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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Coronavirus

Inflammatory responses to vaccines causing public concern


Cases of inflammatory responses to the coronavirus vaccine have been appearing as it’s being distributed to local healthcare providers.  | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

The Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines have made their way to distribution sites across the country, but odd cases involving inflammatory responses are causing public concern.

Bhavna Lall, clinical professor at the UH College of Medicine, said that this vaccine is reactogenic, meaning it causes a strong immune response that could cause side effects that last for a few days.

“Your body is reacting to the vaccine and mounting an immune response, thus the more common side effects reported with the mRNA vaccine are a sign of your body also appropriately mounting an immune response,” said Lall.

Among the Pfizer vaccine recipients, around 77 percent reported at least one systemic reaction. These reactions were mostly mild or moderate, including symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle pain.

For local reactions, around 85 percent of Pfizer recipients said they experienced at least one local injection site reaction. The local reaction most commonly reported was pain at the injection site, only few experiencing redness and swelling.

Around 90 percent of Moderna recipients ages 18 to 65 reported that they experienced pain at the injection site, versus only around 84 percent of recipients over 65 reporting similar symptoms.

Systemic reactions from the Moderna vaccine were reported to be around 82 percent for the 18 to 65 age group and 72 percent for the over 65 age group. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for those thinking about getting the vaccine who are allergic to other vaccines or have allergic reactions to similar treatments.

Lall recommended that those who have had allergic reactions to either vaccines, injectable therapies or are pregnant should consult a physician before taking the coronavirus vaccine.

Despite reactions to the vaccines being commonly reported, there have only been 29 reported cases of anaphylaxis as of early January.

“Overall the benefits of the mRNA vaccines, and the close to 95 percent percent effectiveness of preventing symptomatic COVID-19 following the completion of the two dose vaccine regimen of Pfizer and Moderna, are much greater than the side effects that people may experience for a few days after taking the vaccine and outweigh the risks,” said Lall.

Mustafa Rahman, a management information systems senior, said that he was initially concerned about potential long term effects of the vaccine and the emergency approval by the FDA wasn’t too reassuring.

Rahman said that as a healthcare worker he was recommended to get the vaccine since he comes into contact with coronavirus patients on the job. After taking it, he was monitored for a few days then went back to work.

After taking the vaccine, Rahman said that he didn’t experience any symptoms except for having a sore arm.

“I recommend that students get the vaccine as I firmly believe that it can help slow down the spread of (COVID-19),” said Rahman. “Being hesitant is normal (I was), but I decided to get it to protect those around me.”

Even if one does get vaccinated, Lall said that the vaccinated individual can still be an asymptomatic transmitter of the virus. Therefore, masking and social distancing should still be practiced even if one does get the vaccine to ensure the safety of others.

“By taking the vaccine, you are preventing yourself from getting COVID-19 and protecting your family, friends and your community,” said Lall.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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