COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Are Common, but Short Lived

Mar 04, 2021

Thousands of Ohioans have begun to get their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine—building their immunity to the dangerous effects of the virus that causes COVID-19. However, some people are experiencing side effects following this second dose.

This has left many people wondering: Should they avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Patients can experience side effects following any vaccine, and the COVID-19 vaccine is no different.

According to Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Weinstein, MD, you should still plan to get your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Side effects tend to be more severe with the second dose. They also appear to be more common,” Dr. Weinstein says. “You might have symptoms, but they will go away. These symptoms are minor compared to the consequences of getting COVID-19.”

Common side effects

The symptoms most reported after the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine were soreness in the arm at the injection site, fatigue, and body aches. More side effects are being documented with the second dose.

The most common second-dose side effects are

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache

Swollen lymph nodes in the arm have also been reported, but less so. Those who have a mammogram scheduled after their second dose should keep this side effect in mind: it may give a false-positive on a mammogram.

How to treat symptoms

Most side effects are short-lived, typically lasting between 24 and 48 hours. While symptoms resolve themselves, you can take Tylenol or Ibuprofen for relief. Currently, it is recommended that you not take anything for pain relief to prevent symptoms.

“There was one small study that raised the question of whether anti-inflammatories given before the vaccine would reduce your body’s response to the vaccine antigens,” Dr. Weinstein explains. “It has not been proven, but because of this slight concern, the CDC recommends not taking anything before your shot.”

When to not get the second dose

Dr. Weinstein encourages everyone to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, even if they had side effects after their first dose. The first dose does not protect the body from COVID-19. Instead, the first dose primes the immune system, and the second dose boosts it. Both doses are needed to build an immunity to COVID-19.  

Dr. Weinstein clarifies, though, that the only time it is not recommended to get both doses of the vaccine is if you had an anaphylactic reaction to the first.

“The biggest concern is people who have a severe reaction called anaphylaxis—people who start having breathing difficulties. But that is extremely rare,” Dr. Weinstein says. “It was only really seen in people who already have a history of anaphylactic reaction to other vaccines in the past.”

The COVID-19 vaccines have provided our communities with a glimmer of hope that this pandemic will one day be over. Getting fully vaccinated is how we’ll get there. And while the vaccine does have side-effects, like most vaccines, these short-lived side effects are a much better alternative to the effects of COVID-19.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine

If you are scared to get your vaccine and want more information, you can learn more through the CDC and Ohio Department of Health. If you have any other concerns, Dr. Weinstein recommends you talk to your provider. But, ultimately, he recommends getting both doses of the vaccine.

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