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Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine: What We Know So Far



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Sarah Tew / CNET

Visit the WHO website for the most current news and information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Now that the first Covid-19 vaccine has been permission for emergency use granted of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some wonder about the possible side effects of the vaccination.

Despite rampant fears and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, official data proves that the vaccine is not as scary as some people think. In fact, the most commonly reported side effects are quite mild and should go away in a few days.

Read in this article what to expect if you have get the COVID-19 vaccine.

read more: Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Free?

General side effects of the vaccine

All vaccines have possible side effects of mild to moderate severity. Typical side effects of vaccines include localized pain, swelling, redness and sometimes bruising at the injection site, as well as fever and fatigue, says Dr. Roshni Mathew, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Stanford Children’s Health.

With any vaccination, you can expect a little pain during and after the injection, says Dr. Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at Indiana University. Dr. Duszynski adds that some people may develop chills, fatigue, or mild headaches after vaccinations.

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Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, will be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester.

Mark Lennihan / Getty Images

Reported side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Swelling at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine side effects

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists a number of additional side effects for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including muscle pain, joint pain, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes (PDF). The FDA notes that most people experienced these side effects after the drug second dose of the vaccine.

Side effects of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Clinical trial results published in The Lancet, mild to moderate side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine were comparable to mild side effects of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Note that the AstraZeneca vaccine trial was suspended after a volunteer developed symptoms of neurological disorders.

Trials were resumed after a safety assessment confirmed that symptoms were unrelated to the vaccine. It is not uncommon for clinical studies to pause for safety reviews, as diseases can occur by chance during large, long-term studies.

Side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Again, common side effects remain typical: injection site pain and swelling, chills, fever, fatigue, and headache (pdf). In a press release from the company summarizing the Phase 3 analysis of the clinical trial, Moderna reported that “no serious adverse events were noted during the trial.”

Several other COVID-19 vaccines are in the works, and of the vaccines reported data to date, the most common side effects are injection site pain and swelling, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, and nausea – nothing abnormal .

Serious side effects

Few serious side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have been reported, according to the FDA and CDC. In the UK, two people with known severe allergies developed allergic reactions after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and both recovered. Last Tuesday, December 15, a health worker in Alaska experienced a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine and was still under observation in the hospital as of December 16.

During Pfizer’s clinical studies, no serious allergic reactions were reported in the more than 40,000 trial volunteers. While serious allergic reactions are likely to be rare, “it would be important for individuals with known allergies to talk to their healthcare provider before receiving the vaccine,” says Duszynski.

The CDC recommends a thorough risk assessment and possible postponement of the vaccine for people with a history of severe allergies to other vaccines, and avoidance of vaccination for people with a history of severe allergies to the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine and Bell’s Palsy

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The FDA is overseeing additional cases of Bell’s Palsy.

Sarah Tew / CNET

People are raising the alarm on social media because four participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine study developed a condition called Bell’s Palsy during the studies. Bell’s Palsy includes temporary weakness or paralysis in the facial muscles, which certainly sounds scary, but all four volunteers have since recovered (most people with Bell’s Palsy fully recover within weeks to three months).

The FDA briefing on the Pfizer vaccine reports that “the four cases in the vaccine group do not represent a frequency higher than expected in the general population,” so no causal relationship can be established. The FDA continues to monitor cases of Bell’s Palsy as the vaccine is more widely distributed.

Why do vaccines cause side effects?

Side effects such as fever, chills, and fatigue after a vaccination indicate that your immune system is responding to the vaccine, Duszynski says. “Even if you don’t experience it [side effects], it does not mean that your immune system is not working; it’s just a bit of a slower work, ”he says.

As for bruising, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site, your body will likely react the same way after a needle pierces your skin for a different purpose. These side effects can occur after any vaccine, as well as when people get blood or receive steroid injections or vitamin injections.

How long do the side effects from the vaccine last?

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The side effects of the vaccine usually only last a few days.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Typically, side effects from the vaccine don’t last more than a few days, Mathew says. Some people may experience side effects for several days. Side effects directly related to the injection site, such as bruising and redness, should resolve relatively quickly, while whole-body side effects such as fever and headache may last longer.

If you still have side effects for a week or more after getting a vaccine – COVID-19 or otherwise – call your doctor or go to an emergency room. If you think the effects are life-threatening (such as a severe allergic reaction), seek immediate medical attention.

Are there any long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

At this point, it is far too early to determine if the COVID-19 vaccines cause long-term side effects, although experts are convinced that the vaccines are safe. The CDC, WHO, FDA, and other health agencies will continue to monitor long-term effects and collect data as more people receive the vaccine.


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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as 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.


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