We are now more familiar with the possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine interacting with our immune system. Experts emphasize that post-injection problems, such as fatigue and fever, mean that the vaccine is working (as long as they are not indicative of an allergic reaction).
So what does this mean for those of us who have no side effects?
We asked the vaccine experts for a summary of what the side effects mean and whether their severity predicts how effective your immune response to the COVID-19 virus will be.
First, a summary of the causes of COVID-19 vaccine side effects.
Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are either a physical manifestation of your body’s immune response, which is the case in most people, or an allergic reaction, said Jesse Erasmus, acting assistant professor in the department of microbiology. from the University of Washington School of Medicine. .
Erasmus said that the side effects that an injection has generally depend on the type of vaccine technology that is used to create the immunization (for example, messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the type of technology that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna injections use. ) and how those components interact with your immune system.
Regarding vaccines against the coronavirus, “All the vaccines that are currently under authorization for emergency use have very similar side effect profiles,” said Colleen Kelley, a Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the Modern Phase 3 and Novavax vaccine clinical trials at the Ponce de León Center clinical research site in Atlanta.
Kelley believes that the side effects of the COVID-19 injection stem primarily from the body responding to the spike protein that the vaccine introduces into the immune system, helping it recognize (and then fight) the spike protein in the coronavirus in case it enters the body.
When it comes to allergic reactions to the vaccine, which are rare, one hypothesis for mRNA vaccines is that people may be allergic to a component called polyethylene glycol, a common food additive, Erasmus said.
Why do some people have worse side effects than others?
Based on people’s experiences, it seems that some have worse reactions to shooting than others. But scientifically there are still no confirmed reasons for this.
“There really is no distinguishing factor that predisposes one individual to more side effects compared to the other,” said Richard Dang, a pharmacist and assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California. “The only thing we’ve seen in the clinical data so far is that younger people seem to experience side effects at higher rates than older people, and we see that in the real world as well.”
Cases have been reported in which those who previously had the virus suffered more severe side effects after receiving their vaccinations.
“As an anecdote, it appears that people who may have had COVID-19 prior to their vaccine tend to have symptoms of a longer duration,” added Kelley. “But we are still collecting additional scientific data to really back this up.”
Does the severity of the side effects have anything to do with how well your body will fight COVID-19 if exposed?
Although it is a valid question, more studies are needed to unravel what the severity of side effects really means, said Anna Wald, infectious disease physician and researcher in COVID-19 vaccine trials at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
But Erasmus, Kelley and Wald say the vaccine’s effectiveness is unlikely to be determined by the severity of its side effects.
Remember that most people have little or no side effects in clinical trials [for the mRNA vaccines]and yet the vaccine was found to be 95% effective in protecting them from disease, ”Wald noted.
Whether you develop mild or severe side effects, it is important to know what to do.
In short, the benefits of vaccines outweigh the side effects. Getting the vaccine means protecting yourself against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
If you have side effects, there are a few things you can do. At the time of vaccination, ask the person who is vaccinating you who to contact (and how) for follow-up care should you need it, Dang said. You should also wait 15 to 30 minutes at the vaccination site after receiving the injection to make sure you do not have severe allergic reactions.
Typically, if you experience immune-related side effects, such as fatigue, headache or fever, Kelley said, you can take a pain reliever or fever reducer, such as Tylenol, and then take a nap if you can. Make sure to stay hydrated and take it easy when you’re feeling down.
These issues will likely be resolved in one to four days at the most, Kelley said. Anything that lasts longer deserves a check with your doctor or at the place where you received your vaccine. You should seek emergency care or call 911 if you have difficulty breathing or significant swelling.
You can also record and report some of your side effects with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. V-insurance program, Dang said. V-safe texts you daily, then weekly, to see how you are and if you are experiencing any reactions. If you report severe reactions, you direct the CDC to monitor you further.
Remember that side effects are usually a very normal part of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and we will be in a much better place on the other side of the shots.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but the orientation may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date recommendations.