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    What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects & How to Treat Them

    woman rubbing forehead in pain

    Side effects are typically secondary effects from a vaccine or immunization. It’s common for vaccines to have side effects and it’s one of the things specifically monitored in trials as vaccines are studied on their way to becoming approved or authorized for use. If side effects are determined to be harmful, the vaccine won’t get authorized. Other times rare side effects occur but they’re so limited in the number of people receiving the vaccine, the administration of the vaccine can be directed to avoid being prescribed to those who may experience those rare cases.


    It’s always important to inform yourself about the potential side effects of a vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine is no exception. In the case of the three FDA-authorized vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer and J&J, until its pause), a handful of side effects have been identified as typical for most individuals who receive the vaccine, and many are relatively easy to alleviate with over the counter medications or treatments which can be picked up at your local Rite Aid. 


    Keep in mind that experiencing these side effects are typically a sign that the vaccine is working; your body is identifying it and activating your immune system in response. The benefit of having the vaccine activate this response is that you will be able to ward off the actual COVID-19 virus without having contracted it. If you don’t personally experience side effects, know that side effects aren’t the only sign that the vaccine is working. 

    Side Effects
    Treatment or Alleviation

    On the arm where you got the shot:

    • Pain

    • Swelling

    • Rash


    Throughout the rest of your body:

    • Fever

    • Chills

    • Tiredness

    • Headache



    * Note: please do not take pain relievers for the purpose of preventing vaccine side effects before your appointment as it may impact the effectiveness of the vaccine. 


    Side effects typically go away within a few days. As always, call your doctor if redness or tenderness in the injection area worsens after 24 hours, or if side effects last more than a few days. If you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Here’s more information from the CDC about what to do if you have an allergic reaction.


    For COVID-19 vaccines that require a second dose (Moderna, Pfizer), many people have reported that the side effects experienced after the second dose are more intense. As contradictory as it may seem, this is another good sign that the vaccine is working. With the first dose, your body is learning about the vaccine - what is it, what your body needs to do to protect itself from it and begins to create antibodies to fight it. With the second dose, your body now recognizes the components of the vaccine and activates your antibodies to fight it off. 


    As with any vaccine, it’s a good idea to know what the expected side effects are and to monitor your body’s specific response. 


    To schedule an apopintment or learn more, visit our COVID-19 vaccine page


    A note on the pause of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine: 

    In the case of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, the decision to pause the administration of the vaccine because of extremely rare blood clots that presented in 6 women was not just because of the blood clotting itself, but because the treatment for the blood clots in these specific cases would need to be different than what medical professionals would typically prescribe. By pausing the vaccine, experts can review the specific cases to better understand who was impacted and explore if the vaccine remains safe for distribution, or if there needs to be any additional guidance given to ensure its safety. Learn more.