancing. “They (vaccine researchers) studied the prevention of disease, mild, moderate, severe disease. They did not study the prevention of infection. That means, for your viewers, if you get the infection you may not get sick, but if you get the infection you can still give it to other people. So yes, you will still have to wear your mask, you will still have to social distance. That is extremely important,” he said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses for full protection from the virus. Dr. Rathore said while the first dose does provide some protection, it is important that recipients receive both doses to be fully protected. Moderna’s request for emergency use approval is expected to be reviewed next week by the FDA’s advisory council.