Coronavirus Vaccine Side Effects: What to Expect and How to Manage Them
Apr 28, 2021

Coronavirus vaccine side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are generally temporary, mild, and manageable. They’re also a good sign your body is responding to the vaccine. With a little preparation, you will be able to rest easy after getting vaccinated. Here’s what you can expect.

Coronavirus vaccine side effects are common, but most go away within a couple of days.
coronavirus vaccine side effects are generally mild and temporary

Image from CDC via Unsplash

Not everyone feels side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But those who do might experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

These symptoms generally only last a day or two, but they can be uncomfortable. If you can, schedule some time for yourself after your appointment. That way, you don’t have to stress about how you might react after getting vaccinated.

Most people can take pain relievers to ease their side effects after getting vaccinated.

If you have any of the common side effects after your vaccine, talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicines (OTCs).

You might be tempted to take an OTC such as Tylenol before getting the shot to head off these side effects, but health experts say you shouldn’t. Some of these medications affect your body’s immune system, which means taking them ahead of time could potentially make the vaccine less effective.

Women tend to report more side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines than men.

According to a recent report released by the CDC, women are reporting more side effects from COVID-19 vaccines than men. In fact, almost 80% of the nearly 7,000 side effects reported from December 2020–January 13 came from women. The most frequently reported side effects were headache, fatigue, and dizziness. Based on these reports, women are also more likely to experience the vaccines’ more unusual side effects like an itchy rash at the injection site, otherwise known as “COVID arm.”

Right now, it’s hard to tell if women really do experience more side effects due to the vaccines or if they’re just more likely to report them. Side effects or not, the vaccines are working in both men and women.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility.

According to a joint statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), there is no evidence that the vaccines can lead to loss of fertility. No clinical trial participants reported a loss of fertility. And neither have any of the millions of people who have now received the vaccines.

Pregnant people with COVID-19 infection have an increased risk for complications including fetal death. The CDC now stresses that people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and those planning pregnancy should be vaccinated.

COVID vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 or alter your DNA.

COVID vaccines do not contain anything that’s infectious — so you cannot get coronavirus from the vaccine.

In the case of mRNA vaccines, they contain a piece of mRNA, a molecule found in all of our cells. mRNA vaccines tell your cells to produce the same spike protein found on the coronavirus so that the body can learn to fight it. Then the mRNA breaks up and dissipates. If your body is ever infected with the actual COVID-19 virus, it will attack it right away because it already knows what to look out for, protecting you from getting seriously sick. The mRNA doesn’t go near, alter, or damage your DNA.

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Serious reactions after one of the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely rare.

The vaccine safety monitoring systems in place in the U.S. have identified a few very rare, but serious, health risks related to the COVID-19 vaccines that currently have Emergency Use Authorization, including blood clots, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), and myocarditis. While these rare risks might sound scary, COVID-19 can cause them too and still poses a greater threat for the vast majority of people. 

Similarly, just like people can be allergic to things like strawberries or penicillin, some people might have a rare, but more serious, allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it generally happens quickly and can be treated by healthcare providers where you got the vaccine. That is why you should stay put for 15 minutes after vaccination. If you experience a severe allergic reaction later, you should seek immediate medical treatment.

Vaccine side effects can be uncomfortable, but they’re nothing compared to COVID-19.

With COVID-19 continuing to rampage the world, getting a coronavirus vaccine is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your community. Once you get your vaccine, make sure that you are scheduled to get the second dose (if there is one) so that you’re as fully protected as possible.

Remember, the risks that come from getting the COVID-19 virus generally far outweigh the side effects of the vaccine.

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, be sure to check out science-based resources like Vaccinate Your Family.

Note: Updated on August 2, 2021. 

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