COVID booster side effects: Here’s what we know so far

Side effects reported to be mild or moderate

Answering COVID-19 questions: What happens if my second vaccine dose is delayed? Can painkillers alleviate side effects?

ORLANDO, Fla. – As COVID-19 vaccine providers across the U.S. start rolling out booster shots, there’s concern about how the third dose could impact individuals and the side effects they could face.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who are immunocompromised consider getting a third shot. A more detailed list of who that entails can be found here.

“So far today, only 3% of the population can get the vaccine,” said Dr. Rajiv Bahl, an emergency medicine physician in Orange City. “That could change in the near future.”

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For now, the CDC says people who fall under that category should only get an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. The third shot needs to be administered at least four weeks, or 28 days, after a patient received their second one.

Though it is too soon to tell, the CDC says early data shows side effects were similar to what one would experience after a two-dose series.

“We can confidently say side effects will be what people experienced from the second dose,” Bahl said. “This would be side effects like body aches, tiredness and maybe even a fever.”

The CDC said the most common side effects were fatigue and pain at the injection site. Overall, most symptoms were mild to moderate, according to the CDC.

Common vaccine side effects according to the CDC. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Other common side effects reported by the CDC could be tiredness, headache, muscle pain and flu-like symptoms. However, the symptoms have not been reported to be severe and should only last a few days, according to the agency.

Bahl said such symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medicine like Moltrin or Tylenol.

“Those side effects are short-lived in comparison to getting COVID-19,” he said.

Though the third dose isn’t available to the general population, Bahl said people should consider it when it is recommended.

Citing information regarding medical studies in Israel, he said data showed a decreased effectiveness in coronavirus vaccines after about eight months.

“This shouldn’t be alarming,” he said, “The influenza vaccine happens year after year.”

Comparing the COVID-19 vaccine to the annual flu shot, he explained influenza vaccines are given out during the winter, or flu season, when the illness is more common. He added flu shots are needed ahead of the season to help prevent infections.

“That’s when we see more cases of the flu, during that season,” he said. “Unfortunately, with COVID-19, this is something that we’re seeing throughout the year.”

He emphasized that like the flu vaccine, a COVID-19 vaccine could prompt side effects but since the third dose is a new concept, little is known about the extent of the symptoms.

“It’s unknown at this time if people who get the third dose would experience increased side effects,” he said. “However, most people will have less severe symptoms than if they got COVID-19.”