The Pfizer Vaccine’s Side Effects

16 December 2020  /  Updated 7 March 2021

by Neville Hodgkinson

No one likes to be a party pooper, but the gung-ho atmosphere surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine rollout calls for some response.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was clearly delighted to announce a UK first, and the mainstream media have given loyal support – perhaps encouraged by the full-page advertisements currently being run in newspapers by HM Government and the NHS (along with Facebook, which claims to be playing its part by distributing “authoritative” COVID-19 information).

The NHS exhibited a smiling 90-year-old grandmother as the first patient to receive the “life-saving jab”, telling the world: “If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too.”

But the following account, by a nurse at a care home in the UK where residents and staff became among the first to receive the vaccine last week, gives pause for thought.

The nurse’s First message, to a friend who also happens to be a Lockdown Sceptics reader, said:

We received the COVID vaccine today. I have a fever, for which I took paracetamol, and pain and swelling at the site of the injection. One of my staff went home. She was the same as me, shivering and feverish.

It is very awful. I am feeling so low. We’ll need to get out of this. I will inform the manager. We have a system in place to report untoward incidents.

Second message

I spoke to the GP as I still have fever. She said it is because of a reaction with the vaccine, that you never know how it will react.

My few staff are unwell. Two patients were sent to hospital.

I was thinking – poor old residents, they can’t express it if anything is not well with them. Why this torture at this age?

Third message

I had a temperature of 38.45 last night. I forced myself to get up and eat something. After this vaccine there is malaise, depression – I don’t know what it is.

Fourth message

I am glad to say that I have recovered now. I came for work, ate better, and am feeling better. I had a bit more of the side-effects; but all my residents and staff were lethargic – no strength to work. So we gave them a break of some hours.

It will go – it is an expected side-effect. As the vaccine is new, people are not trusting it, but eventually all have to take it.

But I think it is better to have Covid than taking this vaccine.

Fifth message

Side-effects or symptoms were there for two or three days. Now all are OK. Nothing has been reported [to the medicines agency], because it was already mentioned in the handout about the side-effects.

So please tell whoever is anxious not to worry – take paracetamol afterwards.

This is of course what scientists would call ‘anecdotal’ evidence, and with the nurse herself offering a more reassuring tone after a few days, perhaps we should disregard it. On the other hand, it is raw data, reported as it happened, rather than through the filter of officially sanctioned opinion. What’s more, the nurse’s observations (unlike the 90-year-old grandmother’s experience) are fully in keeping with Pfizer vaccine trial data released last week by the US Food and Drug Administration.

This shows that among the thousands of volunteers who received the vaccine, four out of five reported a reaction. These were described in the trial report as “mostly mild-to-moderate in severity and resolved within one to two days”. But that is not how French infectious disease specialist Professor Eric Caumes sees it. As reported in this Lockdown Sceptics last week (13 December), he told Le Parisien, a French daily newspaper:

As I read the 53 pages, something struck me. I have never seen such a high frequency of adverse events for a vaccine. Apart from minor injection reactions such as local redness and pain, other side-effects occur at relatively high rates, especially in young people and after the second dose.

Take the example of fever. It can occur transiently after an injection; it is classic. But here, 15.8% of 18 to 55 year-olds had a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher within seven days after the second injection. And 45% had to take medication for fever or pain. Another 55% had headaches and 62% were tired. No, really, that’s much too much, perhaps there’s a problem…

Caumes said he is one of those who defend vaccines the most, as “miracles” that prevent rather than cure. But he added: “If we mess this up, the entire history of vaccinology will be discredited.”

Contrary to what NHS propaganda would have us believe, in no way has the jab been shown to be “life-saving”. In fact, as the business magazine Forbes reported last September, current trials seem designed by the manufacturers “to prove their vaccines work, even if the measured effects are minimal”. None has been shown to offer anything like full protection.

Claims of a “95% success rate” refer to the fact that far fewer patients in the vaccinated group – just eight, out of 21,720 – went on to test positive for Covid, compared with 162 out of 21,728 given a placebo injection, a simple saline solution. This outcome says nothing about the vaccine’s ability to save lives, nor to prevent infection.

Even the apparent success in reducing COVID-19 diagnoses may be illusory. The investigators relied on trial participants themselves to report symptoms that they thought might be caused by the disease, and that then led on to their being tested for the virus. Since side-effects were so common among the vaccinees, it would be obvious to many that they had received the jab itself, making them less likely to go for a Covid test than those in the placebo group.

And since the testing regime used is in any case notoriously unreliable as a diagnostic tool, throwing up many false positives, this difference could account for at least some of the “95% success rate” claimed.

Let’s hope these doubts turn out to be ill-founded, and the vaccine really does protect against the virus – so that globally we finally draw back from the enormous damage the current panic is unquestionably causing to the health and wellbeing of billions.

But our hopes shouldn’t blind us to the facts.

Neville Hodgkinson is a former medical and science correspondent for the Daily Mail and Sunday Times.