3 doctors who received the Pfizer vaccine discuss their side effects and why they chose to get vaccinated
Dr. Michael Bernstein received the Pfizer vaccine last week. Dr. Michael Bernstein
Last week, the FDA approved the emergency two-dose use of the Pfizer vaccine to help fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Frontline health workers were the first to receive the vaccine, including three doctors who spoke to Business Insider about what it was like to get the first dose.
Dr. Connecticut's Michael Bernstein says he had sore muscles for about 24 hours after the shot, as did Dr. Katie Passaretti from North Carolina.
Such were her experiences as told to the writer Nikhita Mahtani.
You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Just days after the FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech's emergency COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer began shipping the vaccine to hospitals and health centers across the U.S. for distribution to frontline workers.
These three doctors were in their first rounds of vaccination from their hospitals. Here is what they say was the experience.
Dr. Michael Bernstein, 43, is an intensive care doctor in Stamford, Connecticut.
Dr. Michael Bernstein received the Pfizer vaccine last week. Dr. Michael Bernstein
I received the Pfizer vaccine on December 16th at my Stamford Health hospital. I think our hospital management wanted to vaccinate some key clinicians first who were very comfortable with it - personally, I wanted it as soon as possible as I see patients with COVID-19 every day.
Twelve hours before I received the vaccine, I took an information poll and signed the consent form.
At my appointment, I was asked to confirm I was fine, got the injection, and then waited about 15 minutes to make sure I had no side effects.
My muscles were a little sore for about 24 hours, a kind of punch on the arm.
Other than that, I felt perfectly fine. The hospital administrator said he would be in contact to schedule the second dose, which will be within a 96-hour window about three weeks later.
I believe the science behind this type of vaccine - the mRNA platform - is strong. When I understand the basics of the science, I have very few concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness or long-term complications. As a mechanism, the vaccine doesn't contain a live COVID virus: it just gives you the code for the spike protein so your immune system can make antibodies. To me it is an even safer platform than many other previous types of vaccines.
Many infectious diseases are treated with vaccines.
Those that we no longer consider a major problem, like polio or even chickenpox, have been all but wiped out in the US thanks to vaccines that most people now get as babies.
One or two people are not going to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. If we really get a good majority of the population fully vaccinated, we will see a huge impact.
Until then, I plan to continue to wear my face mask and social distance, and to observe safety and hygiene measures.
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Dr. Nick Kessener, 35, is a fourth year internal medicine and pediatrician in Peoria, Illinois.
Dr. Nick Kessener will receive the vaccine on December 15th. Dr. Nick Kessener
I deal with COVID-19 patients every day while at OSF Medical Group I work in both the intensive care unit and the ambulance (where sick people come but don't have to stay overnight). As one of the largest hospital systems in central Illinois, we have significant COVID-19 numbers in our region, so many of our healthcare workers should be vaccinated in the first few rounds.
We were informed by the hospital administration at the end of November that we would receive the vaccine shipments early and were instructed in principle to register or decline. Anytime you sign in later, you can sign out and say, "Hey, I don't want this." It is not required, but it was definitely recommended to get vaccinated.
My hospital prioritized the order based on who worked with COVID-19 patients for at least 50% of their patient interaction time. I received it on the morning of December 15th, the first day we started dosing.
For me, the decision to get vaccinated is a decision between risk and benefit.
I have a pretty high risk of contracting the virus as I work extensively with COVID-19 patients. I've seen the effects of this disease, from short-term complications like shortness of breath to long-term complications like lung problems with pneumonia or even lung disease. I had a patient in her thirties who had a stroke because of COVID-19 and I realized that this is a frightening illness, especially since young, healthy people have significant complications very early on.
Before I got the vaccine I was given a form explaining the potential side effects, how it was FDA approved for emergency use and what was in it so I had all the information and could opt out at any time.
My muscles were just a little sore after getting the shot.
Personally, I feel better when I'm much better protected because I felt like it wasn't about if I get it, but when. It's a miracle I kind of didn't get it so I'm really reassured on that note. At the same time, I could still spread it when I am with someone because the data are not known about whether it still prevents it from spreading to other people, even if I don't get the disease myself.
I still plan to wear a mask (of course) and wash my hands well. I was excited and grateful that although it is very early on, it feels like the beginning of the end of the wild era, the COVID-19.
Read More: Pharmacies, Doctor's Offices, and Hospitals Prepare to Provide Coronavirus Vaccines to Millions of Americans. Here's how to prepare and how much you can earn from it.
Dr. Katie Passaretti, 44, is a contagious disease visiting a doctor in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Katie Passaretti will receive the vaccine on December 14th. Dr. Katie Passaretti
I was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on December 14th in North Carolina, where I work as an Infectious Disease at MD at Atrium Health. I wear a couple of hats in my job - often I actively see and treat patients who have been hospitalized with infectious diseases, so the risk of getting the virus is quite high.
You won't get infectious diseases without acknowledging that some infections can be passed on to you from patients while you are trying to cure them, but I am committed to treating patients with COVID-19 in the same way as other infectious diseases.
This year has been a tremendous challenge for the large number of people infected with COVID-19 and the impact the virus has on patients, families and healthcare workers.
I've seen entire families devastated when COVID spread at a funeral. I've seen couples die together and hospitalized health care workers after contracting COVID-19 while trying to take care of patients. It was exhausting and emotional, to say the least. The vaccine is a glimmer of hope for me at a time that has been clouded by darkness with rising cases and increasing hospitalizations. It is a beacon exactly when we need it.
It is for this reason that I received the COVID vaccine without hesitation: I firmly believe that receiving the vaccine gives us the opportunity to influence the very dangerous development we are currently on. I have thoroughly reviewed the data on the Pfizer vaccine and believe it is effective and safe.
For me, the vaccine is far less risky than letting COVID-19 continue to spread uncontrollably.
My side effects were minimal - sore muscles for 24 hours, that's it. I felt completely safe, well informed, and in good hands to get the vaccine. It felt very similar physically to any other vaccine I have received in the past.
However, my emotional response to the vaccine, and especially to the vaccination of my other healthcare workers, has been very mixed and honestly has moved me to tears. It seemed the right thing to do to protect my community, set an example for my colleagues, and do my part to protect others in my community and at work. I am grateful for the scientific experts who have worked so hard to make this vaccine as quick and safe as possible, and I look forward to encouraging others to get vaccinated with me.
I definitely feel more secure, but I still mask myself, maintain social distance, and stay at home. I believe vaccination is an important part of protecting my surroundings, including my patients, but until the pandemic is more under control I have no plans to change my behavior.
Also, as an infectious disease doctor, I wouldn't recommend anyone change their behavior, especially before most of the country is vaccinated.
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