Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines
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
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- redness at the injection site
Some side effects are more common after the second dose.
Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are similar in young people to those seen in adults.
If you feel uncomfortable
- 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.
Serious side effects
Some side effects are more serious but rare, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Serious allergic reactions or anaphylaxis from the vaccine are rare. This is why people are watched for around 15 minutes post-vaccination. Vaccinators are well trained in managing these if they occur.
Myocarditis and pericarditis
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the tissue forming a sac around the heart. These conditions are usually caused by viral infections including COVID-19, but they are also very rare and serious side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis linked to the vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first few weeks after having the vaccine.
Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis include:
- tightness, heaviness, discomfort or pain in your chest or neck
- difficulty breathing or catching your breath
- feeling faint or dizzy or light-headed
- fluttering, racing or pounding heart, or feeling like it is 'skipping beats'.
If you get any of these symptoms after your Pfizer or Novavax vaccination, promptly get medical help — for example from your doctor or after-hours medical service. You will not have to pay for this.
You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 at any time to get advice.
If you need urgent medical help, call 111. Tell them you have had a COVID-19 vaccination so they can assess you properly. Also tell them if you have COVID-19, or have had it.
Children are less likely to have these side effects but may not tell you about the symptoms. We recommend you ask your child how they feel after being vaccinated.
Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
A rare but serious side effect is a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). These reactions usually happen soon after your vaccination, which is why you need to wait at least 15 minutes. If you do have a serious allergic reaction, vaccinators are trained to help.
COVID-19: Vaccine side effects and reactions | Ministry of Health (external link)
It is recommended you do not have Novavax if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the vaccine or to any component of the vaccine.
Booster side effects
Side effects of booster doses are like those from primary vaccine doses. These include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea and feeling tired or fatigued.
When to seek help
If you feel any of these serious side effect symptoms in the days or weeks after the vaccine, you should see a doctor or other health professional. You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 anytime to get advice.
If you have an immediate concern about your safety, call 111. Tell them you have had a COVID-19 vaccination, or have or had COVID-19 so they can assess you properly.
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 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.
How to report side effects
Reporting COVID-19 vaccine side effects means the safety of the Pfizer vaccine within Aotearoa New Zealand can be closely monitored.
You can report your own side effects, or side effects experienced by someone else (including a child). You do not have to be certain the vaccine caused the side effects to make a report.
Side effects are reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM).
Medsafe closely monitors and releases safety reports showing this data.
Report your side effects (external link)
Learn more about CARM | New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre (external link)
You may be invited to submit side effects via text
If you get a Pfizer booster, or a child in your care has had a paediatric (child) Pfizer vaccine, you may be invited by text to let us know about any side effects experienced in the days after. This is called a Post Vaccine Symptom Check.
The text invite will come from the Ministry of Health, and you will be asked to reply ‘YES’, ‘NO’, or ‘STOP'. All replies are free of charge.
If you want to take part, you will be sent a link to an online form.
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