Volunteers who were the first in the world to be given Pfizer’s Covid vaccine — which Britain today approved for mass roll-out — have compared the jab’s side effects to a ‘severe hangover’.
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 dose, which is given 21 days later.
Another of the 40,000-plus participants who received the vaccine as part of a trial, 44-year-old Glenn Deshields, said it made him feel like he had a ‘severe hangover’ but that symptoms quickly cleared up.
Thousands of doses of the vaccine were shipped from Pfizer’s factories in Belgium this morning within hours of it being given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), making Britain the first country in the world to have a clinically authorised Covid-19 jab.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed an end to the pandemic was now ‘in sight’, while Boris Johnson declared it would ‘allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again’.
Some 800,000 doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine — which trials have shown is 95 per cent effective — will be made available ‘next week’. The UK has ordered 40million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in total, with 10 million due by the end of 2020 and the rest next year.
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
UK REGULATOR INSISTS APPROVAL PROCESS CONDUCTED WITH ‘METICULOUS CARE’
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) moved with unprecedented speed to approve the jab within just a week of receiving the final data from Pfizer’s phase three trials. The watchdog had been conducting a ‘rolling review’ of the vaccine, scrutinising data from its studies in real-time.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine insisted that despite the rapid approval, the vaccine had been assessed with ‘with meticulous care’.
She told the Downing Street press conference: ‘That doesn’t mean that any corners have been cut, none at all.’
Dr Raine said experts had worked ’round the clock, carefully, methodically poring over tables and analyses and graphs on every single piece of data’.
More than 1,000 pages of data had been examined, she said.
She said: ‘The way of working in a rolling review ensures that our teams of clinicians and scientists are working in parallel to complete all of the work according to strict guidelines on safety, effectiveness and quality.’
The vaccine had ‘only been approved because those strict tests have been done and complied with’.
Dr Raine said: ‘If you are climbing a mountain, you prepare and prepare. We started that in June.
‘By the time the interim results became available on November 10 we were at base camp and then when we got the final analysis we were ready for that last sprint that takes us to today.
‘That is the exemplary nature of the work that has been done and the public deserve nothing less.’
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, who believes he was one of the individuals that did not receive the vaccine, said he ‘feels a sense of pride’ after the UK became the first country in the world to approve its use.
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.
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 lorry leaves Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, this morning after the American firm’s Covid-19 vaccine was approved in the UK. It’s not clear if the lorry pictured was transporting the jabs
There is growing confusion about which groups will get access to the first doses.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its Covid-19 priority list today, advising that care home residents and the staff who treat them should be the first groups to be inoculated.
However, officials warned they could not guarantee care homes would get the vaccine before anyone else, admitting ‘whether or not that is actually doable depends on deployment and implementation’.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine has been shown to block 95 per cent of Covid-19 infections in late-stage trials, with equal efficacy among younger volunteers and those over 65 who are most at risk from Covid.
But transporting and storing the vaccine in care homes poses logistical challenges because it must be stored and transported at -70C.
To keep doses of the jab at this ultra-low temperature, they needs to be packaged with dry ice and placed in a special transport box the size of a suitcase.
These containers can prevent the vaccines from spoiling for 10 days if they remain unopened.
Once the batches arrive at vaccination hubs, they can be stored in standard medical fridges at between 2C and 8C for up to five days, or they can be kept in their shipping boxes for up to 30 days if the containers are topped up with dry ice at least once a week.
Fifty NHS hospitals in England — and a handful of vaccination centres — are already equipped with super-cold freezers that can keep the vaccine at -70C, meaning healthcare staff could be inoculated first.
However, makers of the jab have taken issue with claims the jab is difficult to transport, claiming that it can be kept at between 2C and 8C for six hours in transit without going off.
The MHRA moved with unprecedented speed to approve the jab within just a week of receiving the final data from Pfizer’s phase three trials.
The watchdog had been conducting a ‘rolling review’ of the vaccine, scrutinising data from its studies in real-time. MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine insisted that despite the rapid approval, the vaccine had been assessed ‘with meticulous care’ and ‘no corners had been cut’.