Are the COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Worse for Women?

COVID vaccine

If you are a woman, you may deal with more severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine when compared to men, according to reports.

The New York Times spoke with medical technician Shelly Kendeffy, who felt a sore arm, body aches, and a flu-like feeling the evening she received the second shot of the Moderna vaccine. "My teeth were chattering, but I was sweating — like soaked, but frozen," the 44-year-old explains.

When she returned to work the next day and spoke to her co-workers (8 men and 7 women) about their reactions to the vaccine, the women appeared to have worse reactions than the men. She notes 6 of the women experienced body aches, chills, and fatigue, and the other 1 woman experienced vomiting.

As for the men, 1 male co-worker of Shelly's reportedly had mild pain in his arm, a headache, and other body aches. Two men said they had mild fatigue and aches. One male co-worker said he got a headache -- and 4 of the men had no symptoms whatsoever.

So was this just an isolated incident or do women have a harder time with the vaccine's side effects?

According to a CDC study, when looking at the first 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given to Americans, 79.1 percent of reports of side effects came from women who received it, and only 61.2 percent of the vaccines were administered to women. Additionally, The CDC notes all 19 of the anaphylactic reactions to the Moderna vaccine have been seen in women, and for the Pfizer shot, 44 of the 47 anaphylactic reactions occurred in female patients.

Health experts and the NYT note the different reactions to vaccines seen in men and women are historically common and are likely due to differences in hormones, genes, and the likeliness of reporting symptoms. Additional reported research has shown that "women and girls produce more — sometimes twice as many — infection-fighting antibodies in response to the vaccines for influenza, M.M.R., yellow fever, rabies, and hepatitis A and B... and often mount stronger responses from immune fighters called T cells," and may point to why women experience more symptoms than men.

Also, the size of the vaccine might be the reason. The NYT explains, "Studies have shown that women absorb and metabolize drugs differently than men do, often needing lower doses for the same effect." When the COVID vaccine was developed, whether a smaller dose for women could be just as effective and produce fewer side effects was not studied.

Despite these possible issues, the vast majority of COVID vaccine side effects do not last for long and The Doctors stress that having a reaction to the vaccine is a sign that is working as it should

And Shelly adds, “I wouldn’t change a thing, because it sure beats the alternative.” 

More: After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine, Here's What Is Safer to Do

More: COVID Vaccine Infertility & Miscarriage Myths Debunked

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