Is the Pfizer vaccine safe? Pfizer vs AstraZeneca safety explained

Boris Johnson reveals he will receive AstraZeneca vaccine

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Three Covid vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna have been approved for use in the UK. Millions of UK recipients have received either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine to date, which have both shown to offer significant protection from Covid-19. As well as helping to protect people against serious illness and death from coronavirus, it is hoped widespread vaccine rollout will help to ease lockdown measures in the UK and allow life to return to normality.

Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?

According to the NHS, millions of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare and no long-term complications have been reported.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was subject to rigorous testing for safety before it was approved by the UK regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Like all vaccines, the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine can cause side effects.

However, most of the side effects reported in clinical studies were “mild to moderate” in nature, according to the Government’s vaccine guidance.

In recent weeks, several countries in Europe have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, pending investigations into whether the vaccine causes blood clots.

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has now concluded the AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe and effective”.

The European regulator added it “cannot rule out definitively” a link between “a small number of cases of rare and unusual but very serious blood clotting disorders” and the vaccine, though investigations are ongoing.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said there was “no evidence that blood clots in veins is occurring more than would be expected in the absence of vaccination, for either vaccine.”

At Thursday’s Downing Street press briefing, Boris Johnson urged people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are offered it, to help protect them against Covid-19.

Not only has the AstraZeneca vaccine been found to be safe, but data also shows the vaccine is highly effective at protecting people against Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines: “After a single dose of either vaccine, protection against Covid-19 is around 60 percent, that’s protection against getting it, protection against hospitalisation is around 80 percent and protection against death is around 85 percent.”

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Is the Pfizer vaccine safe?

Like the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine has also passed rigorous safety checks in the UK.

The MHRA approved the Pfizer vaccine as the first Covid vaccine to be rolled out in the UK last year, and since then millions of people have received it.

Like the AstraZeneca vaccine, there is also a risk of side effects from the Pfizer vaccine too, but cases of severe side effects have been rare.

Very common side effects, which may affect more than one in 10 people who have the Pfizer vaccine, include:

  • pain at injection site
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, used a packet of paracetamol to demonstrate all medicines have side effects at a recent coronavirus briefing at Downing Street.

Professor Van-Tam said: “All medicines have side effects and all medicines have benefits.

“That’s the whole point, that you have to look at both sides and say: ‘How big are the benefits in relation to the risks?’”

Reading from a paracetamol packet’s datasheet, Professor Van-Tam said: “The rare side effects are allergic reactions such as skin rash, mouth sores, fever, difficulty breathing, [being] more prone to bleeding, bruising, fever, infections, nausea, sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, jaundice, yellowing of the eyes and skin.

“Those are documented rare side effects of paracetamol, but we all understand the benefits of them and this is no different a situation.”

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