Within several weeks millions of people will be lining up to get a coronavirus vaccination. What should they expect when it comes to side effects of the COVID vaccine? We have some sense based on the modest amount of data released by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech in their public announcements. We also have read reports from some patients who volunteered to be part of the clinical trials.
What Do the Insiders Say About Side Effects?
The COVID vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, suggests that about 10% to 15% of recipients will experience “significantly noticeable” reactions. The immune system response to the vaccination can trigger fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches.
Some people have injection site reactions that make the arm red and sore. The response may be apparent for more than a day, and during that time it may be difficult to work due to fatigue. Dr. Slaoui admits, however, that “the very long term safety is not yet understood.”
Volunteers Describe Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine:
One participant in the Moderna vaccine trial described the pain in his arm as severe, as if someone had been beating on it repeatedly. The side effects of the COVID vaccine are stronger than those of a typical flu shot.
Of course, COVID-19 is a lot worse than the flu. As we head towards 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus, it is clear that the typical influenza outbreak is nowhere near as lethal. And the concept of “Long Covid” is just starting to be acknowledged. These “long haulers” report symptoms that persist for months even after they have recovered from the initial infection.
If you would like to learn more about this puzzling phenomenon, here is a link to a podcast we created with two experts:
Show 1230: What Happens When COVID Symptoms Don’t Go Away
Even young healthy people may have trouble when COVID symptoms don’t go away for weeks or months. Find out what it’s like.
More Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine:
Other volunteers in the clinical trials say that the achy muscles and joints come on quickly. Fatigue and fever are close behind. But most of the subjects in the trials report that the symptoms fade within a day or two.
For some, though, the second shot produces a stronger reaction. Fatigue, fever, chills, nausea and headache can be debilitating for a day or longer. How high can the temperature go? We have heard of study subjects reporting a fever of 103 to 104 degrees F. In most cases, the temperature came down within a day.
Embracing the Symptoms?
One vaccine expert put a positive spin on the side effects of the COVID vaccine. He points out that the symptoms being reported demonstrate that the immune system is gearing up to recognize and fight off the virus.
One volunteer got his shot on a Tuesday and described it this way to STAT (Nov. 19, 2020):
“I had been warned I might feel sick after getting the injection. I felt fine through bedtime, which disappointed me because it made me think I had gotten the placebo.
“The next morning, though, I was paradoxically heartened to begin feeling feverish, fatigued, and achy — like I had a mild case of the seasonal flu. It felt good to feel bad. It wasn’t enough to keep me from my daily routine, but it did persist. I felt a little better every day, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I was back to normal.”
More Side Effect Information Coming Soon!
Unless you are a health care worker, there will be a lot more information about side effects before you will be able to get access to the coronavirus vaccine. Over the next several weeks, millions of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers will be first in line to get their shots. Older people in long-term care facilities will also get priority. As a result, public health authorities will soon have a lot more information about the range and incidence of side effects of the COVID vaccine. That will allow you to more fully assess both the benefits and risks of this immunization.
Being Honest About Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine:
It is important for people to know what to expect from the coronavirus immunization. Remember, this is a two-shot deal. If people cop out after the first injection, they won’t get full protection against COVID-19. That’s why realistic expectations are so important.
Please share your thoughts about the side effects of the COVID vaccine in the comment section below. If you were a volunteer in one of the vaccine trials, please share your experience.
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