Asked and Answered: What are COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects?
You asked. Michael Evans, MD, with Lehigh Valley Physician Group–Hazleton, answers.
BY JANE DANISH
With just over 40%of Pennsylvanians reported to be fully vaccinated, we still have a long way to go to reach herd immunity. Some people are holding off on getting vaccinated because they are curious about the side effects that are commonly experienced after each dose. We asked Michael Evans, MD, with Lehigh Valley Physician Group–Hazleton, some of your top questions about possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: I’ve heard some people don’t feel well after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. What are the side effects from the vaccine? Should this stop me from getting vaccinated?
A: When you get the COVID-19 vaccine, it simulates (or pretends) to be an infection in your body. When your body senses an infection, whether real or simulated as in this case, your body goes right to work making antibodies to protect itself from the coronavirus. Antibodies are good and are the body’s way to fight disease and infection. It is important to understand that the COVID-19 vaccine does not include the live coronavirus and cannot cause a COVID-19 infection, but it can cause side effects. These may include a sore arm at the shot site, muscle and joint aches, fever, tiredness or headache. These side effects mean your body is responding to the vaccine in a good way and producing the antibodies (or protection) you will need to fight against future COVID infection.
Mild side effects after the first dose should not stop you from getting the second dose. The symptoms you may experience are short-term and much better than getting COVID-19. If you are unsure or if you had an allergic reaction to the first dose, speak with your primary care physician.
Q: Does the second dose cause more or worse side effects?
A: The second dose does not necessarily cause more or worse side effects than the first dose, but this varies from person to person. In most cases, mild side effects actually are a good thing and signals that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. The symptoms usually last only 24 to 48 hours.
If you have pain or discomfort after being vaccinated, talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol). It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination to try to prevent side effects because it is not known yet how these medications may impact how well the vaccine works.
Q: If I don't have side effects, does that mean the vaccine did not work for me?
A: The lack of side effects does not indicate that the vaccine is not working. Based on research, we do know that the two main vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are effective whether you get side effects or not. You don’t have to feel terrible to prove that the COVID-19 vaccine is providing protection from the virus.
How to get a COVID-19 vaccination
LVHN offers many ways to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Visit LVHN.org/appointments to immediately schedule at one of our regional locations. You also can walk in and get a COVID vaccination without an appointment at any of our COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics: