HOUSTON – The effects of coronavirus appear to have no rhyme or reason, and some say that the same can be said of the vaccine. Reports of various side effects have popped up not only in the United States but also in other countries.
It’s been a month since the world saw hope injected into a nurse’s arm in New York City. Ten days later and nearly 1,800 miles away in the tiny town of Ganado, 90 minutes southwest of Houston, an early Christmas present for physician assistant Bruce Ramsey.
“I received the vaccine about 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve,” said Ramsey.
By the next morning, Ramsey was feeling side effects.
“I rolled over on my left shoulder and, oh boy!” Ramsey said. “Houston, we have a problem.”
He felt a sore arm, muscle aches, mild fever and a headache.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, what Ramsey experienced are the most common post-vaccine side effects.
Ramsey said they are also good signs, adding these are signs the immune system is responding.
“It’s your body coding itself to that vaccine to build antibodies,” said Ramsey.
There are other, potentially more serious reactions making headlines and causing some concern. One case involved a South Florida doctor, who died two weeks after his vaccination. The CDC is now reviewing his case to determine what happened.
What is VAERS?
When a person is vaccinated for anything, whether it’s for anthrax, the flu or the coronavirus, if the patient has a reaction or side effect, the healthcare worker is responsible for reporting it to the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
KPRC 2 Investigates crunched the agency’s database.
Statistics in Texas
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, through Dec. 29, 250,000 vaccines were administered in Texas. During that same time frame, 287 events were reported to VAERS in Texas.
Eleven of the events were classified as serious. This included the death of an 84-year old woman and another person who reported they were permanently disabled. The rest of the serious cases reported spent four days or less in the hospital.
That means 0.004% of the vaccines administered in Texas in 2020 resulted in a serious event reported to the CDC.
The CDC further investigates whether these serious reactions are tied to the vaccine.
In some cases nationwide, patients experienced anaphylactic reactions.
Comparing widespread vaccinations to trials
“It was not seen in our trial and I don’t think even in the Pfizer trial,” said Dr. Hana El Sahly, of the Baylor College of Medicine. El Sahly is the national co-chair of protocol for the Moderna vaccine.
“We are surprised because it exceeds by a little what we see with other vaccines,” said El Sahly.
“Having said that, the risk of allergic reaction is always there, and the fact that we did not see it in the trial is because it’s occurring at a very low frequency,” she added. “When you enroll in a 30,000- for Moderna or 44,000- for Pfizer, person clinical trial, you may not be able to see everything and that’s actually why VAERS and the V-Safe, the two systems of reporting to the CDC are very important. So we learn about these reactions and we inform future persons who are taking these vaccines regarding what to expect.”
V-Safe is an app you can voluntarily download after the shot.
The CDC has published limited results covering the first five days of the vaccine rollout from surveys completed by patients nationwide. About 2.8% of those who filled out a report, experienced some side effects -- mostly body aches, headaches and low-grade fever. Only six people, out of more than 112,000 reported serious allergic reactions.
What to expect after the second dose
El Sahly says she anticipates more VAERS reporting as a second shot gets implemented, “The reactions are more common after dose two.”
Ramsey’s second dose is a few days out.
“I’m anticipating how I felt Christmas Day, possibly worse,” Ramey said.
He said the temporary discomfort is worth the long term benefit.