With the current focus on COVID-19 vaccines, Healthdirect Australia has developed the COVID-19 vaccine side effect checker to help you decide what to do if you have side effects after a COVID-19 vaccination, ranging from common flu-like symptoms to rare cases when medical attention is needed.
Mild side effects
Evidence from clinical trials, along with national and international databases, show that most side effects being reported after vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines are mild and temporary (lasting only a few days).11-14
As of August 2022, most people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia (as primary or booster doses) have an mRNA vaccine; either Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna).15
The Australian Government TGA closely monitors all reports made to them about possible side effects from any medicine or vaccine that is approved for use in Australia.
From these reports the most common side effects likely to be linked to the vaccines are headache, muscle and joint pain, fever, chills and nausea. Skin reactions at the site of the injection are also common and can include pain, swelling, redness and an itchy rash.15 These mild and temporary side effects are also being reported in clinical trials around the world.
People can find out more about how the TGA continues to check on the safety of these vaccines through their COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring and reporting page.
What you can do to manage mild vaccine side effects
Mild side effects from a vaccine can usually be managed with:
- plenty of water (especially if there is mild fever)
- comfortable clothing (especially if there is mild fever)
- simple pain-relieving medicine such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (if the pain or fever is uncomfortable and stopping you from doing day-to-day activities).
Before taking any medicine, check the active ingredients are safe to take with any medical conditions you have, other medicines you are taking, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You can find out more about active ingredients here.
When to get medical attention
New, unexpected or persistent symptoms
Speak with a health professional if you:
- are worried about a potential vaccine side effect
- have new or unexpected symptoms
- have an expected side effect that hasn’t gone away after a few days.
The COVID-19 vaccine side effects symptom checker can help and you can contact the Adverse Medicine Events line for information about side effects and to forward reports to the TGA. The service is, however, unable to provide medical advice.
Symptoms more than 4 days after vaccination
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) are rare side effects that typically occur within 10 days of vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines. Most people get better within a few days.15
Myocarditis and pericarditis symptoms include chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeat), fainting or shortness of breath, and usually occur within 1–5 days of vaccination.
Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
At the time of this update the TGA has received 665 reports of symptoms likely to be myocarditis from about 43.4 million doses of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and 104 reports of symptoms likely to be myocarditis from about 5.2 million doses of Spikevax (Moderna).15
The TGA vaccine safety reports provide regular updates on myocarditis and pericarditis cases from mRNA vaccines.
Severe allergic reactions
Serious but extremely rare side effects to vaccines – including the COVID-19 vaccines – can include allergic reactions. If an allergic reaction is going to happen it will usually occur within 15 minutes of receiving a vaccine, which is why you should wait this amount of time before you leave the vaccination centre.
Seek medical attention if you think you are having an allergic reaction and call 000 if the symptoms are severe, such as if you have difficulty breathing, start wheezing, have a fast heartbeat or feel like you may be about to collapse.