What It Feels like Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Doctors

As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine nears, you might be wondering what it will feel like to get it and whether there are any potential physical side effects. 

The 2 vaccine frontrunners that Americans will likely get are from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna (both require 2 doses), both use mRNA technology, which instructs the body to make a small piece of the virus in the form of a spike protein. This will trigger our immune system to create antibodies, in order to fight off the real virus if you were to become infected.

As for the injection itself, Yasir Batalvi, a 24-year-old who took part in a vaccine trial, told CNN the shot itself felt like any other shot. 

"The actual injection felt, at first, just like a flu shot, which is basically just a little pinch in the side of your arm," he explains, noting he only experienced mild discomfort afterward. "Once I left the hospital, that evening, the stiffness got a little bit worse. It was definitely manageable, but you kind of don't really feel like moving your arm too far above your shoulder. But the side effects are pretty localized. I mean, it's just in the muscle in your arm. And that's about it. It doesn't really affect anything else and you feel fine."

The side effects of the second shot were more pronounced for Yasir but he says manageable. "I actually had some pretty significant symptoms after I got the second dose. Once I got the second dose, I was fine while I was in the hospital. But that evening was rough. I mean, I developed a low-grade fever, and fatigue and chills," he said, and notes he was out for that day and evening, but by the next day "felt ready to go by the next morning."

*The experts stress that feeling under the weather after getting the vaccine does not mean you got COVID-19 from the vaccine. In fact, exhibiting symptoms is a sign that your body is properly responding in the way it should. Health experts and officials note this should not scare off anyone from getting vaccinated or following up for the required second dose. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci has commented on feeling off after getting the vaccine, explaining during a recent Facebook Live interview, "What the body is telling you by that response is that it's responding well to the injection... When you get an injection of the vaccine, you induce a response. In some people, they don't feel anything. Others feel an ache in the arm. Some may feel an ache in the arm and kind of a little chilly feeling, almost like you have a flu-like syndrome, and in a minority of people, they get a fever." Dr. Fauci also noted that most people feel back to normal in 24 to 48 hours after the shot.

To recap, the potential physical side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine may include:

  • Sore or stiff arm
  • Low-grade fever 
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Or not feeling any symptoms at all

Yasir adds, "I hope once this vaccine comes out, people feel confident taking it. I mean, I'm right here: I took the vaccine -- it was all right. I think we can get through this."

More: 3 Tips from Experts for a Safer COVID-19 Winter

Watch: Can High Doses of Vitamins Help Protect You from COVID-19?

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