My Pfizer jabs

January 27, 2021 • 10:45 am

As I’ve mentioned in passing, I’ve had two coronavirus shots; these used the Pfizer vaccine. The university hospital has been vaccinating a gazillion people, starting with healthcare workers on the front line, hospital employees, local oldsters (like me) and then residents of the South Side, mostly black, as well as healthcare workers who aren’t affiliated with the hospital but work on the South Side. It was heartening to go to the Covid clinic, an efficient and dedicated facility in the hospital, and wait in line with a cross-section of Chicago, including healthcare workers in their scrubs, all of us “in it together.” I have nothing but praise for that organization and its efficiency, and everyone was uber-friendly. I even got a “congratulations” after my second shot.

And as I stood in line, I realized what a fantastic thing these vaccines are, and, indeed, what all vaccines are.  If our immune system had no memory, if scientists hadn’t figured out that you could stave off disease by tweaking that memory, and if they hadn’t figured out how to do it without causing the disease, humanity would have been driven down over and over again.

The Pfizer vaccine is even more marvelous: a vaccine made by injecting into your arm a liquid solution of RNA “code” for the virus’s spike protein, with that code encapsulated in little fat bubbles. Once in your arm, the specially designed code makes its way to your cells, which then use the code to make many copies of the virus’s spike protein. Those free-floating copies are themselves harmless, but are the parts of the virus that adhere to cells when you get Covid-19. The immune system then recognizes the spike proteins as foreign, goes to work destroying them, and then the memory of those proteins is stored in our immune system (this is the way that all vaccines work). When you get a second shot, the immune system recognizes the spike proteins that it’s seen before, and mounts a huge defense against them, creating not only greater memory but often producing some side effects for the second jab. When you’ve mounted two defenses, your immune system is ready to go when it sees the spike protein on a virus that infects you.

In late December I wrote a post about how scientists had tweaked the spike protein’s RNA code to get it into our cells intact and make it produce many copies of the protein. That tweaking itself rested on years of molecular-genetic work done without the goal of making a vaccine. It’s a testament to the power of pure research and human curiosity.

All in all, I consider the mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna ones, as “miracles”—except I don’t like the word because it smacks of religion. But they do show what our evolved neurons are capable of doing when faced with a medical problem. I don’t know a secular word for “miracle”, but if there is one then it should be used with these vaccines. And remember, jabs went into arms less than a year after the virus first began its depredations in China. Further, the vaccine was designed within just a few days after the genome of the virus was decoded, which itself took less than a week.

But people want to know what the shots were like.  The first one was a piece of cake: it was a simple jab (they manage to get six doses out of a vial at the hospital, increasing the number of jabs by 20%), and I didn’t even have a sore arm. The only side effect was a very slight soreness at the injection site, but a soreness that could be detected only by pressing on the site.

It was 18 days between jab 1 and jab 2, though the usual period is 21 days. I took the shorter period because it was within CDC and Pfizer recommendations, and I was eager to become immune. I’m not sure how they know that 13-21 days is the right interval, and I don’t think they really did a lot of tests about that.

The second jab went into my arm on Monday. I was informed in great detail, and given an instruction sheet, that this jab was likely to cause more side effects, including chills, fever, muscle aches, and even vomiting. I was prepared for that: it’s better to suffer for a day or so than to get infected! I felt fine throughout Monday, but my arm was a little bit more sore than after the first jab. On Tuesday morning I also felt pretty good, and, because they said symptoms may begin within 12-24 hours, I thought I was home free.

That was not to be. At about noon yesterday (28 hours after my second jab), I begin feeling muscle aches, overall tiredness, and a general malaise, as if I were getting the flu. I recognized this as side effects and went home, dosing myself with Tylenol. My temperature, which is normally low (about 97.3° F, went up a bit, to 99.5°F). I did not lose either my appetite or sense of taste or smell, and I had a decent dinner but abjured the vino. I went to bed still feeling out of it.

But I woke up this morning feeling right as rain. As the instructions said, the side effects pass within 48 hours.  One has to wait two weeks, I understand, to acquire the vaunted 95% immunity that comes with this vaccine. From this my advice would be “when you get your injection, schedule it for late in the afternoon, go home, and then be prepared to not go to work the next day.” A Friday afternoon would be ideal for that second shot.

I asked the nurse who gave me the second jab if there was any correlation between the severity of one’s side effects and the effectiveness of the immunization. One would think that a vigorous immune response to the second dose, indicating that your immune response was quite active against the protein, would mean that you’d be better protected against the real virus. In other words, the worse the side effects, the better off you are. She said there was no correlation, as did the instruction sheet I got. I still am a bit dubious, but if there is a correlation, that I’m good to go against the virus.

Of course I urge everyone to get their jab. I asked a staff member on campus with whom I’m friends if she got the jab. I was surprised when she said “no.” When I asked why, she said because “people had died from the vaccine.” She was afraid of it, which I think is a fairly common feeling. But I looked up the deaths associated with the Pfizer vaccine, and, as we know, it’s not risky. There were six deaths during the phase 3 trials, but four of those were in the control group. Two died in the vaccine (experimental) group, one from arteriosclerosis and the other from a heart attack. Those deaths were probably the results not of the vaccine, but of underlying conditions. Of course some people will die after being vaccinated: as the control group shows, that will happen in any large group of people! On balance, though, all the experts say it’s better for your own welfare to get vaccinated than to risk Covid-19. And it’s better for society as well, since the more people who get vaccinated, the quicker we’ll attain herd immunity.

I went back to my friend and told her the statistics, but she was unmoved, and clearly didn’t want to discuss the point. Although I was concerned with her health, I realized that there was no point in arguing, as vaccination avoidance is almost a form of religion, and certainly a type of faith. I won’t bring up the subject again.

I’m sure all readers here are eager to get their shots, and it’s frustrating to watch while others get them but you can’t get an appointment. Biden and his administration are working hard on the issue. But we should be cognizant of the vaccine shortages in other countries, which are far more severe than in America or Europe. The news last night reported that America will have five times the number of doses necessary to vaccinate the entire population, and Canada six times. Couldn’t the excess be used in places like Latin America, where the Covid rate is high but vaccines rare?  I know that Bill Gates and others are donating lots of dosh to buy vaccines for poor countries, but we will need about 18 billion dollars to do that job. This is not a U.S. or European issue, but a world issue, and with the vaccine we should be far more concerned about other countries than we usually are. Even from a selfish point of view, if you don’t go after Covid everywhere, the whole world remains in danger.

I didn’t take a “vaccine selfie”; here’s the best I can do:

129 thoughts on “My Pfizer jabs

  1. I don’t know if I will be vaccinated in 2021 and may be waiting into 2022. I work in a hospital (as in my office is in the hospital) and hospital workers from frontline to admin will all be vaccinated by April (many have already received their vaccine) but not those in the university or even researchers who work with the live virus (but that could change). Canada gets its vaccine supply from a plant in Belgium and the EU is threatening to stop exports (even though other countries have already bought and paid for the vaccine). Moderna, Canada gets from Switzerland so that’s more secure a supply. On top of that, the manufacturing in Belgium went through some sort of expansion so they cut off Canada’s supply completely this week meaning we received no vaccine and will receive very little next week. Canada didn’t secure supply from the US because Trump made it clear that he wasn’t about sharing (he stole our 3M PPE after all and after days of delay at the border, it was released).

    I knew this would be a challenge because years ago the Conservative government axed manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in Canada so we do not produce the vaccine on our own shores and we can’t ramp up to do so. So, we will probably be very behind in vaccination. This of course worries me that the virus will continue to spread and cause issues with mutations and one of those mutations could be resistant to the current vaccines.

    1. Thru the year, there will be other vaccines rolling out, including ones that don’t need the special cold storage. So with a wider supply, I hope your time table for getting jabbed will move up!

      1. I hope so too but there are other countries that need that vaccine too and they are manufacturing it on their soil. I know Canada invested in a broad portfolio. They are reviewing Astra still. The Aussies luckily are manufacturing it there so a country similar in population and distribution will do well at least.

    2. Another reason for countries to invest in their own pharmaceuticals industries. That way more countries are prepared for future outbreaks of viruses.

      1. Just didn’t invest in biotech and let companies leave the country. There is some biotech here but they are making flu vaccines, hepatitis vaccines and such and they not only have to fulfill those orders (and they are important too) but they don’t have what it takes to manufacture these new vaccines. It’s too bad we couldn’t simply retool.

        1. Yes all true. My 93 year-old mother who lives independently cannot get a vaccination in Ontario until March. Possibly as late as May. I’m 68, do some caring for my mother, and likely won’t get one until August. Those in LTC and their child caregivers have already been vaccinated. Went to the ophthalmologist today and even he hasn’t gotten his. 🙄

          1. Yeah my podiatrist said his wife got her vaccine because she’s listed as the care giver for her father who lives in LTC. He said she is keeping it secret because her friends would be jealous. My parents are in their late 70s so probably won’t be vaccinated until the summer as they will start with 90s then go down each decade.

          2. It would be interesting to know the details of your knowledge concerning your mother.

            I am old, not that old, in Ontario, and have reason to be much more optimistic, though have nothing definite. In particular, surely different areas within the province are unlikely to differ much. Maybe you are remote, though that would be no excuse. But the dates you give are terrible for someone in the oldest ½ of 1% of the population, i.e. 199 of 200 are younger.

            1. Those details seem not to be forthcoming. In such a case I’d tend to ignore what Mr. Kinsley said above, as likely being unreliable for Ontario as a whole, and any other part of Canada.

  2. I, too, got my second dose on Monday. I was a little achy and tired yesterday, but back to my old self today. Like you, I wondered if the light reaction meant I got a weak dose. Glad to know that appears to be not the case. Since I am 85, I am very happy to soon be free of virus fear.

    1. Jerry and Linda, I’m glad you are feeling better. I get to test out dose two of the moderna vaccine next Monday, along with most of my lab personnel. My lab manager has already cancelled Tuesday’s lab meeting as she has decided we will all be suffering.

      Following up on and perhaps expanding Linda’s comment, I’m not sure what we as a society are really supposed to do regarding future conduct. if we want people to get vaccinated then telling them to go ahead and hug their grandchildren, visit restaurants and theaters etc once fully covered seems reasonable. “Stay in your house and don’t interact with people” isn’t a message likely to encourage good behavior.

      None of our vaccines are perfect – 95% is on the high end we don’t stay home to avoid the measles (for example), we just make sure as many people as possible get the vaccine. At some point vaccines will have been available to all who will take them, that seems to be the point at which it becomes an issue of personal responsibility, and a decision not to vaccinate and the consequences thereof fall on the individual.

      There is a piece in the Atlantic that speaks to this somewhat.

      1. I’ve been saying for months that this time will be hard. People will get vaccines and want to go back to normal but there is risk the vaccine can still be spread so those not vaccinated could be infected by those that are. I think there will be resentment among the vaccinated when they need to wear masks to go out and also find the economy isn’t fully open.

        1. We should have data before too long on whether vaccinated people can actually spread the virus. This is a theoretical concern, but not one that seems to have a precedent. I’m not aware of (and more to the point, people who should know don’t identify) a disease to which one can be made immune by vaccination but still spread. Should it turn out that this is a non-issue (as many suspect) it might simplify things a bit.

          Good luck on getting vaccinated soon.

  3. I’ll be eligible as of Monday, but that’s a long, long way from having an actual appointment. What worries me is that the vaccine shortage could mean an extended period of time you have to wait between the first and second shots—conceivably putting you outside the maximum separation allowed between the two. It’s not the most likely scenario, but it’s hard to say just how unlikely it is, given the seemingly volatile status of vaccine accessibility in different parts of the US.

    1. If you were here in the UK, waiting until you’re outside the manufacturer’s recommended spacing between doses would be government policy, not a choice you get to make.
      Obviously our politicians – classics scholars and lawyers almost to a … quadruped – understand the vaccine better than the biochemists and virologists who designed them. I’m sure Cicero had something to say on the subject – Plebes delenda est, or something like that.
      My parents got their shots before the classicists inserted their remus into the distribution, but TTBOMK, none of my generation. I’m not anticipating anything this side of the equinox.

        1. THere’s something wrong with those particular Classics grads in our “cabinet of curiosities”.

      1. That is not true.

        The government made its decision based on scientific advice from scientists. The UK was facing utter catastrophe at the beginning of January and it was thought that giving as many people as possible the first jab would help reduce the R number to a controllable level.

        So far, in combination with the new lockdown, it sees to be working. Infections are in steep decline and deaths will follow the same curve in two to three weeks.

        1. Strange how they can never get those scientists to stand up in public to support them. Lying politicians lying in public to protect their reputations at the cost of their electorate’s lives is exactly what I expect from them.

          1. Just say it Aidan – you detest Johnson & his ilk!
            As do many… fair enough, but I think we should avoid making decisions based on emotion.

            It was Tony Blair’s idea to give one shot to the maximum number. That put me emotionally against it – well at first! There are good reasons on public health grounds to do that it seems. The manufacturers are thinking, as U S health officials are, of individuals not the mass.

            1. Poor Johnson – trying to prove that he has the balls of Thatcher (hawk, spit!) , and failing abysmally.
              The words from Blair came after some talking heads from the government started floating the idea, at least as far as I heard on the radio.

    2. Yeah, this is why I would rather see the second dose reserved not just give everyone the first dose and hope supply is there in time for the second one.

      1. Surely the matter of delaying the 2nd dose beyond the best date (~3 weeks), in order to get more people to have had at least one dose, is a probability calculation.
        It wouldn’t be perfect, but there is likely some info by now from which to compare the number of deaths from, say, 2,000 people under two scenarios:
        A/ 1, 000 get it, then the 2nd 3 weeks later, then the second 1,000 get theirs only after the 6th and 9th week, etc. etc., or
        B/ all 2,000 get it quick, but all have to wait 7 or more weeks for the 2nd dose.

        And lots of other possible such pairs.

        It might be very complicated, and/or the weakness of the data about 2nd dose timing might be more of a problem. But surely if you got a striking difference in which the B/ scenarios always happened to cut down the expected deaths to about say ¾ of what the non-delayed 2nd jab gave, then the moral thing is to go with B/ if deliveries didn’t make it only the matter of how fast it would be pricked into arms as the deciding factor.

        I realize there is also the question of expected number of future years as opposed to just number of saved lives from the virus.

        So maybe no such even moderately reliable calculation can be done and I’m overly optimistic about what’s possible. But if not, surely it is a matter of minimizing expected deaths, or maximize future life, by using competent scientific calculations and as-reliable-as-possible data, not a matter of public bleating by people who have good intentions but distrust calculations in making morally best decisions.

        As an old guy, my selfish inclination is to favour simply lives saved over years of life added. I realize that’s not just calculation, and politicians would have some difficult moral decisions.

        1. Yes but delaying the dose relies on having supply in the future. In Canada, despite the government assuring us that doses are coming, given what we’ve seen with countries trying to pass legislation restricting exports, you can’t exactly be sure that the second dose will come and really being just partly immunized isn’t all the much better than being fully immunized….wait too long and is the first shot wasted altogether because you missed your immunization window? It seems much smarter to me to immunize fully people at most risk and that can overwhelm hospitals so that’s LTC residents and those who care for them (usually health care workers).

            1. The situation is very different in Canada. Our covid numbers are much lower. We comply with lockdowns (my whole province is in one now) and we have a trickle of the vaccines for our population the US has. The US manufactures vaccine on their soil; Canada does not. We have to rely on other countries producing it and having deals with those countries to receive it. A change in politics can mean an interruption in our supply chain. Right now, our most vulnerable are people who are dying by the droves in LTC. It’s a total shit show of neglect.

              1. I tried but apparently failed to communicate, that the question of whether to insist on doing exactly the initial recommendations for 2nd dose, or rather sometimes give 1st doses earlier with the possibility of many 2nd doses being delayed, was a scientific one mostly. It would of course only be applied if there seemed to be a shortage.

                It is true that Canada so far has done much better (about 2.5 factor) than US in deaths per million. But much worse than several other ‘western’ countries (4 times worse than Norway). But I fail to see that as being much of a factor in the question above.

                My adding that NYTimes article was mainly to indicate that some genuine experts, as opposed to TV bloviators, really do believe there is good evidence to push for fast administering the 1st doses at the risk of slower 2nd ones.

                That editorial contribution to NYTimes seemed aimed at US (one author a Brit actually) since it was in a US paper, not because of differences in Covid effects for different countries. If, as you say, US is much better off than we are in supply, it is less likely a relevant question there. So far they have done much better than we have in vaccinations per population, though it is still early days. Let us hope there is no great difference; all countries will complain. The usual utter ignorance of what’s happening in the rest of the world is as usual the main thing I take away from US complaints on the supply question.

                I do think the man who complained his 93 year old Ontario mother would not be vaccinated till May or later was maybe reading too much Facebook; or somehow misunderstanding info if he was getting it from a reliable source. I’m virtually certain of that. Many just seem to have little sense of the sizes of numbers and/or the distribution of populations by age. In Ontario where I live as a 79 year old, less than 8% are in the 75+ category. I wonder how many of my fretful neighbours have even thought, or know how, to look that fact up.

              2. Yes and my response stands. For Canada, delaying doses is a disaster. We are seeing shortages of Moderna and Pfizer. I think Trudeau knows full well a fully vaccinated public is highly unlikely in the Fall and that’s why he is getting deals to manufacture the new vaccine in Montreal (which doesn’t need the same requirements as Moderna or Pfizer). There isn’t even a plan right now to vaccinate the rest of Ontario. In fact, we can barely meet the cold chain requirements of Pfizer (vs. Quebec where refigeration is installed in big mass vaccination locations). So, if provinces are this disorganized, we have little vaccine on hand, missing the second dose to the point of it affecting efficacy is foolhardy. It doesn’t matter what the science (as you suggest). It is easy to wave off numbers with percentages. 8% of 14.5 million is 1.16 million. If you include all seniors in Ontario, it’s a quarter of our population. That’s a lot of people. And if we struggle to get to them, what are we going to do with the millions of the rest of us in Ontario, most of us clustered in contagious cities?

  4. From this my advice would be “when you get your injection, schedule it for late in the afternoon, go home, and then be prepared to not go to work the next day.”

    Hopefully the Biden relief package will provide support for those many people, especially those in front line and other essential roles, who do not have the financial ability to do that.

  5. I can’t wait to get mine! I’m covered by Phase 1C, which has already started in my state. Unfortunately, though, I haven’t been able to schedule an appointment yet. I hope that the recently announced expanded availability will help to get that first shot into my arm sooner vs. later!

  6. “I don’t know a secular word for “miracle””

    I’d just use “miracle” in a figurative way, and I understand how there is a need for a word – but perhaps a different view of the subject would be refreshing : that, for all the Byzantine complexity we can elaborate on, for all the ways it can fail, the vaccine really is, in summation, just that simple – as is the rest of Nature, if we try.

    The Einstein quote seems helpful here too : about the amazing thing about Nature is that it can be understood at all.

    1. I’d also add a pitch : if anyone thought the coronavirus vaccine was good, just imagine what we could do if the NSF, NIH, and academic researchers were given ample freedom to do research work.

      1. The differential between the rich and the poor would be eroded, and that is not an acceptable solution. To the rich.

  7. Congratulations! I am on a waiting list, but the county is waiting for mor supplies, so I don’t expect to be vaccinated until some time in February. My 96-year-old mother lives in Texas and got her first shot last week. Hoping for the best!

  8. At the rate older people are being vaccinated in my county, I’ll probably have to wait until Aug and Sept to get my two doses. Things might change now that we have adults in the White House, but I won’t get my hopes up. As fantastic as these vaccines are, they depend on an incompetent bureaucracies to get them into peoples bodies.

    1. As a non-USian (actually Canadian) I got the impression that at least a large number of health workers in the US have been really heroic in keeping the death numbers down from the even more dreadful ones that the Mass Murderer administration would have been content to have. So your ‘incompetent bureaucracies’–I’m assuming you are USian–really were there if the politicians are what you mean. But as I’ve said elsewhere here, the US this month has done 3 times better than my country in the number of vaccinations per population.

  9. I got my first jab yesterday, Pfizer, same as you. had quite a sore deltoid last night, still very tender today, but none the worse for wear I suppose. What bothers me is that I’m only 43. Yes, I have a part time job in home health & hospice, but I struggle with why it was offered to me yet none of my grandparents or parents have been able to get it yet. Arguments made a while back about the best possible options for who should get the vaccine first got me thinking, and yes, I guess my vaccination helps protect other people’s parents and grandparents but I can’t shake the guilt I have. I didn’t jump the queue or anything, and too many are refusing the shot for all sorts of reasons, but I still think “why me, why now, why not others first?”

  10. Congratulations! and Thank You! for sharing your reactions. I figured they would be similar to the flu shot, but scary stories are going around about people getting gout (!), stroke, heart attack, etc. – just like those ads on tv for various pills with a low voiced speed read of possible reactions that Can Cause Death. One of my friends has been filling my in-box with those, but I know her and just keep sending her copies of your jokes and Bernie memes. Thanks for those, by the way. Carry on and stay safe, All.

  11. Glad it went relatively well for your PCC. I’m in the proverbial group Z and don’t expect to see a shot for months. But I might end up taking shot-related sick leave two weeks from now, if my ex has a reaction to her second shot and I have to watch the kid while she recovers.

  12. I was so relieved to get my first Pfizer vaccine last Saturday with only a sore arm as a result. I get my second one February 14. I can’t wait, even if I get sick. First time I have been glad to be over 65.

  13. I still wait, here in Wisconsin, one of the many who are qualified-by-age to get it but unable to schedule until supply is improved.

    As for “I don’t know a secular word for “miracle””, I think the phrase marvel of science works pretty well.

  14. Inspired by your earlier posts on the shingles vaccine, I got my first shingles shot a few weeks ago and the wife is scheduled to get hers pretty soon. It was definitely a day of general malaise. I am told the second shot is not as bad – but maybe they were fibbing to trick me into coming back? I will get my second shot in any case.

    1. Looks like we were posting at the same time. With me, the lethargy was worse after the second shot. Still better than getting shingles.

    2. The second shot was about the same as the first for us. Every inch of skin on my body hurt for about 12 hours. Then back to normal.

    3. FWIW. for me, and for everyone else I know, the second shingles shot was worse, but this is by no means a complaint.

    4. I didn’t notice either one. (Is that a good sign for immunity or a bad one?!) Except a little site soreness.

      I can tell you that you don’t want shingles! I know people deafened and blinded by it. For me, it resulted in: A very bad concussion (shingles caused me to pass out — it was like a bad case of the flu), likely contributed to a stroke a few weeks later (the neurologist said the concussion would not have done it; but the shingles probably did), and then permanent nerve damage in my left leg and left arm. My balance is affected (L leg). The L arm is functional but feels “weird” and a little weak sometimes.

      These put any minor side effects in the shade.

      Get your shingles shots! Well done getting yours.

      1. I had fairly severs side effects with both shingrix shots but FAR better than getting shingles. I’ll expect the same from my covid vaccine, whenever I finally get it.

      2. jblilie – Did you get the first shingles vaccine – the one that was less effective and was replaced by Shingrix? If you didn’t, I wonder if some of the difference in reaction lies there?

        1. I’m not him but I got both. I remember no reaction to the old one, very little for the first Shingrix, and a mild next-day funk after the second Shingrex.

          1. Me too, and soreness so slight I needed to find it and press on it to feel anything–at 78 years then on the clock–maybe that helps, being old!

    5. The only issue I had with the shingles shot was my extra sore arm like someone really punched me hard in it. The second shot wasn’t as bad for arm pain. However, I have chronic fatigue so I wouldn’t notice fatigue from a shot as I’d just think it was a regular fatigue day.

  15. I will be waiting for my vaccine. Yesterday was my 64.5 birthday. But they do not round up so I am in group 1C. Some thoughts about another vaccine – Shingrix. A two shot vaccine (taken 2 to 6 months apart). It has a high incidence of side effects. But as is pointed out, a bad day or two is better than getting the shingles. After both shots, I had 4-5 days of a pretty sore arm. The days after the shots, I was completely wiped out. These side effects seem to be common. My significant other had none – nothing. Not even a sore arm. Why some people have reactions and others do not should be explainable. I do not have a phobia about needles – I am a regular blood donor. I get a flu shot every year. Does not bother me in the least. In recent years, I have had both pneumonia vaccines and the TDAP vaccine. Nothing. I was surprised that I got side effects to Shingrix. Will be interesting to see what happens with the Covid jab.

    1. The physiology of individuals varies wildly (e.g. vasculature, etc.), let alone immune systems, genetics, past health history, etc., etc. Short answer: Your mileage may vary.

  16. How can these vaccines create herd immunity when they weren’t created to prevent infection of Covid-19 or to prevent one from being contagious, only to reduce the symptoms of the virus? This does not meet the traditional definition of a vaccine. It is more experimental gene therapy.

    1. Well that is just wrong. They were specifically engineered to have the maximum chance of targeting the virus before causing infection, by targeting the form of the spike protein before it binds to its target (the membrane-bound angiotensin-converting enzyme, aka ACE-2). That form was ensured by replacement of two amino acid residues in the spike with proline residues, effectively locking the conformation of the protein into the pre-binding form. Had they targeted something else on the viral surface, the virus could still bind and be attacked by antibodies while already having delivered its infectious load of RNA.

    2. The vaccine prevents you from getting sick. Once you have enough of the population vaccinated, you’re done. The protection is fairly durable.

      No vaccine, even the most effective, are 100% effective.

    3. I think it may have to do with a natural infection resulting in a broad ‘polyclonal’ immune response. You make antibodies against a wide range of molecular structures presented by the virus, including structures that get bound by antibodies without really stopping the virus. Many of the antibodies made are not very good at binding to their targeted site of the virus either. So in a natural infection, the really good antibodies are only a fraction of the total antibody response.
      But with a narrow-range vaccine, which focuses on building antibodies to the spike protein, you are making similar levels of antibodies as from a natural infection, but the antibodies made (and resulting memory cells made) are all targeted to the spike protein, and that is the vulnerability of this virus. So in this case vaccine based immunity is more effective than natural immunity. In this case.

    4. The vaccine is designed, as Hempenstein says, to reduce the penetration of the virus into cells ; that reduction means there are fewer of your cells co-opted by the virus to producing thousands to tens of thousands of new copies of the virus ; that reduces the amount of vaccine in your tissues, blood, and particularly upper respiratory tract (throat, nose) ; that in turn reduces the severe symptoms (such as hæmorrage into the lungs) and the minor symptoms (the persistent cough) ; that latter, in particular, will reduce the transmission.
      It’s a linked chain of effects, not independent effects.
      One of the (low-urgency) targets of research into the virus is about questions like “what viral load is necessary for someone to have a 50% probability of infecting someone in their home or workplace”. If you need, say, 15,000 viruses per millilitre of blood (an number pulled from my arse, and to be handled with appropriate tongs, gloves and masks), and having the vaccine (first dose) reduces the average viral loading to 10,000 viruses/ ml, with consequences all the way down the line from the personal (your severity of symptoms) to the population (your likelihood of infecting others). It’s low urgency research because we know well how viruses in general react – higher viral load, more symptoms, easier spread, and putting precise numbers to that for this virus isn’t going to change strategy for containment and elimination.
      If you’ve been getting the ideas you’re expressing from “news” sources, I’d examine your news sources very carefully – they seem to be propagating very poorly informed ideas.

      1. I agree. The news has been very poor at dealing with this issue. While they rightly tell viewers that science doesn’t know for sure that vaccination will reduce or eliminate transmission, they seem to leave it there, leading the viewer to perhaps conclude that it is only a 50/50 chance. As you describe, science has a very good reason to think that vaccination will slow or stop transmission.

        1. “Slow” transmission is a high-probability outcome. “Stop” transmission is a considerably more demanding goal. Particularly since “stopping” would require pretty high rates of distribution of the vaccine, which I’m quite unsure about the UK achieving, and very unsure about Germany, Portugal or the US achieving (to list the countries I’m getting (ir-)regular reports from) getting a high-enough uptake.
          Then there are the other 7000-odd million people to get effectively vaccinated to actually stop the virus and drive it back into it’s original (as yet unidentified) host population.
          Then the calls will start for the eradication of that population, and when people say “Nuke it from orbit”, not all of them will be joking. The disruption from that has a real chance of distributing other, related viruses into contact with people in a very predictable manner. So the next S.E.China originated pandemic we can call the “evitable” pandemic.
          Unless, of course, some delight emerges from the Mongala river, or – oh, this is absolutely replete with psychological horrors- a South American Candiru virus.

    5. One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is death. I think that alone is worth a vaccine. The US has seen over 400,000 deaths from COVID-19. I think you are misreading the information about vaccinating against SAR CoV-2. Jerry has posted information from his physician about COVID-19. Check out

      Aspirin is a treatment for the symptom ” headache” but it probably is not a treatment for the disease process that causes the headache. Vaccines do not treat symptoms, they prevent the disease process. There are a few questions around the periphery such as whether or not the vaccine could permit some people to become infected by SARS CoV-2 and pass that on to another person. This is a conjectural possibility. There is a lot to be known as yet.

      When I received my first vaccination last week I was given an information sheet that says, “The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is an unapproved vaccine that may prevent COVID-19. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to precent COVID-19…The FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 18 years of age and older…”

      Note that it does say “prevent.” It has not received final authorization because the vaccine has only been through phase one and phase two trials. I wouldn’t wait. It could take a year to complete final approval.

  17. I get my first jab this afternoon and my wife gets hers tomorrow. Looking forward to getting this done. Gov. Phil Murphy has done an excellent job with the vaccine rollout, considering how limited the supply is here in Jersey.

  18. Yesterday was day 90 of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trial that I am in. I was told at my appointment that they expect US approval of the vaccine any day now. That means that they will be able to tell the trial participants if they got the vaccine or the placebo. That way the placebo group can arrange to get one of the vaccines currently in the pipeline. I had a mild immune reaction after getting the first jab, (chills, slight fever and fatigue) so I’m convinced I got the vaccine. I’ll know for sure soon!

    1. Interesting to see that one roll out too as it’s DNA not mRNA like the current Pfizer & Moderna vaccines.

    2. I had a mild immune reaction after getting the first jab, (chills, slight fever and fatigue) so I’m convinced I got the vaccine. I’ll know for sure soon!

      Psychosomatic symptoms can be so convincing. That’s why 90% of drivers think they are better than average.

    3. I would not be confident of fast US approval of the Oxford/AZ vaccine in the US.
      (1) They haven’t filed for approval yet; though nor has J&J;
      (2) Their Phase 3 that got them the UK approval was squirrely, with different dosing in different countries, half-doses for some first shots; there was widespread criticism of the quality of the data when it was announced. As I understand it, and someone please correct me if I am wrong, they were going to do a whole new Phase 3 before submitting for US approval;
      (3) But at least J&J did a clean Phase 3 and is expected to file for approval soon – which I believe means within a week or three; and hope for the same sort of speed at the FDA that Pfizer and Moderna got, turnaround within a couple of weeks.

  19. The sooner everyone can get vaccinated the better we will be and the broken economy can be fixed. The disgusting performance by the last administration has made this much worse than it needed to be. I got my immunity the hard way about one month ago. I can also say that the reactions from the vaccine as detailed here is nothing compared to getting this virus. Everyone who gets it is affected in different ways and it seems no two are alike. For me it was far worst than any flu I’ve had in the past. I would find it hard to compare to the flu. My wife got it at the same time as I, right around the first of Jan. so we have no idea how or who got it first. She got through it much better than I so who knows, must be in the genes. If the start date for us was the first today would be day 27. I have finally begun improving just in the last 3 or 4 days. I did not think it would ever end. When I can get in line I will also get the vaccination but listen to the professor and get the vaccinations soon as you can.

      1. Yes, I hear the same. You do not want to blow off getting the vaccination thinking getting the virus takes care of you. I’m told it gives you some months and that’s about it. Just one more of a thousand reasons this is not the way to go.

        1. It seems strange to me that the vaccine gives longer protection than getting the disease itself. How might that work?

          I had the real thing a couple of months ago (very mild), so I’m hoping I’m protected for at least a while. My strategy is that I no longer need to be first in line and that I would benefit from waiting a while. There’s no advantage to overlapping the natural protection from that induced by the vaccine and perhaps the lines will be shorter.

          1. You are very lucky with the mild effects. The poor immunity from getting the virus is odd to me as well but I did not question the doctors on that. I was probably too sick to question it.

            1. Perhaps since I’m 68 I was lucky but I don’t have too many underlying conditions. My wife also got it (first) and had mild symptoms also. I think a lot of people don’t suffer too much which probably contributes to the lack of diligence on masking, social distancing, etc. Most don’t know anyone who’s died from it or even been to the hospital. That’s the case for both of us.

    1. Good to hear you’re getting better.

      The sooner everyone can get vaccinated

      We’re well into the second million of vaccinees (?) here, if not getting into the third million. Taking a wild-arsed guess that globally the vaccinee count is somewhere between 5 and 10 million, that would mean around 7790 to 7850 million to go.
      Progress. The vulnerable population is only increasing around 50million a year faster than we’re vaccinating, so far. Pro rata, the vulnerable population may actually be decreasing.

  20. Two jabs! Great news. I may be lucky because here in Idaho, there are folks who probably still think the whole thing is a hoax. That should put me further up in line. 😊

  21. Thanks for letting us know your experience with the vaccine. I have no idea when I’ll be able to get jabbed. I have two friends who got lucky and got the vaccine early. A couple weeks back, a severe wind storm knocked out power across western Washington; there is a reservation that received a lot of doses and then lost power. Since they would be wasted outside of cold storage, the Native American community allowed for a “first come, first serve” scenario. Had to be at the right place, right time, or know the right people. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

  22. I had my first jab last week at the University of Washington Medical Center. Very well organized. I had a sore arm for 24 hours. Can’t wait for my next shot, side effects and all.

    1. On the interval. I read from an authoritative source that a little longer is actually better because it gives more time for the first shot to prep your immune system. I was supposed to get my second shot (Pfizer) in three weeks but scheduling issues have stretched that to nearly four weeks. Of course I got worried, but the doc told me to relax.

        1. Which is why the designers – the virologists, immunologists and biochemists – opted for a delay of about 30000 minutes, not 5 minutes and not 60000 minutes between the jabs. Of course, what would they know about such things?

          I do understand the argument about getting some protection for more people by increasing the delay, but to quadruple it is really stretching the numbers. Doubling the delay would have been quite a stretch, and would have achieved around half of the effect they desired at much lower cost in credibility. And credibility has been in terribly short supply in these days AD (After Dominic, not BC Before Cummings).

  23. My guess is that most people like your friend will eventually get the vaccine. They view statistics as abstract and their source untrustworthy. However, after having several conversations like yours, they’ll realize that people they know aren’t dropping dead due to the vaccine. They may also come up against situations where they are denied access due to being unvaccinated. All of these things will combine to turn the tide. That’s my theory anyway.

    1. Luckily only about three-quarters of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Unfortunately, we know from political polls that around 40% of the population are complete idiots.

      1. Like the herd immunity we have had against TB for several millennia (thank you, some Egyptian embalmers for preserving the evidence) measles until a couple of years ago, and malaria for as long as we’ve had a species. Overwhelmingly, unimportant (to the political classes) people die.

  24. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve had both vaccinations and that it’s gone relatively smoothly.

    Here in the UK we’re going well with the vaccination programme, though it’s inevitably limited by supply. We’re using both the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca, the latter being the more practical due to its easier storage. The problem is that the second dose is not being delivered until up to twelve weeks after the first. The theory is that it’s the first shot that gives the most protection so the aim is to get as many people receive their first shot…but virologist advice is pretty dismayed at the decision. I might say that there’s even been a suggestion of mixing vaccination types, but that probably is pragmatism taken too far!

  25. We can thank the Trump Administration for just about everything negative with the vaccine rollout. The Wash Post reported today on the latest scandal, an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic. The 200-page investigation …showed the money paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and even the removal of office furniture.

    So far only about 3.5 million people, about 1% of the population, have received full immunization.

  26. Re. “a miracle”, how about instead of a noun or adjective, turn it into an adverb and say that the speed of achieving a workable vaccine was miraculous.

    Re. getting 6 doses/vial – one way of achieving that is minimization of the dead volume in the syringe, as Rich Condit mentioned early (IIRC) in the latest edition of TWiV.

    Otherwise, just out of academic interest, does anyone know how the RNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is being produced? The TWiV team did not think that it was via chemical synthesis, but elsewhere in a more popular account (it may have been Forbes) it was stated to be chemical synthesis.

  27. And remember, jabs went into arms less than a year after the virus first began its depredations in China.

    I’ve seen the term, depredation, but wanted to know for sure what it means. The dictionary says it’s something like ransacking, plundering or destruction. It didn’t seem correct for a virus, but it’s actually a brilliant metaphor!

    Can Americans around here give an idea how the vaccination is paid? Is this for free, or do you have to have it covered by your insurance?

    1. Yes that is the meaning… English is pretty flexible – Professor Ceiling Cat [Emeritus] thinks a tad too much! 😄

    2. As I understand it, the vaccine will be free to everyone. Those who have insurance may (I don’t know) have their insurance charged for it; but no-one is supposed to have an out-of-pocket payment. The vaccine itself as it leaves the factories is paid for by the US government.

  28. I have to say, I find it hard to understand your friend refusing to listen to a geneticist! Sad.

    I assume you pointed out the death rate from getting the illness?

    The EU losing their rag over Astra Zeneca is interesting. It us hard to know who is at fault but on the radio an Economist journalist said the EU was tardy in signing contracts. The EU says it was not a first come first served situation.

      1. A cup of tea (really badly made – it’s traditional!) and a biscuit (limp and soggy, before it disintegrates into the tea) is the normal post-jab nibbles.
        The nibbles actually serve the important point of unobtrusively keeping the recently-perforated under the overview of staff for a short time so any early bad reactions can be picked up. It’s not an accidental part of the pipeline.

        1. Here in Freiburg, Germany, you have to pay for your coffee while waiting your 15 minutes following the jab sitting on chairs sufficiently spaced.

    1. Yes, everyone gets a CDC Vaccination Record Card, which you should definitely save (and copy!) for travel. I would have shown mine but it has my patient number on it, which is confidential medical information. It has spaces for when you got the first and second dose, your name, birth date, and, crucially, the vaccine and lot number.

      As for Passport, there isn’t one yet (I asked). Eventually there will be an app that you can put on your phone to record the information for traveling, but as for now I’m having my vaccination record card (about 1.2X the size of a credit card) laminated.

      1. Absolutely definitely save it for travel. If you’re planning on travelling in the next decade or two.
        I looked out my “yellow book” booklet of vaccination records and filed it with my longest-to-run- passport ready to go to the vaccination centre with me. When I get my appointment.

      2. Fancy! We got a “fill it in yourself” card to record dates and batch numbers of vaccine. They did lend me a pen t fill it in. I can of course print the data from my records, but some sort of internationally recognized documentation seems to be necessary.

  29. Got mine for free from work: Moderna vaccine on Jan 14. Minor soreness for me, but my wife had major swelling, redness, and it was sore. Her reaction lasted for days. Second jab scheduled for mid February. The organization of the vaccination went well, and people mostly stayed 6 ft apart in a HS gym, but my feeling was that too many people were in the gym, made worse by the need to wait 15 minutes before leaving. We have been given the day off for the 2nd jab, as well as the next day. So I consider myself extremely lucky so far (at age 69).

  30. I got my first COVID vaccination shot at the U of Chgo too, even though I live in the suburbs, because I’ve seen a doctor at U of Chgo’s Orland Park facility. The trip up the Dan Ryan Expressway was something else, with much of the traffic going about 20 mph over the limit. Once in the hospital, I had to walk down so many corridors that I’m sure I would have gotten lost without the helpful arrows on the wall. The people who worked in the clinic were friendly and efficient. I got a sore shoulder, but I was able to weight lift the next day without a problem despite the soreness.

  31. If there is one thing that burns my onions about this vaccine miracle of medicine, it’s debate about expense. It could cost $5 billion…the shameless profiteering of the pharma industry…blah blah blah. The US alone is about to fork out another $1.9 trillion in taxpayer money as just a stopgap measure to contain the economic damage this virus has wrought. $20B is a joke of a rounding error. And delivered in a single year, at unimaginable scale, using brand new technology, and provides 95% protection (virtually unheard of efficacy for a vaccine right out of the gate).

    Bill Gates, the US govt, etc. garner all kinds of attention as helping make this happen. BS. Thank you Pfizer and Moderna and BioNTech! Those scientists saved our bacon…again…and they should all win a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pfizer alone was prepared to take a $2B loss…just to do the right thing for human health. And all the govts and billionaires in the world get press, demanding solutions but then they have nothing to spend their money on aside from masks. Scientists did this for humanity. $5B!…the US was prepared to spend that on a wall.

  32. Congrats, Jerry! I sure hope your friend will see the light and get vaccinated. She should know that severe allergic reactions are rare and generally in people who already have serious allergies.

    The lucky ones who get vaccinated should continue to practice the pandemic safety protocols (mask, lots of hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing), at least till after the second dose, just in case their bodies haven’t developed enough immunity yet.

    In fact, they should continue following safety measures until the pandemic ends, because there isn’t enough data on how well vaccinated people might act as silent carriers.

    Safety protocols are most definitely required after just the first dose of a two-dose vaccine. This poor PSW, working in a LTC with outbreaks, got COVID three days after his first dose and is now on a ventilator:

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