The three most common side effects of the COVID vaccine

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
·3-min read
Photo credit: Marko Geber - Getty Images
Photo credit: Marko Geber - Getty Images

By now, the COVID vaccination roll-out is well underway in the UK. More than 30 million adults across the nation have received their first vaccine, while millions more have had both doses and are well on their way to peak immunity.

If you're still awaiting your invitation, you may have some understandable anticipation about what the side effects of a coronavirus vaccine might be. There have been varying reports of side effects following the different jabs on offer in the UK, and new research into the most widely available - the Oxford/Astrazeneca and the Pfizer vaccines - suggests there are three particularly common symptoms suffered as a result.

The study, which was carried out by the National Institute for Health Research in conjunction with the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, showed that 'reported side-effects were minor in severity and of short duration.' However, the most likely ones to emerge after vaccination were a sore arm, headache, and fatigue.

The ZOE COVID Symptom Study app asked its users to answer some questions about how they felt following the vaccine. The research discovered that 25.4% of vaccinated app users reported having one or more 'systemic adverse effect' (a symptom that affects the whole body), and 66·2% users reported experiencing one or more 'local adverse effect' (a symptom localised to the area of the injection).

Photo credit: FilippoBacci - Getty Images
Photo credit: FilippoBacci - Getty Images

'The most commonly reported systemic side-effects were fatigue and headache overall,' read the study notes. 'These were most frequently reported within the first 24 [hours] after vaccination and lasted a mean of 1·01 days.' It was also found that headache and fatigue were more common in women than in men, and occurred more often in people aged 55 or younger.

Meanwhile, 'tenderness and local pain around the injection site were the most frequently reported local effects, occurring most often on the day after injection and lasting a mean of 1·02 days,' the published study explained. Other, less common side-effects detected in the research included allergic skin reactions such as skin burning, rashes, and red welts on the lips and face.

What's particularly interesting from the findings, too, is that individuals with a known previous case of coronavirus were shown to be more likely to have adverse effects after the first dose of the vaccine, in comparison to people who didn't have a previously confirmed case of COVID.

These findings are useful to know, but they're also very reassuring. We've got more information on running and the coronavirus vaccine here.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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