COVID-19 recall side effects: what to expect


All adults are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, meaning more people than ever have already experienced or will soon experience side effects from their booster shots.

As with the initial doses of the vaccine, most side effects from COVID-19 booster shots are mild, flu-like, and temporary. But, for some people, these symptoms can be so intense that they find it difficult to perform their usual tasks. A particularly sore arm can make it difficult to work out or prepare breakfast, for example, and the chills can cause you to spin and turn overnight.

Side effects of boosters may be different

The side effects you get after your booster dose may be different from what you felt after your first dose (s). They can be more or less severe than those you’ve experienced before, said Dr. Aaron Milstone, associate hospital epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and pediatric infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. (Mixing and pairing might make it even harder to predict which side effects you’ll experience.)

“J&J knocked me out,” Alex Ossola, who received his first dose of the vaccine shortly after it became available in February, told TODAY. “I had a full-blown fever, chattering teeth – just ridiculous side effects.” But his recall, which was the Moderna mRNA vaccine, was much milder. “It didn’t look like anything,” she said, adding that after 48 hours she was feeling completely normal.

What makes it even more confusing is the fact that some people can get the flu shot at the same time as the booster. It’s completely safe and it’s a convenient way to cross both photos off your to-do list during the same appointment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But if you experience side effects later on, it will be difficult to know which vaccine is responsible for them.

That’s what happened to Lindsay Mann, who received her Moderna booster in addition to her flu shot last month. “I’m quite sensitive and have a pretty low pain tolerance,” she said TODAY, so managing the pain after getting an injection in each arm was a challenge. She also experienced fever, body aches, chills and “complete exhaustion”.

Keep in mind, however, that the side effects of the vaccine and the booster, while unpleasant, are usually mild and temporary. “If you weigh the side effects of the vaccine against the effects of COVID, I would take the side effects of the vaccine any day,” Milstone said.

Common side effects of COVID-19 booster shots

The most common side effects are similar for the three types of COVID-19 vaccine boosters currently available in the United States. And early data suggests that most people who get boosted have roughly the same side effects as after their second dose. Here is what you need to know for each brand of vaccine.

Side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster

In a clinical trial involving approximately 300 people, the most common side effects after the booster dose of Pfizer included:

  • Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site.
  • Tired.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Chills.

On average, these side effects lasted between two and three days. The trial also found that swollen lymph nodes in the arm, although relatively rare overall, were more common after people received booster doses than after their first two doses.

Side effects of Moderna COVID-19 booster

In a clinical trial involving 171 participants, the most common side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 booster were:

  • Pain at the injection site.
  • Headache.
  • Tired.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Chills.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the arm that received the vaccine injection.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever.

Moderna’s booster shot is half the size of the one used in the initial series.

Side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster

Based on data from over 1,500 people who have received two doses of the J&J vaccine, the most common side effects to expect include:

  • Pain at the injection site.
  • Tired.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Nausea.

Less common side effects (experienced by less than 10% of participants) included redness and swelling at the injection site as well as fever.

Keep an eye out for signs of more serious problems

In the days and weeks after your COVID-19 booster, there are rare but potentially serious side effects you’ll want to watch out for, Milstone said.

If you or your child develops new chest pain, a change in heart rate, or shortness of breath within a week of getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster, the CDC says you should contact a healthcare provider. health. These can be signs of myocarditis or pericarditis, which are types of heart inflammation that have been seen mainly in young men after receiving Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Also be aware of a delayed reaction to fire called the “COVID arm”. This skin reaction usually starts a few days after someone receives the vaccine and presents as an inflamed area near the injection site. The skin may be raised, red, itchy, or burning, but the COVID arm is not actually a sign of anything dangerous or harmful. Experts believe this is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that should respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, pain relievers and ice packs. The COVID arm should resolve on its own in a few days, but if it doesn’t or if the symptoms are severe, see your doctor or dermatologist.

That said, it is unclear how common the COVID arm is after the booster dose. “I heard a lot of reports about it after the first and second doses,” Milstone said, “but I haven’t heard this as often after the booster.”

The J&J vaccine is also linked to an increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a very rare type of blood clots that occurs with low blood platelets, within 42 days of vaccination. Signs of this disease include severe persistent headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, bruising easily, persistent abdominal pain and swelling of the legs, according to the CDC. If you notice any of these symptoms after receiving your vaccine or J&J booster, you should talk to your doctor straight away.

How fast does the COVID-19 booster work?

“The booster doesn’t work immediately,” Milstone pointed out. While research is ongoing, early data suggests that immunity is boosted within one to two weeks. It is very possible – especially during the Thanksgiving season and the winter holidays – to receive a reminder and then contract a COVID-19 infection or other seasonal illness quickly afterwards.

So if you have been feeling feverish and achy for a day, it is most likely due to the booster. But if, two or three days after the vaccine, you still have these symptoms or if you develop other signs of infection such as a cough, “it would be a good reason to see your doctor and make sure you don’t actually have it. COVID, ”Milstone said.

How to Safely Handle Side Effects of COVID-19 Booster Injections

Most of the side effects of COVID-19 booster shots can be safely managed with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, Milstone said. But he warns against taking these drugs before get your shot. On the one hand, you might not need it, he said.

Additionally, there are concerns that they may interfere with how the vaccine works, which is why the CDC also recommends that you do not take these medications before your appointment.

To help ease any discomfort after the injection, the CDC also suggests making sure you drink enough water, gently use the arm in which you received the injection, and apply a cool compress to the arm.


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