So, do you know what the side effects of the COVID vaccine actually are?

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  • A total of 31.3% of the UK population have been completely vaccinated so far.

    Fun fact: Prince William received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. So we thought it about time to ask the experts what the most notable coronavirus vaccine side effects are – you know, the ones that are actually worth knowing about.

    In the UK, vaccines began to roll out last December, with UK grandmother Margaret Keenan, who was 90 at the time of injection, being the first person in the UK – and the world – to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab. To date, 57.9 million doses have been given in the UK and 20.9 million people have been fully vaccinated – making a total of 31.3% of the population completely vaccinated.

    Want to read up on the main need-to-know side effects before you get your jab? There’s no harm in being curious, but for those of you who are COVID vaccine complacent, know this: “the side effects are usually temporary and easy to explain; they are a normal result of your body’s immune system being stimulated to defend itself against the virus,” explains doctor Ioannis Liakas, medical director at Vie Aesthetics.

    It’s also worth knowing that they are ‘nothing like the possible symptoms – and indeed complications  – people are seeing as a result of long COVID infection after catching the coronavirus‘, he continues.

    Keep reading for an expert-led piece with comments from two doctors on your need-to-knows.

    Coronavirus vaccine side effects: A Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus concept.

    Your guide to coronavirus vaccine side effects

    What are the main side effects of all three different COVID vaccines? 

    The most common side effects of all the coronavirus vaccines are similar and usually short-lived, shares doctor Riz Khan, GP and doctor of nutritional medicine at (med)24.

    They typically don’t last longer than a week. Symptoms to have on your radar include:

    • A sore, red or itchy arm
    • Swelling
    • Feeling tired
    • Sweating
    • Shivers or fever
    • Lethargy
    • A headache
    • Feeling achy
    • Nausea
    • A temperature.

    “These are normal and a sign that your immune system is working to develop a response to the vaccine and subsequently create antibodies to protect you from Covid-19,” he explains.

    In short, you might experience ‘flu-like’ symptoms, shares doctor Liakas – if you think about it, you are getting injected with a live virus to enable your body to fight it off.  He goes on: “With all three COVID-19 vaccines, around 10% of those vaccinated have generally said complained of ‘flu-like’ symptoms, like the ones outlined above,” he shares.

    This is the same with most vaccines, he reports.

    Although the above side effects are common to all three vaccines, there are some more associated with a specific vaccine.

    Coronavirus vaccine side effects: Hands in gloves drawing vaccine into syringe on white background.

    Pfizer vaccine side effects

    According to doctor Liakas, the most prevalent side effects with the Pfizer vaccine are the above flu-like symptom and ‘an extended feeling of sickness or swollen lymph nodes’.

    However, do note here, there are ‘much rarer’ at less than 1%.

    Another side affect which is even more rare is possibility of developing temporary one-sided facial drooping. “But this is in less than 0.1% of the vaccinated population,” explains doctor Liakas.

    Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine side effects

    Next up: the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    “There has been a small number of reported incidents of unusual bleeding and development of blood clots“, shares Liakas. According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, this has affected around ten people in every million doses of the vaccine.

    Moderna vaccine side effects

    Last but by no means least, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has presented some of the ‘rarer’ side effects, according to the medical director.

    “0.1% of the vaccinated population have developed a temporary one-sided facial drooping known as Bell’s palsy, hypersensitivity, or facial swelling,” he shares.

    Coronavirus vaccine side effects: Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus concept

    Are certain people being hit with side effects more severely?

    According to doctor Khan, this data is not available, so we don’t know this yet.

    However, doctor Liakas shares that it depends on what vaccine you get.

    “With the Pfizer vaccine, adverse reactions were reported more by younger people, rather than those over the age of 55 years,” he explains.

    “On the other hand, the adverse reactions from the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were generally seen by younger people,” he shares. “Plus, the strongest association between thrombosis and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was found between younger people and especially young women.”

    Do note: as a result, the official advice for women under the age of 40 is still to opt for one of the other vaccines.

    Are any of the side effects really severe?

    Short answer: mostly not.

    There is the rare chance that you could be allergic to the vaccine, but rest assured that anyone administering the vaccine has been trained to handle these situations.

    “If people are offered a Coronavirus vaccine, they should take it,” explains doctor Khan.

    “The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, as set out by the Independent Medicines and Healthcare Products, and Regulatory Agency (MHRA).”

    How long normally do the side effects last for?

    They usually don’t last longer than a week.

    Plus, as mentioned, all medicines and vaccines have some form of side effect.

    What would a doctor’s advice be to anyone worried about more severe side effects?

    It’s important to stress here: all COVID-19 vaccines can prevent serious illness or the risk of dying from coronavirus, warns doctor Liakas.

    “Even with the very small number of reported risks of blood clotting problems with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any risk, especially for people aged 40 and over who also have underlying health conditions,” he shares.

    Doctor Khan agrees, saying for any patients that are worried about side effects, he ‘reassures [them] that the serious ones are rare and the benefits of taking the vaccine far outweigh the risk.’

    Flu-like symptoms lasting for more then three days? Both doctors stress that you should contact your GP, as they may be not related to the vaccine.

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