Volunteers Who Took Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine Complained of ‘Severe Hangover’

Other side-effects included headaches, muscle pain, fever and feeling "like the bells ringing when World War I ended."
covid vaccine
Photos courtesy of Emin BAYCAN via Unsplash (L), Usman Yousaf via Unsplash (R)

When Dr Seuss wrote The Waiting Place, he was probably referring to 2020, which has been all about waiting for a vaccine to come out and restart life. For a few volunteers though, the vaccine has already entered their system.

After Pfizer’s claim that their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective, based on initial trial results, it gave a lot of hope to everyone. But volunteers in the phase three trial for the vaccine have reported the jab’s effects felt like a “severe hangover”. Many of them claimed that quite like vaccines for flu, the shot left them with muscle pain, headaches and fever. 


The trial was run by the pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech that included around 43,500 people from six different countries. 38,955 enrolled volunteers received the second dose of the vaccine on November 8.

One of the volunteers of the trial, a 45-year-old publicist was quoted by the Press Association (PA) as saying that the first dose left her with fever, headache and body ache, which she compared to those of a flu injection. After her second vaccine shot though, she reported the side-effects to be much worse.

One of the other volunteers, Texan lobbyist Glenn Deshields, told PA that he compared the vaccine’s side-effects to that of a “severe hangover”, but claimed that the symptoms disappeared quickly. He further went on to compare his vaccine experience to the end of World War I. “My grandfather, one of his first memories was of the bells ringing when World War I ended,” the lobbyist from Austin was quoted as saying. “It was a horrific war and horrible things happened and people were just happy it was over with. In my mind, I felt the same way … I kind of felt it was something like that. Thank God, it’s going to be over at some point.”

The double-blind method, in which the volunteers are not aware if they’ve been given a vaccine or a placebo, is being used for the vaccine trial for the mRNA-based Pfizer and BioNtech BNT162b2. As of now, there is still no clarity on how effective the vaccine is by age and ethnicity, and how long immunity may last.


Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. In the UK, which has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine including 10 million requested before the end of the year, those most at risk will be first in line to receive the immunisation.

Around a dozen vaccines are in the final stages of testing, but the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to show results. The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer, said on Thursday it has made 40 million doses of AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine, and would soon begin making Novavax's rival shot, as they both seek regulatory approval.

Last month, in October, Russia signed up with Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories to collaborate on Sputnik V vaccine’s clinical trials and work on distribution modules in India.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated to credit the source of the quotes.

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