COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects - Healthline

More than 672 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 1, 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers carefully track the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. Side effect considerations were an important part of clinical trials before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccines and will remain in consideration as more people get the vaccine.

Here’s what you should know about COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

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What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

As with all vaccines, side effects may occur after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. These include:
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • pain at the injection site
  • redness at the injection site
  • swelling at the injection site
According to the CDC, some people experience more side effects after getting a second dose, but this isn’t always the case. Generally, you can expect vaccine side effects to be mild to moderate.

What are the chances of getting serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Serious COVID-19 vaccine side effects are very rare. However, if a person were to experience serious side effects, they are most likely to occur in the first 6 weeks after vaccinationTrusted Source.

According to the CDCTrusted Source, researchers have identified four adverse event types that have occurred. These include:

  • Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life threatening allergic reaction that can cause breathing problems, hives, and low blood pressure. Less than 0.3 percentTrusted Source of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for the first time experienced this side effect.
  • Myocarditis and pericarditis. Myocarditis is a rare COVID-19 vaccine side effect. It occurs when the heart muscle becomes inflamed. Pericarditis is when the tissue surrounding the heart swells and becomes inflamed. According to 2021 researchTrusted Source, doctors most often associate these side effects with mRNA vaccines, such as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Another review paper (Tomography 2022) reviewed 118 studies and 532 cases of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were reported (462, 86.8% men and 70, 13.2% women, age range 12 to 80) with the following distribution: Pfizer-BioNTech: 367 (69%), Moderna: 137 (25.8%), AstraZeneca: 12 (2.3%), Janssen/Johnson & Johnson: 6 (1.1%), COVAXIN: 1 (0.1%), and unknown mRNA vaccine: 9 (1.7%). Post-COVID-19 myocarditis was most commonly reported in symptomatic men after the second or third dose. Most cases were self-limited.
  • Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). TTS is a rare side effect that can cause blood clots or increased blood clotting, which can potentially be life threatening. Doctors associate this side effect most commonly with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccineTrusted Source.
Update (May 5, 2022): FDA changed the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted to the Janssen vaccine, limiting authorization. This decision follows an analysis of the safety concerns regarding thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). Authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now limited to people ages 18 years and older who can’t receive other approved COVID-19 vaccines or who would choose not to get vaccinated otherwise. Individuals who cannot receive other COVID-19 vaccines includes those for whom it is not clinically appropriate or who don’t have access to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Federal agencies continue to track and investigate both mild and severe side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

Can the COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Paralysis?

There are several potential causes of paralysis following a COVID-19 vaccine. 

However, before we get started, it’s important to reiterate that experiencing paralysis after a COVID-19 vaccine is rare. Of the millions of doses administered globally, only a tiny percentage of people reported paralysis.

Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) happens when your immune system attacks parts of your peripheral nervous system, which are the nerves located outside of your brain and spinal cord. This can lead to weakness and paralysis.

What exactly causes GBS is unknown. However, many times, it starts following a viral infection. In very rare situations, GBS has also been documented following vaccination.

In the United States, GBS has mainly been associated with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine is different from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines in that it uses an adenovirus vector.

2022 studyTrusted Source found that the rate of GBS in the first 21 days after receiving the J&J vaccine was almost 21 times higher than for mRNA vaccines. There was no increased risk of GBS after vaccination with mRNA vaccines.

GBS can affect anyone at any age. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source notes that most cases of GBS after the J&J vaccine have been reported in men ages 50 and over.

The elevated risk of GBS is one of the reasons why the CDCTrusted Source recommends mRNA vaccines over the J&J vaccine. mRNA vaccines are also more effective than the J&J vaccine.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a type of temporary facial paralysis that typically affects one side of the face. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, but inflammation or swelling affecting the facial nerve plays a role.

Bell’s palsy has most often been reported after the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. These are the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both large-scale clinical trials for these vaccines reported rare occurrences of Bell’s palsy:

  • In the Pfizer-BioNTech trials, out of 43,252 participants, four peopleTrusted Source in the vaccine group had Bell’s palsy, compared to no individuals in the control group.
  • In the Moderna trials, out of 30,350 trial participants, three peopleTrusted Source in the vaccine group had Bell’s palsy as well as one individual in the control group.

However, more recent Trusted SourceresearchTrusted Source hasn’t linked the mRNA vaccines with an increased risk of Bell’s palsy. Further, another 2021 studyTrusted Source found that there’s a higher risk of Bell’s palsy after having COVID-19 than after getting vaccinated.

Transverse myelitis

Transverse myelitis happens when the spinal cord becomes inflamed. The condition causes symptoms that affect the body in a band-like pattern and can include weakness, pain, and sensory changes.

Transverse myelitis happens due to damage to nerve fibers in the spinal cord. While the cause of some cases can remain unknown, a variety of factors may cause transverse myelitis to develop, including:

  • autoimmune activity, which can include:
    • certain autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis
    • autoimmune responses after an infection or vaccination
    • autoimmune activity due to a cancer
  • infections
  • inflammatory conditions that affect the spinal cord

There have been case reports of transverse myelitis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTechTrusted Source vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are represented in these reports. Most, but not all, of these individuals were older in age.

Transverse myelitis has also been reportedTrusted Source after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which, like the J&J vaccine, uses an adenovirus vector. However, this vaccine isn’t currently authorized for use in the United States.

As we mentioned, documented occurrences of transverse myelitis after COVID-19 vaccination have largely been limited to case reports and series. Compared to the number of vaccine doses administered globally, this effect is very rare.

In fact, a 2021 case report noted that, as of April 21, 2021, only 45 reports of transverse myelitis after COVID-19 vaccination had been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Neuralgic amyotrophy

Neuralgic amyotrophy is a rare condition that involves pain and progressive weakness in the shoulder and arm. It’s also called Parsonage-Turner syndrome.

Neuralgic amyotrophy is believed to be caused by an abnormal inflammatory response of the immune system. Some factors that have been linked to the condition include:

  • infections, particularly viral infections
  • recent vaccination
  • injury or trauma
  • existing autoimmune conditions

Similar to transverse myelitis, reports of neuralgic amyotrophy after the COVID-19 vaccine are limited to several case studies. It’s been reported after all three of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized in the United States.

COVID-19 vaccines are now FDA approved for those ages 5 and up. Here are some of the side effects reported by age.


FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 happened in October 2021. Because of this, there’s less data on vaccine side effects in children. However, clinical trials where researchers tested the vaccines in children revealed no serious side effects, according to 2021 research.

The most common side effects from the study were similar to those of adults. These included pain at the injection site, fatigue, chills, and headache. The most common symptom in children was mild to moderate fever.

Young adults

2021 studyTrusted Source of vaccine side effects published in JAMA found that younger adults were more likely to have adverse side effects than older adults.

Another 2021 studyTrusted Source found young adults and adolescent males were the most likely to experience myocarditis as a vaccine side effect. The study found that 79 percent of reported myocarditis events were in men.

Older adults

Older adults are less likely to have vaccine side effects than younger adults, according to the earlier study by JAMATrusted Source.

The FDA has approved three COVID-19 vaccine brands in the United States: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and J&J vaccines.

U.S. adults have received more than 284 million dosesTrusted Source of the Pfizer vaccine, making it the most common COVID-19 vaccine, while just more than 17 million J&J doses have been given.

There’s still a lot of research to be done comparing the effects of each vaccine. The 2021 JAMA studyTrusted Source of nearly 20,000 people who received a COVID-19 vaccine found adverse side effects were more commonly reported in mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer than in the non-mRNA vaccine (J&J).

However, the fact that far fewer people have received the non-mRNA vaccine could explain the difference in reported outcomes.

If you have a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDCTrusted Source recommends that you avoid getting another dose of the same vaccine type.

For example, if you have an allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, avoid the Moderna vaccine (and vice versa) since they work in the same way.

If you experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, here are some measures that may help:

  • Apply cold compresses to the injection site.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Perform light stretches to relax your arm muscles.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin (but only for those older than age 18).
  • Rest and give your body time to recover.

If you experience a significant side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, report it to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. This resource can also be used to report any new side effects you haven’t heard mentioned before.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) treatment

Several treatments can be used for GBS, including:

Bell’s palsy treatment

The outlook for Bell’s palsy is typically quite good. The condition is temporary and most people recover the function of their facial muscles within 6 monthsTrusted Source. When started shortly after symptoms begin, steroids can help with recovery.

Transverse myelitis treatment

While many people do recover from transverse myelitis, it can sometimes take months to years. Treatment is similar to that of GBS, often involving plasma exchange or immunoglobulin therapy, steroids, and physical therapy.

Neuralgic amyotrophy treatment

The treatment of neuralgic amyotrophy can involve pain management, steroids, and physical therapy.

While it can resolve on its own, its outlook varies greatly between individuals. About 10 to 20 percent of people may experience lingering pain or difficulty exercising the affected arm.

Related: Post-Vaccine Syndrome Treatment Protocol (FLCCC's I-RECOVER)

While creating a vaccine without side effects would be revolutionary, all vaccines have the potential for side effects. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, very few adverse events have been reported, and many worldwide health groups are monitoring side effects closely.

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccine side effects, talk with a healthcare professional. They can help you evaluate the risks and benefits so you can make the most informed choice.

If you do begin to experience symptoms after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, contact your doctor right away. Prompt treatment can help to improve the chances of having a full recovery.

Based on the following Sources and References:


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