Why do some people get side-effects after COVID-19 vaccines?

Why do some people get side-effects after COVID-19 vaccines?

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Temporary side effects including headache, fatigue and fever are signs the immune system is revving up — a normal response to vaccines. And they’re common.

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“The day after getting these vaccines, I wouldn’t plan anything that was strenuous physical activity,” said Dr Peter Marks, the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief, who experienced fatigue after his first dose.

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Here’s what’s happening: The immune system has two main arms, and the first kicks in as soon as the body detects a foreign intruder. White blood cells swarm to the site, prompting inflammation that’s responsible for chills, soreness, fatigue and other side-effects.

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This rapid-response step of your immune system tends to wane with age, one reason younger people report side-effects more often than older adults. Also, some vaccines simply elicit more reactions than others.

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That said, everyone reacts differently. If you didn’t feel anything a day or two after either dose, that doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working.

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Behind the scenes, the shots also set in motion the second part of your immune system, which will provide the real protection from the virus by producing antibodies.

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Temporary swelling in lymph nodes

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Another nuisance side-effect: As the immune system activates, it also sometimes causes temporary swelling in lymph nodes, such as those under the arm. Women are encouraged to schedule routine mammograms ahead of COVID-19 vaccination to avoid a swollen node being mistaken for cancer.

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Not all side-effects are routine. But after hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered around the world – and intense safety monitoring – few serious risks have been identified. A tiny percentage of people who got vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson reported an unusual type of blood clot. Some countries reserved those shots for older adults but regulatory authorities say the benefits of offering them still outweigh the risks.

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People also occasionally have serious allergic reactions. That’s why you’re asked to stick around for about 15 minutes after getting any type of COVID-19 vaccine – to ensure any reaction can be promptly treated.

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Finally, authorities are trying to determine whether temporary heart inflammation that can occur with many types of infections also might be a rare side effect after the mRNA vaccines, the kind made by Pfizer and Moderna. US health officials can’t yet tell if there’s a link but say they’re monitoring a small number of reports, mostly male teens or young adults.

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