A nurse in the Pfizer vaccine trial said her side effects were so bad she worried she had the virus — but it was worth it
London, Dec. 10, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Kristen Choi, a nurse who participated in a trial of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, reported a high fever, nausea, and fatigue after her second shot.
Her side effects signalled an immune reaction, which is the point of getting a vaccine. But Choi said getting the shot was worth it despite the unpleasant reaction.
Choi hadn’t experienced any side effects beyond a sore arm when she received her first injection a month earlier. As a nurse and researcher, she knew her reaction to the second shot most likely meant the vaccine candidate had activated her immune system and was doing its job.
But when her fever worsened throughout the night and spiked at 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit the next morning, she started to feel scared, she wrote in a JAMA Perspective published Monday.”
After months of all of us screening ourselves for fever as a signal of COVID, I think it was a little alarming at first to find myself with a fever like that,” Choi told Insider. “Once I stepped back and thought about it, probably a few minutes later, it occurred to me that this is actually something that happens quite frequently with vaccines.”
She can’t be sure she received the COVID-19 vaccine and not the placebo, but Choi wrote that based on her reaction, she had “a strong suspicion” she got the vaccine.
She called the research office as soon as it opened, and the nurse who answered told Choi that reactions after the second injection were fairly common. Choi’s fever went down after she took a Tylenol and drank some water, and all of her side effects were gone by the following morning.
Even after experiencing what may be the worst-case scenario based on reports of COVID-19 vaccine reactions in clinical trials, Choi said it was worth it for a chance at developing immunity against the coronavirus.
“I absolutely think that everyone should get the vaccine,” Choi said. “What I experienced, even though it wasn’t really pleasant, was transient. It wasn’t an emergency, it went away in just a day, and if I had to go back and do it over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
In the clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine candidate, most volunteers who got the vaccine experienced some side effects. The most commonly reported reactions were pain at the injection site (84%), fatigue (63%), and headache (55%).
Fevers were less common, with 14% of vaccinated volunteers reporting higher-than-normal temperatures. Fortunately, Choi said, having several side effects at once seems to be a rare reaction.
Still, experiencing even one of the side effects can be scary if you don’t know what to expect. Choi recommended that healthcare providers be honest and prepare people for the reactions they could have when they get the vaccine.