As the pandemic continues, it’s now clear that social distancing, face-covering, and handwashing alone are not enough to contain the virus. While all of these measures are still critical, the world also needs widespread vaccination to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine is welcoming news, but given that they are the first mRNA vaccine produced, there are many concerns about its safety and effectiveness.
mRNA vaccines are highly effective, but they are also “reactogenic,” which are likely to trigger a noticeable immune response. In simple terms, it means that the administration of the vaccine is likely to cause a few side effects, which are a response of the human body against the foreign object that has been injected. So what exactly happens when the vaccine is administered? In this post, we look at the top COVID-19 vaccine side effects so you can get the vaccine more confidently. But before we get started, let’s understand why vaccine recipients may experience side effects.
Why Do You Get COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects?
As mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that is likely to trigger an immune system response. When the vaccine is injected, the immune system recognizes it as a foreign object and tries to fight it. That’s where the cytokines in your blood come into play and exert their influence on the white blood cells, so your immune system springs into action.
As the level of cytokines in your body increases, it can have a mild inflammatory effect on the blood vessels and tissues, which causes undesirable symptoms, including muscle aches, fever, chills, and nausea. The side effects are more likely to affect younger people than the older population because they have a stronger immune system (and thus a better immune system response).
Top COVID-19 Vaccine Side-Effects
The COVID-19 vaccine is administered on the upper arm, which leads to a few undesirable effects on the injection site and the rest of the body. Let’s take a closer each at each.
On the Site of Injection
Some of the most common side effects of COVID-19 vaccine administration on the site of injection include
- Redness, and
Rest of Your Body
Some of the generalized COVID-19 vaccine side effects include the following.
- Muscle and bone pain
- Chills and Fever
- Nausea and Vomiting
These are some of the minor and common COVID-19 vaccine side effects that are more pronounced after the second dose.
Other Possible COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects
While the COVID-19 vaccine causes a few common side effects, there are other less likely side effects of the vaccine, which include
Severe Allergic Reactions
In rare cases, a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur. The condition is more common among people who have a history of severe vaccine reactions. According to the CDC’s numbers, the risk of severe allergic reactions is as low as 0.011%. However, it is still there. Some of the signs of a severe allergic reaction include trouble breathing, swollen face and throat, skin rashes, and low blood pressure. The reaction occurs soon after vaccination, so people who get the vaccine are observed for 15 minutes before leaving the medical facility. Medications are used to treat the infection.
Another undesirable but rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine is unexplained deaths shortly after receiving the vaccine. A report of 23 Norwegian and 10 German deaths among elderly vaccine recipients raised safety concerns about the new COVID-19 vaccines. However, the report needs further investigation to find out the exact cause of death.
COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects FAQs
How Long Do Side Effects Last?
The side effects usually subside within 24-48 hours.
Will I Experience the Same Side Effects After Each Dose?
The side effects are more pronounced after the second dose.
Are Side Effects More Pronounced in People With a Higher Risk of COVID-19 Disease?
No. The data from vaccine administration indicates that the side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are more pronounced among the younger population. Adults older than 55 years of age experienced mild and less frequent side effects.
Can I Contract COVID-19 Infection between Doses?
Yes. You must continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and frequent hand washing. The first dose does not provide complete protection. Moreover, it can take up to seven days after your second dose to achieve the maximum level of immunity. Note that no vaccine is 100% effective, which means there is always a risk of contracting the infection. However, the severity of the infection will be mild. Therefore, despite immunization, continue to practice the strategies recommended to control the spread of infection.
How Can I Differentiate between COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects and COVID-19 Infection?
You may get infected between the doses, which can be confusing as the symptoms are quite similar. Note that the vaccine’s side effects appear within the first 12-24 hours of vaccination and persist for two days. If you experience side effects that last beyond 48 hours, it is best to call a doctor.
When to Call the Doctor?
The CDC has shared a guideline on when to call a doctor after immunization. Contact your healthcare provider if
- Tenderness on the site of infection gets worse after 24 hours.
- The side effects continue for a few days after immunization.
- You develop rashes and show signs of a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination facility.
The Bottom Line
There is still a lot that we don’t know about COVID-19. It is a potentially deadly infection, and along with the safety protocols, we need mass immunization to bring an end to the pandemic. So far, the information about the COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging.
While there are side effects that are a cause of concern among the general population, severe allergic reactions and sudden deaths are not among the top COVID-19 vaccine side effects on a positive note. As for the minor side effects, note that they are usually mild and only last for a few hours, but that can save you from a life-threatening infection. So why not get a shot?