Why do some people get side effects after COVID-19 vaccines?
Why do some people experience side effects after a COVID-19 vaccination?
Temporary side effects such as headache, tiredness, and fever are signs that the immune system is revving up - a normal response to vaccines. And they are common.
"I would not plan any vigorous physical activity the day after taking these vaccines," said Dr. Peter Marks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccine chief, who felt drowsy after his first dose.
Here's what happens: The immune system has two main arms, and the first one intervenes as soon as the body detects a foreign invader. White blood cells rush to the area, causing inflammation, which is responsible for chills, pain, fatigue, and other side effects.
This quick-reacting step in your immune system wanes as you age, one reason younger people are more likely to report side effects than older adults. Also, some vaccines simply elicit more responses than others.
That means everyone reacts differently. If you haven't felt anything a day or two after either dose, it doesn't mean the vaccine isn't working.
Behind the scenes, the shots also set the second part of your immune system in motion, which provides real protection against the virus through the production of antibodies.
Another annoying side effect: the activation of the immune system sometimes also leads to a temporary swelling of the lymph nodes, for example under the arm. Women are encouraged to schedule routine mammograms prior to COVID-19 vaccination to avoid mistaking a swollen lump for cancer.
Not all side effects are routine. But after hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered worldwide - and intensive safety monitoring - few serious risks have been identified. A tiny percentage of people who received vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson reported an unusual type of blood clot. Some countries reserved these syringes for older adults, but regulators say the benefits they offer still outweigh the risks.
Occasionally, severe allergic reactions also occur. This is why you are asked to stay nearby for about 15 minutes after any type of COVID-19 vaccine - to make sure any reaction can be treated immediately.
Finally, authorities are trying to figure out whether transient heart inflammation, which can occur with many types of infections, could also be a rare side effect after Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines. U.S. health officials cannot yet say if there is a link, but say they are monitoring a small number of reports, mostly male adolescents or young adults.
In this series, the AP answers your questions about the coronavirus. Send them to: FactCheck@AP.org. Read more here:
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