I Got the COVID-19 Vaccine – What Side Effects Can I Expect?

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout campaign has been ramping up across South Africa, and the rest of the continent at large.

In the last 24 hours over a million people have registered for the vaccination in SA since the 35 and above age group was permitted to, according to acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

To date, more than 4 million South Africans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and the government continues to ramp up vaccination efforts across the country.

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects are Uncommon

According to the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on COVID-19 vaccines, the majority of people who receive the jab will not experience any side effects. Some people can experience a tenderness, soreness or even a rash at the injection site as their immune systems go into action.

On certain occasions, for at least a day or two and rarely longer, some individuals may experience headaches, feeling ‘out of sorts’, muscle pain, relative soreness or even a slight fever – easily controlled with paracetamol-based anti-inflammatories like Panado.

Other mild side effects include:

  • Feeling fatigued.
  • Feeling ill as if you have the flu.
  • Aches and pains across the body.
  • Headaches.
  • A sore arm after the jab.

According to the UK’s National Health Service, recipients “may also get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery one or two days after [their] vaccination. [They] can take painkillers if [they] need to.”

Very Rare Complications

Anyone who is concerned that they are experiencing any sort of severe side effects should report to a health facility to receive treatment.

The MAC warns that recipients should be on alert for any symptoms of thrombocytopenia (a drop in blood platelets) or other thrombotic complications (the forming of a blood clot within a deep vein). These symptoms include:

  • Unwavering severe headaches that started after you took the vaccine.
  • Weakness in legs, blurred vision or unexplained new seizures.
  • Persistent, unexplained or new abdominal pain.
  • Chest pains, shortness of breath or leg pains.

Though very rare, occurring in tiny percentages of vaccinated populations, these complications are treatable in hospitals. They can, however, be dangerous if left untreated.

The MAC has said that any serious side effects or complications that are reported will be shared with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), and will be presented to the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (Nisec) for assessments.

The committee reiterates “that both vaccines, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, are both safe and effective yet not perfect,” and advises citizens to take whichever vaccine is offered by the corresponding authorities in order to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Advice and recommendations will change from time to time as more is learnt about COVID-19 and the vaccines,” the MAC says.

“Importantly, advice must always be sought from reputable sources,” it concludes.

By Luis Monzon
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