More than 44 million Americans already received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 shot. If you’re still waiting to roll up your sleeve, 7 On Your Side Health Reporter Victoria Sanchez spoke with an expert about what to expect when it’s your turn.
A sense of relief might wash over you after getting the in-demand vaccine. Over the next few days, less pleasant feelings could come up: a headache, fever, chills and fatigue.
“That’s part of the immune system doing its job,” explained Dr. Troy Baker, allergy and immunology specialist at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic.
Dr. Baker said the side effects stem from your body developing “antibody armies” ready to fight off infection. But as the troops prepare for battle, your arm may feel the pain. People have described red and swollen skin at the injection site that feels warm to the touch.
“The first vaccine, I had a very stiff arm, I had flu-like symptoms for 24 hours and then I was 100 percent normal,” Dr. Baker told Sanchez during a Zoom interview.
Side effects could last up to three days and are much different than an allergic reaction.
“That would be something they would experience in a matter of minutes, not hours or days. And that would include things like, they’d get hives, they have swelling of their lips, trouble breathing. This would occur quickly and it’s very infrequent as well,” he said.
That’s why people are asked to stick around for 15-30 minutes after the injection to make sure there isn’t a severe reaction. It’s rare, but a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur. The CDC estimates this could happen in around 11 cases per million shots for the Pfizer vaccine. For Moderna, it’s around 2.5 per million doses.