Doctor says vaccine side effects can be a good sign

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:17 AM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Body aches, fever, headaches -- all side effects that some people are experiencing after their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Right now, 10 million New Yorkers are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. A little more than 900,000 have already gotten both shots, but some have reported feeling ill after the second round.

However, family medicine specialist Dr. Joseph Wetterhahn says the odds of having a reaction to the vaccine are low.

“About 10 to 20 percent of people will get a reaction which is considered mild or inconveniencing,” he said. “That means the majority of people do not have a reaction.”

Dr. Wetterhahn says it’s common to get what’s called COVID arm, a redness and swelling near the vaccine site. He says often this is actually a good sign.

“If you get the COVID arm, that’s almost certainly indicative that you have a lot of circulating antibody and that you’ve got some good protection,” he said. “That doesn’t mean if you don’t get it that you don’t have protection, but certainly if you do get that kind of inflammatory reaction your body produced good antibody.”

Other common symptoms: muscle aches, fever, headache, and fatigue. These can last a couple days and tend to be more common in young people.

“The younger you are the more likely you are to have some of those systemic reactions than someone who is older,” Dr. Wetterhahn said.

Dr. Wetterhahn says people who have already had COVID are more likely to develop side effects because they may already have antibodies.

The doctor says researchers are finding severe allergic reactions or other side effects requiring emergency care are quite rare.

“Initially we thought it was 1 in 10,000. Now it looks like anaphylaxis is occurring about 1 in 1 million.”

Most people won’t feel ill and some might have some swelling, but Dr. Wetterhahn says getting the shot is vital to getting COVID under control.

“For many people, COVID is going to change their lives for many, many years,” Dr. Wetterhahn said. “A day or two of a minor side effect is a small trade for a disease that has the potential to change how you live for a long period of time.”

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