The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking people who take a COVID-19 vaccine to download a smartphone app so it can continue to track side effects.
The app, called V-Safe, uses text messages and web surveys from the CDC to check in with patients who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.
The app will also remind patients when it's time to go back for a second shot.
Patients can expect to experience mild symptoms like fever, headache and muscle aches after taking the vaccine. But doctors, like Dr. Grace Lee — the associate chief medical officer for practice innovation at Stanford Children's Health and a member of the CDC's vaccine advisory panel — say those side effects don't tend to last very long.
"We hope that patients will be willing to engage in the system, recognizing it does take some time," Lee said. "But it's really important for all of us in the U.S. to make sure that we are helping to create a robust vaccine safety monitoring system for all COVID vaccines."
Lee says that because clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines have been so large — with 30,000 to 60,000 people in each trial, compared to just several thousand for a typical trial — there's already a lot known about the vaccines.
The trials have shown no major safety risks thus far, but Lee says rare adverse events can happen — like the two healthcare workers in Alaska earlier this week who suffered anaphylactic allergic reactions with the Pfizer vaccine. The side effects reported by those two patients were similar to the ones suffered by two people in the U.K. earlier this month.
Lee says that's why the CDC is counting on as many people as possible to use V-Safe.
"My hope is that if the numbers are high," Lee said. "It just means it gives us more information more quickly, and so for anything rare that might occur, we would be able to pick it up much more quickly."
V-Safe send text messages to patients, asking them how they are feeling for up to six weeks after their shots. The CDC says the questions take less than five minutes to answer and that the information patients provide will be confidential and private.