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Common COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

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

As with any vaccination, the currently available COVID-19 vaccines are associated with both local and systemic reactions.

The most common local side effects include:
  • Pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injection.
  • Localized swelling and tenderness of the axilla (armpit) can occur and appears to be more common with the Moderna vaccine.1
The most common systemic side effects across all COVID-19 vaccines include:
  • Muscle pain, joint pain, and chills.2,3
  • Headache and fatigue.2,3
  • Fever is a common reaction following the second dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).1

Systemic reactions to the mRNA vaccines in general appear more common following the second dose and in younger patients.1,2 Viral vector vaccines (like AstraZeneca) seem to carry fewer side effects following the second dose.1

What can I do to help with COVID-19 vaccine side effects?

The vast majority of vaccine-related side effects are mild to moderate and resolve without intervention within a few days of vaccination.1,4 Injection-site pain and swelling can be mitigated by applying a cool, damp cloth to the affected area.2,3 Keeping the affected arm moving after a vaccination into the shoulder muscle helps to stimulate blood flow to the area and promote healing.2 Fever and other flu-like symptoms post-vaccination can be managed by resting and drinking plenty of fluids.2

Over-the-counter medications can also help to alleviate some of the side effects associated with the COVID-19 vaccines.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your options. Medications can be helpful, but should only be used if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking them.


  1. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI): Recommendations on the use of COVID-19 Vaccines [Link]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine [Link]
  3. British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC): COVID-19 Vaccination Aftercare [Link]
  4. Menni C, Klaser K, May A, Polidori L, Capdevila J, Louca P, Sudre CH, Nguyen LH, Drew DA, Merino J, Hu C, Selvachandran S, Antonelli M, Murray B, Canas LS, Molteni E, Graham MS, Modat M, Joshi AD, Mangino M, Hammers A, Goodman AL, Chan AT, Wolf J, Steves CJ, Valdes AM, Ourselin S, Spector TD: Vaccine side-effects and SARS-CoV-2 infection after vaccination in users of the COVID Symptom Study app in the UK: a prospective observational study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2021 Apr 27. pii: S1473-3099(21)00224-3. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00224-3. [Article]
  5. Chapman J, Arnold JK: Reye Syndrome . [Article]

Updated on March 26, 2023