Since Monday, impatiently expected, Covid-19 vaccines entered the arms of healthcare workers in the United States, the first slim slice of millions of doses to come. But the joy that greeted the arrival of the blows is already stifled by concerns. Billions of dollars were spent to make the formulas. Preparing the American population to receive them has attracted much less attention.
This may turn out to be a mistake. Documentation provided by Pfizer and Moderna to the Food and Drug Administration indicates that both vaccines have side effects – minor which wear off after about two days, but which occurred in substantial percentages of people who received them within testing – and some serious reactions has been postponed. Descriptions of these side effects are starting to circulate, via new reports and also social media accounts written by trial participants.
These descriptions reach the public in the absence of any effort to contextualize or counter them. There has not been, at this point, a coordinated national campaign that reassures people that the vaccine not only works, but that it is safe to take and will not cause long-term illness. Planners and health researchers are concerned that it is already late to start.
“It’s really important, at this point when the vaccines are about to be released, to talk to people about the expected side effects of the vaccine,” says Eric Toner, physician and principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The worst-case scenario would be if we didn’t tell people that, and they have a reaction, and they either believe they got Covid out of the blue or there is something wrong.
This is an urgent concern, for two reasons. First, the fear of side effects turns out to be one of the main reasons people doubt these vaccines. And second, mistrust opens the door not only to confusion, but to armed disinformation, and it will prevent people from getting the vaccine they need.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor, an ongoing survey of 1,600 people aged 18 and over that was launched this week to provide an ongoing measure of public sentiment, finds that, overall, people feel more positive about the photo than ‘they weren’t earlier this year. In November, 71% of participants said they would be likely to get the vaccine, up from 63% in a survey in September. But the remaining 27% said they probably or certainly never would take it, a proportion that rose to 33% among black adults, 33% among essential workers and 29% among those working in healthcare. For those who hesitate, the main concern was the fear of side effects.
This is a difficult thing to reassure, because the side effects are real. Although the Pfizer vaccine is not granted emergency clearance last weekend, and Moderna’s not yet licensed, tens of thousands of people received them earlier this year in clinical trials. In the news and on social media, participants described having lived “a severe hangover, “”fever … fatigue and chills, “”Covid-like symptoms. ” A participant Told CNBC he shook so hard with chills that he cracked a tooth.
These accounts correspond to data submitted by companies to the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics, which reviews safety and efficacy. According to the backgrounders, the Pfizer formula caused fatigue in 59.4% of trial participants after their second dose, headache in 51.7%, muscle pain in 37.3%, joint pain in 21.9%, chills in 35.1% and aches head at 15.8%. The figures of the Moderna formula, which were released Tuesday, are similar: fatigue in 68.5% of recipients, headache in 63%, body aches in 59.6%, chills in 43.4% and fever in 15.6%.