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A CDC analysis reported that in the first month of vaccination (December 14, 2020 to January 13, 2021), the anaphylactic rate of COVID-19 vaccinations was 4.5 per million doses, within the range of rates seen with other common vaccines, “says Dr. Nicholas Pantaleo, general practitioner and internist at Westmed Medical Group.” Most of these serious allergic reactions occurred within 15 minutes of the vaccine injection. ”
An allergic reaction and side effects are two very different things – and knowing the differences is key to understanding your symptoms. Keep reading below to learn more about how to know if you’re experiencing normal side effects from the vaccine or if your symptoms could be something else.
Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine
Experiencing side effects after getting a vaccine is completely normal. If you feel sick after being vaccinated, it doesn’t mean the vaccine made you sick – it’s just a sign that the vaccine is working and doing its job in your body. “Common side effects of vaccination include pain in the arm at the injection site with redness and swelling, now known as ‘COVID arm’.” Because the vaccine works, patients may also feel tired, weak or [and have] headache, muscle aches, chills, fever and nausea, ”says Pantaleo.
Common side effects of the vaccine:
- Pain in the arm at the injection site with redness and swelling
- Feeling tired / fatigued
- muscle strain
According to Pantaleo, symptoms disappear within 48 to 72 hours of vaccination in most people.
Signs of a serious allergic reaction
Most serious allergic reactions occur within 15 minutes of being vaccinated, which is why if you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you will likely be asked to wait 15 minutes before you go, in case you have a reaction. It is important to wait according to the instructions and report any symptoms to the vaccination staff on site.
The most serious allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty in breathing or close your throat. “If you experience tightness in the throat or difficulty breathing, the patient should call immediately or go to the nearest emergency room for evaluation. This is treated with epinephrine or an EpiPen,” says Pantaleo.
“Non-serious allergic reactions include hives, swelling or wheezing within 4 hours of the vaccine,” he says. If you experience any of these symptoms and think it is an allergic reaction, you should immediately call your doctor or seek medical expertise to determine what to do.
Again, if you are unsure whether any of your symptoms are normal or any other type of reaction, speak to your doctor to discuss your personal circumstances. In addition, if you have an allergic reaction to the first dose of your vaccine, you probably won’t receive the second dose, according to Pantaleo.
Who is at risk for an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pantaleo says the biggest risk factor for potentially having an allergic reaction from a vaccine is if you’ve had allergic reactions or anaphylaxis in the past. “While no specific vaccine component has been associated with anaphylaxis, a vaccine component called polyethylene glycol (PEG) has been associated with anaphylaxis in other clinical settings. The PEG product is currently found in Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines,” says Pantaleo.
If you know you are allergic to PEG, Johnson & Johnson notes that while the vaccine does not contain PEG, it does contain polysorbate, a known cross-reaction to PEG. So that means if you are sensitive to PEG, you could also be sensitive to polysorbate in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Again, if you’re not sure which vaccine is best for you and your history, talk to your doctor about your options.
Because the vaccines are relatively new, we don’t have all the answers on how and why allergic reactions occur, but we’ll know more shortly. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) is currently starting a study of COVID-19 vaccine reactions in individuals with a history of allergic reactions. vaccines, ”says Pantaleo.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.