Possible Side Effects From Vaccines
Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part these are minor and go away within a few days. Listed below are vaccines licensed in the United States and side effects that have been associated with each of them. This information is copied directly from CDCs Vaccine Information Statements , which in turn are derived from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations for each vaccine.
Remember, vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk and could put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease.
Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
On June 30, 2022, CDC announced that Director Rochelle P. Walensky adopted the Decision memo approving the ACIP vote for a preferential recommendation for the use of higher dose or adjuvanted flu vaccines over standard-dose unadjuvanted flu vaccines for adults 65 years and older. CDCs full recommendations for the use of flu vaccines during 2022-2023 will appear in a forthcoming Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Edits to this page are also forthcoming. More information can be found online: CDC Director Adopts Preference for Specific Flu Vaccines for Seniors
Note: Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices United States, 2021-2022 Influenza Season has been . More information on the 2021-2022 season is also available.
Who Should Not Get A Flu Vaccine
Children younger than 6 months cannot get a flu shot. Those who have had a severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past should not get that type of flu shot again, and they should speak with their health care provider about whether they can receive another type of flu shot, the CDC says.
Similarly, people who have had a life-threatening reaction to ingredients in flu vaccines besides egg proteins shouldn’t get flu vaccines with those ingredients and they should speak with their health care provider about whether there is a flu vaccine that’s right for them, the CDC says. These other ingredients might include gelatin or antibiotics, which are added to some flu shots to prevent bacterial contamination during manufacturing.
People with egg allergies can still receive any type of flu shot that’s recommended for their age group, even if the flu shot is made with egg-based technology , the CDC says. Studies have found that people with egg allergies are very unlikely to experience a severe reaction to flu vaccines. People who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to eggs should get their flu shot under the supervision of a health care provider who can treat severe allergic reactions, the CDC says. In addition, several types of flu shots are egg-free, including recombinant flu vaccines and cell-based flu vaccines.
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The Bottom Line On Flu Shots And Side Effects
It’s normal to feel soreness, redness, tenderness, or even develop a mild fever or body aches during the two days after you get vaccinatedthats just your immune response, not the flu illness itself.
So theres no reason to avoid getting the flu shot because you think itll make you sick. Unless you have severe or life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredients in it, you should roll up your sleeves for one each year, the CDC says .
Getting sick with the flu is more dangerous than many people think. While most people will recover, some people can develop complications from the influenza virus, which can include sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, and inflammation of the heart , brain , or muscle . It can even be deadly.
Is It Too Late To Get The Flu Vaccine For The 2021
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated early in the seasonideally by the end of October.
But its not too late to get a flu vaccine this year: Physicians say now is still a good time to get one. Flu cases typically rise in February and can continue into May. And since it takes about two weeks to build strong immunity post-vaccine, the sooner you get inoculated the better.
Keep in mind: Since getting a flu vaccine is not a guarantee that you wont get the flu, its important to continue to follow other public health best practices.
Everyone still needs to be mindful of things such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your nose and mouth when you sneezepreferably with a tissue, so it can be discarded afterwardand using good hand hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rubs, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when possible, Lee Nguyen, Pharm.D., associate clinical professor for the department of clinical pharmacy practice at the University of California, Irvine, tells SELF.
If youre interested in getting a flu vaccine, you can get one through your primary care physician if you have one, or another health care professional, as well as through many pharmacies and public health departments. Sometimes, flu vaccination clinics are set up in workplaces or other frequently visited locations within a community.
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Headache And Other Aches And Pains
After your shot, you might have headaches or some achiness and pain in the muscles throughout your body. This also usually happens on the first day and goes away within two days. Taking pain relievers can help ease your discomfort.
Its controversial whether its safe to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat these vaccine side effects.
Some research suggests that these medications might change or decrease how your body responds to the vaccine. One study involving children found that taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen didnt reduce the bodys response to the flu vaccine.
Other research is mixed. Its still unclear whether these medications should be avoided.
Allergic Reactions To The Flu Shot
Though the side effects listed above are normal reactions to the flu vaccine, it’s important to monitor your response to the vaccine to make sure that you are not having an allergic reaction.
Though allergic reactions are rare they occur in an estimated 1.3 of every 1 million vaccinations they can be serious.
Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine include:
- Trouble breathing
- Fast heartbeat
According to McNeil, these symptoms usually occur “within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the shot and they require immediate medical evaluation and treatment.”
The flu shot, like all vaccines, contains several components that can cause an allergic reaction. Most allergic reactions are caused by an allergy to egg protein, gelatin, or other additives in the vaccine. While the flu shot contains trace amounts of egg, research has shown that most people with mild egg allergies can receive influenza vaccines.
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Keep An Eye Out For Signs Of More Severe Issues
In the days and weeks following your COVID-19 booster, there are some rare yet potentially severe side effects that you will want to keep an eye on, Milstone said.
If you or your child develops new chest pain, a change in heart rate or shortness of breath within a week of getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster, the CDC says you should get in contact with a health care provider. Those can be signs of myocarditis or pericarditis, which are types of heart inflammation that have been seen predominantly in young males after getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Also be aware of a delayed reaction to the shot termed “COVID arm.” This skin reaction typically shows up a few days after someone gets the vaccine and presents as an inflamed area near the injection site. The skin might be raised, red, itchy or burning, but COVID arm actually isn’t a sign of anything dangerous or harmful. Experts believe it to be a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that should respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, pain medications and ice packs. COVID arm should resolve on its own within another few days, but if it doesn’t or the symptoms are severe, check in with your doctor or dermatologist.
That said, it’s not clear how common COVID arm is after the booster dose. “I’ve heard a lot of reports of that after the first and second doses,” Milstone said, “but I’ve not heard that as commonly after the booster.”
How Safe Is The Flu Vaccine
The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and can include:
- mild soreness where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.
- a mild fever or aches for the first day or 2 after immunization.
Do not give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen before or around the time of vaccination as it does not prevent the pain of injection and it could have an impact on how well the vaccine works. These medications can be used to treat fever, pain, or other bothersome side effects if they develop after vaccination.
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Ask The Doctor: Sinus Infections Booster Shots And Thrush
Dr. Rob Riley joins us each week from the South Bend Clinic. Here are his responses from April 23.
Ann: How do you know if you have a sinus infection vs. allergies in the spring?
The symptoms suggesting a sinus infection include pressure in the face or foreheadsometimes even pain in these areas. People often have other signs of illness, too, like fever and body aches. Allergy sufferers typically have nasal congestion, too, but will have other symptoms of allergy like a lot of sneezing and itchy, watery eyes that we dont see as typically with infections. Its important to make this distinction, too, as the treatments are different. Bacterial sinus infections tend to do better with antibiotics while allergy symptoms tend to respond to antihistamines you can get without a prescription.
Jenette: Do older adults need booster shots for childhood diseases?
Karen: How does one know if they have thrush? Is there a test for this?
People At Higher Risk From Flu
Anyone can get sick with flu, even healthy people, and serious problems related to flu can happen to anyone at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions , pregnant people and children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years old.
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Flu Shot And Chronic Conditions
It’s true that people with chronic health conditions are at a greater risk of complications from the flu. However, they are at no greater risk for side effects from a flu shot. Flu vaccines have been proven safe in this vulnerable population of people.
On the other hand, the FluMist nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for people with certain chronic health conditions. This is due to possible complications from the weakened form of the live influenza virus it contains.
What Else Can I Do To Protect Myself From The Flu
Dr. Gandhi stressed that Covid-19 precautions hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing and isolating yourself when sick also help prevent the spread of flu. I would encourage people to go into this fall and winter season trying to also be adherent to all of those preventive health measures, she said.
Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science journalist.
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What’s In This Year’s Flu Vaccines
The composition of the 2021-2022 flu shot will be different from last season’s flu shot. Specifically, the two influenza A components of the flu shot differ from those in last year’s shot. In addition, all flu shots for the 2021-2022 season will be quadrivalent, meaning they will contain four strains of flu viruses.
According to the CDC , the 2021-2022 quadrivalent egg-based flu shot contains the following strains of the flu virus:
- A/Victoria/2570/2019 pdm09-like virus This H1N1 component differs from last year’s flu shot.
- A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 -like virus This is the H3N2 component that is different from last year’s flu shot.
- B/Washington/02/2019- like virus This influenza B strain component is the same as the one in last year’s shot.
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus This influenza B strain component was also in last year’s shot.
Then, there are the two types of flu vaccines that don’t involve eggs: cell-based and recombinant-based flu vaccines. In cell-based flu vaccines, the inactivated flu virus is grown in cultured cells from mammals rather than in hens’ eggs. And recombinant flu vaccines are created synthetically. To make this type of vaccine, scientists combine a lab-made antigen specific to the flu virus with a baculovirus .
What Is Influenza Virus Nasal Vaccine
Influenza virus is a contagious disease caused by a virus that can spread from one person to another through the air or on surfaces. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, tiredness, aches, sore throat, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea. The flu can also cause sinus infections, ear infections, bronchitis, or serious complications such as pneumonia.
Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. Influenza is most dangerous in children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weak immune systems or health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Influenza virus nasal vaccine is for use in people 2 years to 49 years old, to prevent infection caused by influenza virus. This vaccine helps your body develop immunity to the disease, but will not treat an active infection you already have.
Influenza virus vaccine is redeveloped each year to contain specific strains of flu virus that are recommended by public health officials for that year.
Nasal influenza virus vaccine is made from “live viruses.” Influenza virus vaccine is also available as an injection which is a “killed virus” vaccine. This medication guide addresses only the nasal form of this vaccine.
Like any vaccine, nasal flu vaccine may not provide protection from disease in every person.
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What Other Drugs Will Affect Influenza Virus Nasal Vaccine
Anyone 2 to 17 years old receiving a nasal flu vaccine should not take aspirin for at least 4 weeks after the vaccine. A possible interaction between nasal flu vaccine and aspirin can cause a serious or fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Before receiving this vaccine, tell your vaccination provider about all other vaccines you have recently received.
Other drugs may affect influenza virus nasal vaccine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use.
Asthma And Flu Vaccines
In general, people with asthma should get the flu vaccine, unless there is a reason not to, such as a history of Guillain Barre syndrome. For many years, there was also concern that people with egg allergies should not get the flu shot, but that no longer is the case. Talk with your healthcare provider, though, if you are still concerned.
So, why do so many people with asthma skip their annual flu shots? One reason is the concern that the flu shot could cause a worsening of asthma. Another is that people may not think they are at risk. Given the statistics, however, there is a good chance of contracting flu. Each year in the United States, there are between 9.2 and 35.6 million cases of influenza, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths.
Some people are afraid to get the flu shot if a family member is immunosuppressed or on chemotherapy. But, this is not a problem with the injectable flu shot Conversely, failing to get a flu shot can put your loved ones at risk and vice versa.
So, we’re left with two questions for discussion:
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Flu Shot Side Effects For Children And Toddlers
The flu shot is made with an inactivated flu virus, so it can’t give you influenza, says Daisy Dodd, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease doctor for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Even so, people can have minor side effects after receiving the shot. Child and toddler flu shot side effects include:
- Soreness, redness, or discomfort in the injection site. This localized reaction is the most common side effect, says Dr. Ahmed.
- Body aches
- Headache. “This can usually be alleviated by taking pain medication like Tylenol, but in my opinion, it’s very minor,” says Dr. Dodd.
- Fainting in rare cases
These side effects generally last between one and two days. “The most common reactions people have to flu vaccines are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by actual flu illness,” stresses the CDC.
Side Effects Of The Flu Shot Are Nothing Compared With Flu Sickness
The potential risks of a severe case of influenza far outweigh any very limited risk of side effects , which are typically mild, she says.
Some people equate the flu with having a bad cold. While the flu and the common cold have some symptoms in common, the flu can knock people flat for a few days to as long as two weeks, and it can also have far more dire consequences.
Some people who get the flu will develop complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart , inflammation of the brain , or respiratory failure, which can lead to hospitalization and death, notes the CDC.
Even if youve been vaccinated and still get the flu, you are less likely to die, be hospitalized, or be admitted to the ICU, Horney says.
While incidence of the flu was unusually low last year, thanks to COVID-19 precautions like mandatory masking and stay-at-home orders, the CDC estimates that the 20192020 flu season led to some 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 flu deaths.
And we could potentially see numbers like that again this year. As people return to offices and classrooms, and COVID-19 vaccinations lead to more mask-free gatherings, doctors are expecting a major uptick in flu cases this fall and winter.
Indeed, reduced population immunity could result in an early, and possibly severe, flu season, cautions the CDC.
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