Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines!

As more and more vaccines are being approved and number of the available doses are escalating, mass inoculation programs are underway in many countries around the world. This is a great news, and it may be the beginning of a possible end to the pandemic!
Pakistani leadership has done quite aremarkable job in securing large quantities of the vaccine suppliesso quickly and several commitments for additional doses.The very first 500,000 doses have been delivered last week by China that will be used for the civilian inoculation. Another tranche of an unspecified doses has also been delivered recently(just a few days apart)exclusively for country’s armed forces. According to the experts, this is an incredibly unique and first of its kind arrangement by anynation to supply vaccine dedicated toa foreign country’s armed forces. This clearly showsextraordinarily strong ties between the “Iron Brothers” not only for the civilian projects (like CPEC & Gwadar) but also formilitary-to-military relations as part of the greater bilateral goodwill.At the receiving ceremony, Pakistani Lt.-Gen. Nigar Johar, surgeon general of Pakistan army thanked Maj.-Gen. Chen Wenrong, defense attaché of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan.At the occasion, Lt.-General Johar highlighted the resilient relations between Pakistan & China by stating the famous saying that our friendship is “higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, and sweeter than the honey,”.According to the PLA, in addition to Pakistan, Cambodia is another first country in receiving the vaccines for its military, and in both cases, the vaccines were supplied at their country’s requests.
Another 1.1 million doses of the same vaccine (Sinopharm) will be arriving in March. Additional 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available to Pakistan later onthrough the COVAX, a global equitable access initiative by the Gavi vaccine alliance under WHO.
To-date, Pakistan Health Ministry has approved Sinopharm (Chinese), AstraZeneca (British) and Sputnik V(Russian) vaccines for emergency use. Another Chinese vaccine CanSino is also going through its third phase(large scale human trial) in Pakistan (first of its kind study ever) and soon a total of 4 vaccines will be on the emergency approved list for the mass inoculation.
As of to-date (Feb 10, 2021), 557,591 COVID cases and 12,128 deaths have been reported by Pakistan’s Health Ministry. As the vaccine’s supply has started and more doses are promised shortly, Pakistan government has officially rolled out its national inoculation programlast Wednesday. The Ministry of Health has announced to follow WHO protocolto vaccinate firstthe frontline health workers, followed by senior citizens (65 and older population).
Before to discuss the side effects, lets learn briefly about the vaccines’ technologies(platforms).There are two major types of technologies used for the vaccines but they both show many common side effects in the recipients.The first technology type is conventional and is widely used. It is also referred as “inactivated” whereby a “dead” virus is injected into the patient’s body. It does not infect cells nor replicate to trigger body’s immune system. Thus, it is pretty safe until it encounters with a live virus that immediately triggers the immune response and the replication. The second type of technology is called “viral vector” in which a harmless virus called “vector” is used to deliver a small part of the COVID-19’s genetic material into the body’s cells which then replicate to activate the immune system that in turn triggers the production of the antibodies. Sinopharm vaccine is based on the ‘inactivate’ platform while the AstraZeneca vaccine is based on the “viral vector” platform.
As of now, most of the reported side effects by the vaccine recipientsare comparatively milder, with a few exceptions. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common side effects with the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines are pain & swelling around the injection spot, tiredness, headache, chills, fever, muscle & joint pain, itching. And delayed rash, redness& swelling appearance and occasionally, swollen lymph nodes in armpit or collarbone. To date, the most cited side effects are temporary, and they go away in a few days. Since all these side effects make people not feeling good, to say the least, it is advisable not to plan anything for afew days after the vaccinations. Just resting and drinking plenty of fluids (water, green tea, iced tea, etc.) are advised. More people are reporting itching, redness, and soar muscle around the injection spotgenerally after about 8-10 days from receiving the first dose or the same day after taking the second dose (the booster shot). People with 65 years of age and older are reporting lesser number & milder side effects compared to the younger age groups. The immunologists are not sure about this difference and are studying as more data is becoming available through much wider scale of vaccinations and from many countries.
Monitoring all the symptoms and recording/reporting is highly recommended. If the headaches, muscle aches &pain, fever & chills become intolerable, use of over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen), or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) can be used. Some people have also reported pounding headaches like the migraine symptoms, including the bright lights sensitivity. For the red, itchy, and sore area, over the counter antihistamine cream (Benadryl) or a topical steroid (Hydrocortisone) application can be a good choice.
If the lump develops (probably a swollen lymph node) in the armpit or on the collar bone, there is not much to do about it. It will go way by itself in a few weeks’ time, if not sooner.
If the fever lasts more than a couple of days and if cough and other symptoms, like sore throat also develops, consult with a doctor as soon as possible.
Fatigue can be treated with some light exercise, brisk walking and taking short naps. According to the CDC recommendations, moving around the arm used for the shot can also help managing the muscle soreness.
Overall consensus among the medical community is that developing of these symptoms is a good sign and are telling us that the vaccine is doing its job!

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