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Thinking about the COVID vaccine but worried about side effects? Here's what you should know

Journal Star - 4/12/2021

Apr. 12—With everyone over the age of 16 now eligible, and vaccine flowing into the community at a higher rate, the barriers to getting vaccinated for COVID-19 in Illinois are dropping.

The time to make an appointment is now, but there might be a moment of hesitancy before clicking on that available time slot.

"What about side effects?" you might ask. After all, enough people have been vaccinated that stories of sore arms and upset stomachs abound.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

No. Some people have zero side effects, and many people have reported only mild side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those side effects are the immune system reacting to the vaccine — a good thing that will ultimately help the body respond if it comes in contact with COVID-19, said Dr. Samer Sader, chief medical officer for UnityPoint Health.

"When we give people a vaccine, we hope and we expect their immune system to respond to the vaccine," he said. "The soreness you feel in the arm, the achiness and the fevers or the general fatigue you feel for a day or two at most, is related to your immune system responding to that vaccine."

According to the CDC, people have reported swelling, redness and pain at injection site; fever; headache; tiredness; muscle pain; chills; and nausea. Symptoms usually subside after a few days.

Sader recommends Tylenol or ibuprofen to manage any soreness after the vaccination. But the CDC advises against taking pain medications before your shot to try to prevent side effects.

Rumor has it that getting super-hydrated before vaccination helps stave off side effects. Unfortunately, that's not the case, according to Sader.

"I don't know that any of that makes a difference," he said. "I tell people to do what feels comfortable. If it helps, even mentally, drink a little extra fluids, maybe have a good meal before you get it. Anything that helps you mentally prepare for it, I encourage people to do it."

"We've had one person who had an allergic reaction. Those are very rare, when your throat swells or you get a severe rash or wheezing and can't breathe," Sader said. "From our standpoint, those are the severe reactions, and we really have not had any significant number. You can get that type of reaction from medication, and you can also be allergic to foods."

Long-term side effects are rare, according to the CDC. Scientists have learned over the years side effects generally happen six weeks after a vaccine is given, so for that reason, the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers of each of the vaccines to study recipients for at least two months after the final dose. Millions of people have received the COVID-19 vaccines with no long-term side effects.

"I've had both, and I can tell you I would take the vaccine every time," said Sader, who, after treating COVID-19 patients for many months, became sick with the virus in December. "I tend to be a fit person, and it took me about two months to get back to my normal level of physical activity."

Anyone on the fence about getting the vaccine should consider not only their personal likelihood of dying from COVID-19, but also the fact that it might take a really long time to recover, said Sader.

"You may not recover as fast as you think, and you cannot predict that."

Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or Follow her on


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