Some felt fine apart from a little soreness where they injected. Others described it as “hellish.”
A year after the pandemic has completely rearranged the way we live, vaccine rollouts are in full swing in some countries, or have thankfully begun in others. In the Philippines, we are a little over a month since the first doses arrived.
Right now, we have about 2.5 million doses—most of which are CoronaVac—with around 740,000 already administered. We suppose a start is a start, but it definitely is a far cry from where need to be to get some semblance of normalcy. This is especially true given that the country today, on Good Friday, announced 15,310 new COVID cases, our highest single-day number ever.
But how does it feel to get the vaccine? Many reports and posts online talk about contrasting experiences; some say that they have had headaches, body pain, and flu-like symptoms while others say they were completely fine.
We spoke with Filipinos in different parts of the world who tried out four of the available vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna, and CoronaVac. Here’s what they shared:
A collaboration between German company BioNTech and American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, this vaccine began clinical trials April of last year. It is an RNA vaccine, which means it creates an immune response by making use of a copy of a natural chemical called the messenger RNA.
Allergic reactions and other serious side effects have been rare among trial participants with headaches, fatigue, and pain at the injection side being the most common. Kris Buenaventura, a diet clerk in Seattle, Washington, says that she had a severe headache right after her first dose.
When she got home and in the days after, she experienced more side effects. “I woke up in the middle of the night sweating like hell,” she shares, adding she felt feverish and had chills in addition to a headache. “I got flu like symptoms for two days.” Now, she says she’s back to normal physically, but, while she feels safer going out, still abides by COVID safety protocols as advised.
The experience was a lot better for Chris Bautista, a registered nurse in Sacramento, California. “We were the only COVID positive unit in my area so we got priority [for the vaccines],” Bautista shares, who got two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech in a span of 21 days.
Apart from soreness at the site of the injection, Bautista experienced no side effects. “I feel normal, but more confident to go out now in public,” he shares. “I was advised to report any side effects after being vaccinated.” He says that a link and text reminder is sent to his phone weekly to track if had any adverse effects.
According to ongoing phase 3 trials— conducted on larger populations and in different regions and countries—Pfizer-BioNTech remains highly effective after six months. National Task Force Against (NTF) COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said in mid-March that the World Health Organization (WHO) committed that around 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech will arrive in the Philippines this month.
News reports of late have been centering on this vaccine, which is a partnership between Oxford University and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca—and for the wrong reasons.
There have been cases of an usual clotting disorder among those who have gotten their first doses. In Britain, as many as 30 people have been noted to have developed the rare condition. While the number is low comparative to the millions of doses administered, it is enough for nations to take a step back. Countries such as Germany, Sweden, France, and Finland have recommended against its use on younger people, with Canada most recently banning it from being administered to those under 55 years old.
But there are those who still favor this vaccine, physicians included. One such doctor is Leeroi Buenaventura, who received his first dose of Oxford Astrazeneca as provided for his place of work, St. Luke’s Medical Center in BGC.
Buenaventura says he felt pain on his left deltoid, which is the injection site. “It was a bit ‘heavy.’ Then about five minutes after, the doctor and nurse who were monitoring me noted that I was starting to get flushed,” he shares.
They immediately checked Buenaventura and asked him if he felt any other symptoms like difficulty of breathing or chest or throat discomfort. “But I was fine. They were cautious, so they gave me an antihistamine right away,” he says. “After several minutes, I went back to normal and I still felt okay.”
Apart from feeling sleepy, Buenaventura says he had no adverse effects like fever, body pains, headaches or flu-like symptoms, and was pretty much normal in the days after. Because of his initial reaction, however, he was advised to closely monitor his symptoms.
“All patients who underwent vaccinations were given a hotline to contact if in case you need help,” he says.
The Philippines received its first shipment (around 500,000 doses) of Oxford AstraZeneca on March 4. A week later, the Department of Health announced that it finds no reason to halt the rollout of this particular vaccine despite growing concerns as the “benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”
Like Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna is an RNA vaccine, and has had high success so far in trials, and was evaluated at 94.1 percent efficacy. Both vaccines also reduced risk of infection by around 80 percent in real world use according to a recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.
Moderna itself is a collaboration between the American pharmaceutical company of the same name and the United States National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). On March 19, The Philippine government through its vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr, signed a supply agreement with Moderna covering 20 million doses.
New York-based Bianca Consunji says she got administered with Moderna because a friend in a group chat asked if anyone was interested in an expiring dose. “I was the first to reply,” she says. “The caveat was that we had to get there ASAP as the clinic—which was in a distant neighborhood near the JFK airport—was closing. I got up in the middle of dinner and rushed over in an Uber.”
Consunji, who works as an editorial manager for Netflix, says that she felt nothing after the first dose except for some mild soreness. “I even did yoga afterward. But the second one was hellish about 12 hours after getting the shot. Intense body aches, nausea, vomiting, a fever, chills: you name it, I had it.” She says she was thirsty all the time, and could barely keep food down, and just slept all day.
Two days after the shot, Consunji was still feeling a little achy, but fully functional. After getting her doses, she was advised to “order takeout and find a good series on Netflix, and take Tylenol and Advil (but not before the shot).”
Another Filipino in New York, Hannah Locsin, says that she got her first dose of Moderna on March 28. “I was deemed eligible because I volunteer at the food pantries a lot,” the model says.
Right after being administered, she says she just felt normal. “We’re supposed to stay at the vaccination site for a few minutes after just in case we react negatively,” she says, “but I, along with everyone else in the room, were fine.”
The vaccine developed by Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac is one of the first to arrive in the country. Around 600,000 doses was received here on February 28, followed by 400,000 on March 24, and a million on March 29. (The first two shipments were donations while the most recent arrival was the government’s procurement.)
While it was tested as being 100 percent effective in clinical trials in Brazil, CoronaVac has not done as well when it comes to preventing symptomatic infections (50.4 percent) and mild cases needing treatment (78 percent). Other results in other parts of the world show substantial differences, with Turkey trials yielding an 83.5 percent efficacy and Indonesia having 65.3 percent.
Dr. Guada Santos-Capiz, an aesthetic/managing physician of the Belo Medical Group, got her first dose of CoronaVac in mid-March. As with the others who have been inoculated, she felt pain at the site of the injection immediately after her dose.
Later that night, the pain was still there, but to a lesser degree. “I felt tired and sleepy , I felt hot but no fever recorded. I just rested and hydrated,” she shares.
The injection site was even less painful the next day but she experienced a low grade fever of 38C, which was immediately resolved after taking one dose of Paracetamol. “I kept myself hydrated the whole day, I was able to do yoga and my normal activities,” Santos-Capiz adds.
Before the jab was administered, she says there was counseling and a physical examination. “Immediately after, vital signs were recorded and there was a 30 minute observation period,” she says. “I was given a number to contact in case there is an adverse reaction.”
Today, Sinovac announced that it has opened a third production plant, doubling its manufacturing capacity for CoronaVac to two billion a year.