The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is the first vaccine approved for use within the European Union. This vaccine is called Comirnaty and protects you against the disease COVID-19. You should know this further.
Who in the Netherlands receives the Pfizer vaccine?
In January, acute care hospital workers, such as ambulance workers, were given the Pfizer vaccine. Employees of nursing homes will also be vaccinated with this vaccine from January.
Residents of nursing homes and institutions for people with intellectual disabilities receive this vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. The vaccination of this group will start on 18 January.
People over 60 living at home may receive the Pfizer vaccine from mid-February. It is also possible that (part of) this group will be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine is not currently approved for use in the EU.
How well does this Pfizer vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
The effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine is high, at 95 percent. This means that out of 100 people who would get COVID-19 without the vaccine, only five will become ill after vaccination.
The Pfizer vaccine also protects the elderly and those at risk for severe COVID-19 well, such as those who are obese.
How long does the vaccine work?
According to the Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB), we know that this vaccine works well for at least three months. The vaccine probably works much longer.
However, there are too few people who received this vaccine more than three months ago to be able to say this with complete certainty.
From what moment does this vaccine work?
The Pfizer vaccine consists of two doses. You are not expected to be protected against COVID-19 for the first two weeks after you receive the first dose of this vaccine. After that, you are probably already a bit protected.
The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given three weeks after the first injection. This second dose ensures that your immune system is revitalized and the protection is better. The previously mentioned effectiveness of 95 percent applies from seven days after the second dose.
Can you still spread the corona virus after vaccination?
It is not yet clear how well this vaccine prevents you from passing on the corona virus. Experts expect this vaccine to lower the chance that you will spread the coronavirus. More research is only needed to say with certainty how much smaller that chance will be.
What are the main side effects?
After vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine, people mainly suffer from pain at the site of the injection, fatigue and headaches. These side effects usually last one to two days. There is no evidence that Pfizer’s vaccine causes serious side effects.
What about rare side effects?
Before this vaccine was approved, more than 17,000 people were already receiving the vaccine from Pfizer in a research context. Because of this, we know the common, and slightly less common, side effects of this vaccine. The chance of rare side effects or side effects in the long term is small, according to the MEB. Very rare side effects that occur only 1 in 50,000 times, for example, cannot be ruled out. That is why this vaccine is also further researched after authorization.
It is known that there is a very small chance that people will have a serious allergic reaction from the vaccination. These reactions, if they occur, occur soon after vaccination. For this reason, everyone is monitored for 15 minutes after vaccination.
Who is this vaccine not suitable for?
Pfizer’s vaccine is not approved for children under the age of 16. This is because the efficacy and safety of this vaccine has not yet been sufficiently studied in this group. However, there is no evidence that the vaccine does not work or is unsafe for children.
Furthermore, according to the MEB, this vaccine is not recommended for people who are allergic to one of the components of the vaccine.
The RIVM advises pregnant women to not be vaccinated until after their pregnancy. Not because there are indications that it is risky for them, but because few pregnant women took part in the vaccine study. According to the MEB, experiments with pregnant mice have not revealed any indications that the vaccine poses any risks for this group.
Some people are advised to check with a doctor before taking the vaccine. These are people who fall into the following groups:
- People who have a poor immune system due to illness or certain medicines.
- People who use blood thinners or have a disease that makes their blood less likely to clot.
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction after vaccination in the past.
There are several reasons why it is recommended to consult a doctor in advance with the above groups. For example, in people who take blood thinners, it may be necessary to consult with the thrombosis service about when you will be vaccinated.
How does this vaccine work?
Pfizer’s vaccine is a so-called mRNA vaccine. This vaccine contains the recipe for a piece of the coronavirus. We call the recipe mRNA.
If the vaccine is in your body, it will make the pieces of the coronavirus. You cannot get COVID-19 from this piece, but it does train your immune system. This training ensures that the corona virus can be quickly defused if you come into contact with it.
After the pieces of coronavirus have been created, the body quickly breaks down the vaccine. Contrary to what has been reported in various posts on Facebook and Twitter, these vaccines are unable to change your DNA.
What if the coronavirus changes?
The corona virus is reasonably stable, according to Ton de Boer, chairman of the MEB. He does not expect that the vaccine will no longer be effective due to mutations. It is possible that mutations make the vaccine less effective. That is why research is being done.
So far there are no indications that this vaccine is less effective against the British and South African variant of the corona virus. Scientists at Pfizer announced January 8 that lab research indicates that the vaccine works well against these variants.
If you are invited to make a vaccination appointment and you have medical questions, for example because you have an immune disorder or a serious allergy, ask your doctor these questions. Read here the most important information about the other vaccine that is now authorized, the Moderna vaccine.