HONOLULU (KHON) – It took less than a year for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to go from development and into the arms of millions of Americans, leading some to question the safety of taking a “rushed” vaccination shot.
Dr. David Fitz-Patrick, chief facilitator who oversaw 565 Hawaii volunteers in Pfizer’s vaccine efficacy trial, says people should not hesitate.
“This was such a severe pandemic, the dollars were put into this very quickly,” he explained. “Generally, drug companies are putting money up slowly because they don’t want to risk billions of dollars on something that won’t work.
“The science was done correctly so people can be very reassured this is a safe vaccine,” said Fitz-Patrick.
Retired Honolulu police detective Gary Lahens was one of the volunteers.
“They gave me the first shot in September. I didn’t feel any symptoms. By October, I took another shot,” said Lahens.
His second vaccine shot came with side effects.
“I started having major chills. My hands were shaking, my teeth were rattling. Got a little bit scary. They gave us a thermometer, I checked. I said oh my God, I have a 102-degree fever.”
Lahens’ symptoms lasted for less than a day and he says he has no regrets.
“If no one volunteers, how are we gonna get over this major world crisis that we have? It’s better to have chills than to be in a hospital and you are about to die.”
Fitz-Patrick said Lahens reaction to the vaccine is something that can happen with any other vaccination shot.
“It happens to a minority of people. It usually occurs the night you get the vaccine, and it’s gone the following morning.”
Over 20 million Americans have received the Pfizer vaccine as of Thursday, Jan. 21. Fitz-Patrick said, there have been reports of fatigue, headache, aches and soreness at the injection site.
He says no other serious side effects have been reported other than rare anaphylactic reactions.
While the urge to end the pandemic has always been a pressing issue, Fitz-Patrick believes the recent discovery of more contagious COVID strains adds another layer of urgency.
“So far we know the Pfizer vaccine is active against the UK strain,” he explains.
“If new variants come out that are more infective, it’s possible we will see a tripling or quadrupling of cases of COVID-19. The problem is, it is so infectious that the number of cases will go up by so much. Even if the death rate is the same, that’s a lot more people that will die from this. We’re facing a bleak future if we don’t get enough people immunized.”
Fitz-Patrick says research has shown the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19.