Covid vaccine research: Pfizer volunteers describe ‘hangover’ effect


Volunteers on the Pfizer vaccine trial have compared the jab’s side effects to a ‘severe hangover’ and said it left them with headaches, fever and muscle aches similar to the flu vaccine. 

One 45-year-old volunteer said the first dose left her suffering side effects similar to the flu jab but that her symptoms were ‘more severe’ after her second jab.

Another volunteer, 44-year-old Glenn Deshields, said Pfizer’s vaccine made him feel like he had a ‘severe hangover’ but that symptoms quickly cleared up.

More than 43,500 people in six countries have taken part in the phase three trials by the pharmaceutical giant in the hunt for an effective Covid-19 vaccine.

And yesterday’s results suggested the jab was 90 per cent effective, raising hopes that life could return to normal in the spring. 

The UK is set to receive 10million doses should the drug gain approval, with the British Army and the NHS on standby to start issuing them to those most in need in December. 

Carrie, 45, also from the US, was also involved in Pfizer's vaccine trial

Glenn Geshields, 44, said he was proud to have taken part. Carrie, 45, also from the US, was also involved in Pfizer’s vaccine trial

COVID VACCINE WON’T BE A SILVER BULLET, EXPERTS WARN

A coronavirus vaccine won’t immediately bring the pandemic to an end and scientists and officials must be honest about how long it will take to roll one out and get life back to normal, experts say.

Eight out of 10 people may need to have the jab before it becomes effective and getting this done will be a massive task for medical workers.

A report published today has called for realistic timescales to be laid out for the public about how long it might actually take to vaccinate enough people to thwart the spread of Covid-19.

Anti-vaxx conspiracy theories spreading online will make it harder to get rid of coronavirus, it warned, and more than a third of people in the UK already say they aren’t sure whether they would get a vaccine.

And even if take-up is good, lockdowns and social distancing will still have to continue to keep the virus under control while medics scramble to get the vaccine to millions of people. 

There is also the chance that that the jab won’t work perfectly – experts have warned that the first vaccines may not be totally effective, meaning other measures might still be needed.

Oxford University sociologist Professor Melinda Mills and colleagues said clear communication about the vaccine will be a key part of ‘expectation management’ in coming months.

Scientists’ attempts to make vaccines are hurtling forward at unprecedented speed around the world and results from late-stage clinical trials are expected from some teams before the end of 2020.

Experts say that it’s likely at least one working vaccine will be ready to give to people by spring 2021, but it may not work perfectly and won’t be available to everyone.

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has now launched an online campaign against anti-vaxx conspiracies that are being spread online by users in Russia.

Carrie, a publicist from Missouri who asked for her last name not to be used, said she received her first shot back in September and her second last month.

She said she suffered a headache, fever and aches all over her body, comparable to the flu jab, with the first one.

But after the second these became ‘more severe’.

The publicist said she signed up because she felt it was her ‘civic duty’ and that yesterday’s announcement of the success made her feel ‘very proud’. 

Explaining why she signed up, she said: ‘There are so many people who have had it and suffered.

‘The thought that we could do something to stop people from suffering from this, from losing family members, that we could get rid of it and get back to some sort of normal in our lives – that’s a driving factor for this for me.

‘I don’t want anyone else to be sick.’

Mr Deshields, a lobbyist from Texas, said he suffered side effects not dissimilar to a ‘severe hangover’.

He believes he received the vaccine because when he had an antibody test with doctors it came back positive.  

Mr Deshields added that his own immune reaction to the shot made him confident about the vaccine, but he was nevertheless ‘very excited’ by Monday’s news.

He added: ‘My grandfather, one of his first memories was of the bells ringing when World War I ended.

‘It was a horrific war and horrible things happened and people were just happy it was over with.

‘In my mind I felt the same way… I kind of felt it was something like that. Thank god, it’s going to be over at some point.’

The trials were double-blind, meaning those taking part did not know whether they had or had not received the vaccine.

In clinical trials only around half the volunteers are given the vaccine being tested while the rest receive an injection of a solution that does not contain the vaccine.

Scientists do this so they can compare how at risk the two groups are of catching the virus, to see whether the vaccine had an impact. 

Bryan, 42, an engineer from Georgia, believes he was one of the individuals that did not receive the vaccine.

He felt no immune response to the jabs, he said, and after having two shots he contracted Covid-19 after his daughter caught it last month.

They have both since recovered.

Talking about taking part in the trials, he said he felt a ‘little bit of pride’ on hearing the results but added that taking part in the study was ‘the least I could do to help out’ as ‘a lot of people are needlessly suffering from the virus’ in America. 

Number 10 was today urged ‘not to screw up’ the rollout of a coronavirus jab, in a stark warning from one of the government’s most prominent scientists on the back of Pfizer’s breakthrough.

Volunteers have said taking the vaccine left them with what felt like a 'severe hangover'. Pfizer's vaccine has proved 90 per cent effective in early trials. Pictured above is Bryan, 42, who received a placebo

Volunteers have said taking the vaccine left them with what felt like a ‘severe hangover’. Pfizer’s vaccine has proved 90 per cent effective in early trials. Pictured above is Bryan, 42, who received a placebo

A priority list of who should get the vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)

A priority list of who should get the vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of Downing Street’s vaccine taskforce, said scientists had delivered their end of the bargain by creating a Covid-19 vaccine that exceeded expectations.

But he warned it was now on ministers to hold up their end of the deal by ensuring any approved vaccine is rolled out smoothly to vulnerable groups who are most at risk of falling victim to Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS and military were on standby to start dishing out Pfizer’s vaccine from the beginning of December, with care home staff and residents at the front of the queue. 

But he admitted that deploying the vaccine was going to be a ‘colossal challenge’.

Pfizer’s jab has to be stored at -70C which rules out keeping it at most GP surgeries or pharmacies, where jabs are administered under normal circumstances. 

And it needs to be transported in refrigerated lorries and special suitcase-sized boxes filled with dry ice to prevent it from spoiling. 

Mr Hancock has promised the NHS and army will work round the clock, seven days a week to get Britain vaccinated. 

Sir John said he expects Brits to get their hands on up to three jabs ‘before New Year’ when data from studies of other promising candidates start to pour in over the coming weeks.

MailOnline understands Oxford University’s vaccine, which is being manufactured and distributed by Cambridge-based pharma giant AstraZeneca, will publish its preliminary results next week, which will kick-start the rollout process of its candidate.

The third vaccine most likely to be ready by the year’s end is being made by by US firm Moderna. The MHRA last month put it under a rolling review, which signals it is being earmarked as one of the most promising candidates.

In more good news Sir John claimed there was an ’80 per cent chance’ life in the UK will be back to normal by spring, provided the Government ‘doesn’t screw up the distribution of the vaccines’.

PFIZER’S VACCINE: WHAT WE STILL NEED TO KNOW

The announcement that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine could be up to 90 per cent effective has sparked claims society could go back to normal by spring next year.

But with most data from the trials still unpublished, several scientists have sounded a note of caution over whether the vaccine will work.

Does the vaccine actually prevent infection? 

Preliminary results from the trial say that out of the 94 people that have tested positive for the virus no more than eight received the vaccine.

But scant information has been released on how these infections were identified. 

If tests were only carried out after someone developed symptoms, it may be that asymptomatic infections were missed – meaning the vaccine does not prevent infection.

On the other hand, if all the trials 43,500 volunteers were tested repeatedly this would reveal the vaccine conferred immunity against the virus.

Additionally, it is unclear what sort of infections the eight that tested positive suffered – and, hence, whether the vaccine curtailed some of the worst impacts. 

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, said that without further information it remained unclear whether the vaccine reduced symptoms or stopped infection. 

How long will immunity last?

This remains tantalisingly unclear, and can only be revealed by continuing to monitor those that have received the jab.

Pfizer launched its trial in July and has so far not recorded any candidates in which immunity relapsed in the first few months, according to reports.

Several vaccines require top-up shots every couple of years, due to waning immunity. The jab against diptheria, polio and tetanus, for example, needs to be given every ten years to ensure immunity.

Will the vaccine help the elderly?

The early release from Pfizer still has not revealed whether the vaccine will help the elderly.

Details on the ages of the 43,500 candidates in the early trial are not known, and neither are the ages of those who tested positive for the virus.

If the virus was only trialled in a middle or young age group however, this could mean that further tests will be required before it can be administered to older members of society.

Professor Tracy Hussell, an immunologist from the University of Manchester, previously warned that as people get older their immune systems become less responsive – meaning a vaccine may not trigger the required response to provide immunity.

Who are the volunteers that tested positive for the virus?

Pfizer is yet to release information on the characteristics of the 94 people that tested positive for the virus, and the at least eight people that got the infection despite receiving the jab.

This is important because it will reveal whether the jab has managed to protect more vulnerable individuals to the virus, or if they are still susceptible to it.

It will also reveal whether there is a significant difference between those that caught the virus without receiving the vaccine and those that did. 

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