Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

Find out about vaccination side effects and what to do if you experience them.

Common side effects

Like all medicines, you might experience some mild side effects in the days after getting your vaccination. This is common, and a sign that your body is learning to fight the virus.

Most side effects do not last long, and will not stop you from having a second dose or going about your daily life. Some side effects may temporarily affect your ability to drive or use machinery.

The most common reported reactions are:

  • pain or swelling at the injection site
  • feeling tired or fatigued
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • redness at the injection site
  • nausea.

Some side effects are more common after the second dose.

Serious side effects

There are some side effects that are very rare but are more serious.

Pfizer

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle wall and is a known rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine.

Symptoms can include:

  • new onset chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • abnormal/racing heartbeat.

AstraZeneca

Blood clots are a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has occurred in around 1 in 100,000 people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Symptoms can include:

Shortness of breath

  • chest pain
  • leg swelling
  • pain in arms or legs
  • severe or persistent headache
  • blurred vision
  • confusion or seizures (fits)
  • abdominal pain.

Very rare cases of Capillary Leak Syndrome (CLS) have been reported. The symptoms of this condition include rapid swelling of the arms and legs, sudden weight gain and feeling faint.

Very rare cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) have also been reported. GBS is a rare immune disorder that causes nerve inflammation. Symptoms may include pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the arms and legs which may progress to the chest and face. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

For information about uncommon and rare side effects, visit the Ministry of Health website.

Uncommon and rare side effects — Ministry of Health (external link)

If you feel uncomfortable

You can:

  • place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack on the injection site for a short time
  • rest and drink plenty of fluids
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen.

When to seek help

If you have concerns or feel unwell after your vaccination, speak with your doctor or other health professional, or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

If you are concerned about your safety, call 111. Tell them you have had a COVID-19 vaccination so they can assess you properly.

Allergic reactions

If you have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injection in the past, tell your vaccinator when you arrive.

Serious allergic reactions do happen but are extremely rare.

If you have a reaction when getting the vaccine, a health worker will be there to look after you and make sure you are okay.

Reporting side effects

The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) is a database of information about adverse reactions (side effects) to medicines and vaccines in New Zealand.

CARM monitors this information to identify any issues to help with the safe use and prescribing of medicines. 

Reporting your side effects will contribute to the data being collected globally, and help identify patterns in New Zealand and any potential safety issues.

COVID-19 vaccine: Report an adverse reaction (external link)

Reported side effects in New Zealand — Ministry of Health (external link)

Post Vaccine Symptom Check

The Ministry of Health has launched the Post Vaccine Symptom Check, a mobile-based survey that will help monitor reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand.

Up to 10 percent of New Zealanders who receive a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be randomly selected to participate in the survey.

Ministry of Health launches mobile-based vaccine monitoring survey (external link)

Last updated: at