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Unexpected Benefits and Risks of the Moderna Vaccine

We have learned a lot about the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine over the last few months. Here are more unanticipated pros and cons

When most people think of COVID vaccines, all they are interested in is how well they will protect them from being hospitalized with COVID-19. After all, that is why these shots were invented. We now know that the vaccines are quite effective for this primary purpose. They are not very good at preventing infection with the new variants, though. Lots of people are catching COVID even after being boosted. But there are unexpected upsides to the shots. Last March we heard from a reader that the vaccine “cured” his restless legs syndrome (RLS). Now we are learning more about the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine (and different shots) from other visitors. This reader reports that his long-standing bursitis disappeared after getting a COVID shot:

No More Bursitis:

Q. For many years I have suffered with bursitis in my right shoulder. Every few months I would get an injection of lidocaine to ease the pain. Since I got the COVID vaccination in that shoulder, I have not been bothered with bursitis.

A. Many people have complained about side effects from COVID vaccinations. Some experience long-lasting pain, especially if the shot is administered too high on the arm. That can sometimes cause a problem termed SIRVA: Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.

On the other hand, we have also heard from numerous readers who report unexpected benefit. Like you, many experienced reduced joint pain.

One reader wrote about the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine:

“I have so many aches and pains due to various things, it’s hard to tell if one gets better. However, after my Moderna booster shot, I noticed a big change in my bone-on-bone shoulder pain. The pain is still there, but much less. Instead of screaming in pain when I put on deodorant, I now just whimper.”

A number of other readers found that long-lasting warts disappeared after COVID shots.

Here is one story:

“After the shots, a wart disappeared from my thumb. I’d had it for several years before that. Despite ten dermatologist appointments to get rid of it, I thought I was stuck with it. I gave up. Then when I got my COVID vaccinations, it totally disappeared and has not come back.”

Another reader reported that a long-standing wart disappeared after getting the Moderna vaccine.

Wart, Wart, Go Away, Don’t Come Back Another Day!

Q. I had had a wart on my left ring finger for many years. It never really bothered me and wasn’t visible, being on the side next to the middle finger. When it got big, I would pare it down with tiny scissors.

“I was so used to it being there that I didn’t notice right away that it had gone. This was after receiving my Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in January and February. Since a wart is caused by a virus, I’m assuming the vaccinations may have knocked it out. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

A. The immune system has the ability to overcome the virus that causes warts. Your hypothesis that the vaccine kicked your immune system into high gear so it could vanquish the wart is plausible.

More warts disappeared after COVID vaccines:

“I’d like to add my name to the people who have had warts disappear after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. I’ve had a wart on the knuckle of my right forefinger for many years. It was crusty and very ugly.

“I got the Moderna vaccine on October 4, 2021 and had many unpleasant side effects. However, when I read about people whose warts disappeared, I looked down at my finger. My wart was no longer crusty. Since then it has healed, leaving only a slight red place on my finger.”

A. We have searched the medical literature and could find only one article that linked the disappearance of warts to COVID-19 vaccination (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Oct. 26, 2021). In this case report, a woman with long-standing warts on her right thumb saw them disappear after COVID-19 vaccination.

On the other hand, we have heard from several readers about warts going away following vaccination. A possible explanation would be that stimulating the immune system leads to activation against wart-causing viruses.

The People’s Pharmacy (1976)

Liver Pills:

The first edition of The People’s Pharmacy was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1976. There was a section on over-the-counter medication in which I discussed wart remedies.

I added this:

“If none of the techniques I have suggested work, there is one other possibility. It has been suggested that hard-to-treat warts are due to a deficiency in the person’s immune system. If the immune system were stimulated, there is a good chance that the warts might disappear all by themselves. Dr. Daniel Hyman has suggested that three desiccated liver tablets taken three times a day could do the trick.”

I found Dr. Hyman’s recommendation in the journal Modern Medicine (volume 43, no. 14, page 86, 1975. Going back even further, I was able to find another article by dermatologist Daniel Hyman in the New York State Journal of Medicine, June 1, 1963.

Here’s what he wrote:

“Physicians often have their reputations damaged because of the recurrences of warts which are cured subsequently by a wart hexer or through the use of innumerable home remedies…The fact is that there are many so-called wart cures which are effective with some patience but not one method is effective in all cases.

“The answer to the therapeutic riddle lies in the viral origin of verrucae [warts]. The disappearance of these tumors is the result of stimulation of the immune mechanism of the patient and the resulting production of the required antibodies or other still poorly defined immunologic agents. This is the same mechanism by which all other true virus diseases are resolved, and warts should not be considered differently. The host-produced biologic agents interfere with viral propagation or actually may destroy the virus bodies outright. Stimulation of the host’s immune mechanism is the probable mode of action in spontaneous resolution and in cures obtained by one of the suggestion methods and by the outright destructive techniques [surgery, cryotherapy, etc].”

We can only assume that the COVID vaccine helped get rid of the wart by stimulating the immune response against the wart virus. Here are some more stories:

Anonymous writes:

“I had about a dozen warts in a cluster on the bottom of my foot near my toes. Tried for years to get rid of them with no luck. Within 4 months of getting the J&J vaccine they were gone.”

Rita says, they’re gone:

“I’m behind on my papers. I just read the column from Sunday, October 30. A person noted that they had a wart disappear, They wondered if it could it be related to the Moderna vaccine.

“I looked at my left hand. The warts that were there are gone or reduced to not being able to see them.”
“I had three shots of Pfizer.”

Patty read about the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine and discovered her warts were gone:

“Having read the article that reported the Moderna Vaccine vanquishes warts I looked at my arm. All 3 rather large warts were gone, there is a red dot where the largest one was. You will probably hear from many readers who have been blessed with this after effect of the COVID vaccines.”

Shoulder Pain Relief:

Q. Someone wrote to you about joint pain going away after the Moderna vaccination. I have a similar story.

About five years ago, the parking brake on a truck must not have been set. As I walked to the tailgate of my own truck, the other truck rolled backwards towards me. It slammed into my truck, pinning my left shoulder between both trucks’ brake lights and bending my bumper.

My entire arm turned yellow and purple. I could not even lift a coffee pot. Years of therapy have not stopped the pain.

This spring, I received the J&J vaccination in my left shoulder (the injured one). Eight days later, I had no pain, but I did not know why. After reading your article, it all made sense. I’ve now had six weeks of relief and am crossing my fingers that it continues.

A. Several weeks ago, we heard from a few readers that the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 unexpectedly eased restless legs syndrome (RLS). Then others began to report improvements in joint pain after vaccination.

Not everyone experienced benefit, though. We have received a few comments indicating increased pain in joints following vaccination. At this point, there is not enough data to discern a consistent pattern.

Did the Moderna Vaccine Relieve RLS?

The person who originally contacted us complained that restless legs syndrome makes it hard for him to sit through a movie or a concert. He also told us that sleeping is difficult. Shortly after getting the Moderna vaccine his RLS disappeared. Read the story here.

A couple of weeks later the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine were less clear. He thought the RLS might be returning. But a follow-up email stated that the symptoms were much less frequent and he was still sleeping better a month after the vaccination.

Deborah’s Story:

Then Deborah contacted us and said that her RLS was greatly eased after the Moderna shot. You can read her story and several others at this link:

Did the Moderna Vaccine Relieve Restless Legs?
Case reports are not scientific, but they may lead to interesting discoveries. Two readers report a COVID shot helped relieve restless legs.

More Benefits and Risks of the Moderna Vaccine:

A few other readers reported better sleep and fewer RLS symptoms after getting the vaccine. But Rita reported the opposite reaction:

“It is very interesting to read about ‘relief for restless legs syndrome’ after the Moderna vaccine. Since my first Moderna in early January, I’ve had a resurgence of RLS which I have not experienced in years. Through my 50s and 60s I had it almost every night and then, after a few years, it began to dissipate.

“Since my vaccine injection I’ve noticed return of RLS – not as disruptive as in earlier years, however. I am very happy for those who’ve found some relief no matter how or when it comes.”

The Benefits and Risks of the Moderna Vaccine for Shoulder Pain:

We were beginning to wonder what was going on with the Moderna Vaccine and RLS. YesNoMaybe?

Then we heard from Phil about his pain problem:

“About three days after my first Moderna vaccine, I noticed I no longer had the recurring pain in my shoulders, neck and knees that I’ve had to get used to since 2008. I had been applying muscle rubs or similar medications nearly every night for years. After vaccination, I estimate that there’s been a 90 percent reduction in those pains.

“I got my first shot in February and had no side effects. I got my second one in early March. I had fever, chills and muscle aches for 24 hours afterwards.

“It is now 40 days and counting. Virtually none of the old pains have returned. The big gains in upper body flexibility have been maintained as well! I’m crossing my fingers that this will continue.”

A. We have no explanation for this seemingly secondary benefit from the Moderna vaccine. We have heard from several people that their restless leg syndrome (RLS) got better after vaccination.

This is the most recent message in that regard:

“I read the letter from someone with RLS. I had the same experience. I have suffered from restless leg syndrome most of my life. After getting my second Moderna shot in February, it disappeared. I have not suffered any symptoms of RLS since, and it is a real blessing to sleep through the night without kicking and tossing and turning.”

Could the Moderna Vaccine Cause Shoulder Pain?

Where do we stand when it comes to the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine?

Jean offers a different perspective:

“I read with great interest your newspaper column this morning, which stated that people are finding improvements in restless leg syndrome after getting the Moderna vaccine. I have the opposite situation–a worsening of symptoms from an injury (in my case, frozen shoulder). I was going to physical therapy, improving well, until the vaccine set me way back. My pain was greatly increased.

“The physical therapist said the vaccine could indeed have been the cause. My orthopedist said: no doubt it was the result of the Moderna vaccine. He said the same thing had happened to him, with a previous shoulder injury, and that it took two months to get relief. He also said:

“We are seeing this type of thing with both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”

“I see nothing about this in the press. The only side-effects that are reported are those in the immediate aftermath of getting the vaccine, within a week or two. I am dealing with increased pain from my injury two months after getting the vaccine. Are you hearing similar reports from your readers?

“Thank you for your excellent work.”

The People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

We pay attention to our newspaper column readers and the visitors who comment on this web site. We know that many health professionals might chalk up both the benefits and risks of the Moderna vaccine (and the Pfizer and J&J shots) to psychosomatic reactions. In other words, the reported relief of RLS or shoulder pain is “all in their heads.” Ditto for the disappearance of warts or the recurrent pain in the “frozen shoulder.”

We suspect, though, that the vaccines are doing something to either cause or relieve inflammation. Some people may get benefits. Others may experience worsening symptoms.

Why? That is a question for the neurologists and orthopedists to resolve. All we can do is report what we learn. Please stay tuned for further reports. Share your own story in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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