GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the newest vaccine races toward federal emergency use authorization, hospitals in West Michigan are already vaccinating hundreds of employees every day using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will lead to important information about any potential side effects.
Spectrum Health started giving shots to health care workers on Monday and Mercy Health St. Mary’s began Thursday.
Dr. Andrew Jameson, an infectious disease doctor for Mercy Health, said the vaccine is being distributed on a staggered basis, meaning only a fraction of the people in any given unit will get it at one time in case anyone experiences minor side effects that could prevent them from working.
“Things like headache, pain at the injection site, fatigue and low-grade fevers,” Jameson listed. “Those are definitely quite common.”
He thinks we’ll have a better idea of how necessary that is for other types of industries after seeing how well health care workers do.
“We’re going to have more people vaccinated in this first week than they had in the trials because we’re rolling this out in a way that’s never been done before, which is exciting. It means we’re going to get a ton of information,” Jameson said.
One way doctors will get that information is through the V Safe app, which they recommend everyone download and use after getting the vaccination. It’s a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys after the user receives a COVID-19 vaccination, allowing the user to alert the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to any side effects. The app also sends reminders to get a second dose of the vaccine.
Jameson suggested that if anything, it would be more important to stagger the second dose than the first.
“The side-effect profile for that second dose seems to be a little more than the first dose,” he explained.
There are a few differences between the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine, most notably the timeline. Moderna’s option calls for four weeks between the first and second dose, while Pfizer’s calls for three weeks. Pfizer’s shot must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, while Moderna’s does not have that requirement.
Jameson said that beside the timeline, the two vaccines are strikingly similar, and that’s a good sign.
“(The scientists at Moderna and at Pfizer) didn’t know each other,” he said. “They didn’t share each other’s data. They’re hardcore competitors. And what we have is efficacy rates and side-effect profiles that are almost identical. That means they’re almost like a double check on each other, which gives so much more confidence in the reliability and validity to their findings.”
News 8 is continuing to gather more information about the vaccines. You can send your questions about them to ReportIt@woodtv.com.