Side effects of COVID-19 booster: what to expect? – Community News
Covid-19

Side effects of COVID-19 booster: what to expect?

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

As with the original vaccine doses, most side effects of the COVID-19 booster injection are mild, flu-like, and temporary. But for some people, those symptoms can be so intense that they have trouble doing their usual tasks. For example, a particularly sore arm can make it difficult to work out or cook breakfast, and chills can leave you tossing and turning all night.

Side effects of boosters may be different

The side effects you experience after your booster dose may be different than what you felt after your first dose(s). They can be more or less severe than the ones you’ve experienced before, Dr. Aaron Milstone, associate hospital epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and pediatric infections specialist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, TODAY. (Mixing and matching can make it even more challenging to predict which side effects you’ll experience.)

“J&J knocked me out,” Alex Ossola, who received her first dose of the vaccine shortly after it became available in February, told TODAY. “I had a severe fever, chattering teeth – just ridiculous side effects.” But her booster shot, the Moderna mRNA vaccine, felt much milder. “This was like nothing,” she said, adding that she felt completely normal within 48 hours.

Making things even more confusing is the fact that some people can get their flu vaccine at the same time as the booster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s completely safe and a convenient way to cross both shots off your to-do list in the same appointment. But if you do get side effects later, it’s hard to know which vaccine is responsible.

That’s what happened to Lindsay Mann, who got her Moderna booster in addition to her flu shot last month. “I’m pretty sensitive and I have a pretty low pain tolerance,” she told TODAY, so it was challenging to deal with the pain after one shot in each arm. She also developed a fever, body aches, chills and “complete exhaustion.”

However, remember that the side effects of the vaccine and 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 every day,” Milstone said.

Common Side Effects of COVID-19 Booster Injection

The most common side effects are similar for all three types of COVID-19 vaccine boosters currently available in the US. And early data suggested that most people given boosters had about the same side effects as they did after their second dose. Here’s what you need to know based on each vaccine brand.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster side effects

In a clinical study of about 300 people, the most common side effects after the Pfizer booster dose were:

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

These side effects lasted an average of two to three days. The study also found that swollen lymph nodes in the arm, while relatively rare overall, were more common after people received booster doses than after their first two doses.

Moderna COVID-19 booster side effects

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

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

Moderna’s booster shot is half the size of the first series.

Side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster

According to data from more than 1,500 people who received two doses of the J&J vaccine, the most common side effects to expect are:

  • Pain at the injection site.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle strain.
  • Nausea.

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

Watch for signs of more serious problems

In the days and weeks following your COVID-19 booster, there are some rare but potentially serious side effects that you want to keep an eye on, Milstone said.

If you or your child develop 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 health care provider. These could be signs of myocarditis or pericarditis, which are types of heart inflammation seen mainly in young men after receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Also be aware of a delayed reaction to the shot called “COVID arm.” This skin reaction usually appears a few days after someone has received the vaccine and presents as an inflamed area near the injection site. The skin may be swollen, red, itchy or burning, but the COVID arm isn’t actually a sign of anything dangerous or harmful. Experts believe it’s a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that should respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, pain relievers, and ice packs. The COVID arm should clear up on its own within a few days, but if it doesn’t or if the symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

That said, it’s not clear how common the COVID arm is after the booster dose. “I’ve heard a lot of reports about that after the first and second dose,” Milstone said, “but I haven’t heard that much 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 clot that occurs with a drop in platelet count, within 42 days of receiving the injection. Signs of this condition include persistent severe headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, easy bruising, persistent abdominal pain and leg swelling, according to the CDC. If you notice any of these symptoms after getting your J&J vaccine or booster, see your doctor right away.

How fast does the COVID-19 booster work?

“The booster doesn’t work right away,” emphasized Milstone. While the research is ongoing, early data suggests that immunity is boosted within one to two weeks. It’s entirely possible — especially during the Thanksgiving and winter holiday seasons — to get a booster and then get a COVID-19 infection or other seasonal illness soon after.

So if you’re feeling feverish and nauseous for a day, it’s probably because of the booster. But if you still have those symptoms two or three days after the vaccine, or if you develop other signs of the infection, such as a cough, “that would be a good reason to talk to your doctor and make sure you don’t have any symptoms.” actually have COVID,” Milstone said.

How to safely deal with side effects of COVID-19 booster injections?

Most side effects of COVID-19 boosters can be safely treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, Milstone said. But he warns against taking those drugs before get your chance. For starters, you may not really need them, he said.

In addition, there is some concern that they could interfere with the way the vaccine works, so the CDC also recommends not taking those medications before your appointment.

To help relieve any discomfort after the injection, the CDC also recommends making sure you drink plenty of water, gently use the arm you received the injection in, and apply a cool compress to the arm.