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COVID-19 vaccines: Care after immunization

COVID-19 vaccines

Care after immunization

Do COVID-19 vaccines have side effects?

Many people have no side effects from COVID-19 vaccines. If you do have side effects, they tend to be mild and go away in a few days. Common side effects may include:

  • redness, swelling, a hard spot, or feeling sore where you had the needle
  • feeling tired, unwell, or have a headache
  • a fever or chills
  • body aches, sore joints, or have pain in your legs or arms
  • feeling sick to your stomach (nausea), vomiting (throwing up), or loose stool (diarrhea)
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • swelling or feeling sore in your armpit or groin
  • a reduced sense of touch or a feeling of numbness
  • feeling dizzy
  • a rash or hives

Children age 5 years and younger may also get upset easily, cry, have an earache, or may not want to eat.

What should I do if I have side effects?

Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects. It’s rare to have a serious side effect.

Rare events after getting the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine

Between 4 and 28 days after getting the Janssen vaccine, there have been very rare reports of blood clots, low levels of platelets (these help your blood to clot), and bleeding.

If you have any of the following symptoms within 42 days of being immunized, get medical help right away:

  • trouble talking or moving a part of your body
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • severe swelling, pain, or a colour change in your arm or leg
  • stomach pain that doesn’t go away
  • a severe headache that doesn’t go away
  • blurry vision
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • bruising or bleeding that is not normal for you

There have been very rare reports of capillary leak syndrome (CLS) within the first few days after getting the Janssen vaccine. CLS is a serious condition that causes sudden swelling of the arms and legs, sudden weight gain, and low blood pressure causing you to feel faint. Get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms.

There have been very rare reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) up to 42 days after getting the Janssen vaccine. GBS is a serious condition that causes pain or numbness, muscle weakness, and, in severe cases, paralysis. Get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Rare events after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna (SpikeVax), or Novavax (Nuvaxovid) vaccines

In the first 7 days after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax vaccines, there have been very rare reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). This inflammation can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or a very fast or abnormal heart rate. Get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms.

What can I do to feel better?

To help with soreness and swelling:

  • Put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle.
  • Move the arm or leg where you had the needle.

If you have a fever, wear fewer layers of clothes and drink more fluids. There is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you aren’t sure what medicine or dose to take. Follow the directions on the package. Children under the age of 18 years should not take aspirin (unless your doctor has told you to take it) because it can cause serious health problems if taken within 6 weeks of a vaccine.

Some people with health problems, such as a weak immune system, must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you were told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from the vaccine.

More information

Go to MyHealth.Alberta.ca/myhealthrecords for your COVID-19 immunization record. You can also sign up for a MyHealth Records account to get a list of most immunizations you’ve had in Alberta.

To see this information online and learn more, visit: MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_imm_covid19vaccine_ac.

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Related to COVID-19 vaccines

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: September 16, 2022

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.