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Doctor giving Covid vaccine to senior woman

Tips on Managing the Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine

By Ann Thompson, RP, BCACP February 16, 2021 Posted in: Coronavirus

It’s finally your turn to get the Covid vaccine, but you’ve heard there may be some side effects from the vaccine.  It’s true, some of the side effects can be downright miserable, but it’s your body’s way of telling you that your immune system is working to protect you from the virus.  For most people these go away within a day or two.  However, if you are uncomfortable afterward and want to lessen some of these effects, here are the common side effects and some tips to help.

Most Common Vaccine Side-Effects

Arm Pain

The arm in which you received your shot may be painful for a day or two afterward.  Common over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with the soreness and discomfort.  Other tips include increasing the movement in that arm to help it feel better, and if there is any swelling, an ice pack or cool wet washcloth can also help.


Acetaminophen and ibuprofen may also help with the headache.  As with any medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist first to make sure it won’t interfere with any other medications or conditions you have.

Fever and/or Chills

In addition to the acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you can also take a lukewarm bath or apply a cool compress to your forehead to help reduce the fever.  Drinking plenty of water or other fluids is beneficial as well.


Take it easy and rest!  Your body is busy ramping up your immune system, so help it out by resting as much as possible if you’re not feeling well.   Take a day off from the gym and do some light stretching if you absolutely must do some form of exercise, but give yourself a break from any strenuous exercise.

The COVID Vaccine is a 2 Dose Series

The vaccine we have available now is a 2 shot series, and depending on the manufacturer the second dose is given either 3 or 4 weeks after the first dose.  Most of the people I’ve talked to found that the effects after the first dose were quite mild and the effects after the second dose were more pronounced.  Personally, I felt flu-like symptoms after the second dose and was thankful I didn’t have to work the next day.  Others felt just fine and had mild symptoms after the second dose so it really depends on the person, but it may be something to keep in mind when scheduling your vaccinations.

Also, it’s very important to remember that you need both shots in order to achieve the best immunity against Covid-19.  Until everyone is vaccinated we need to continue to wear masks, social distance and wash our hands frequently.

If your side effects don’t seem to be going away after 48 hours, or if the pain or swelling in your arm seems to be getting worse after 24 hours, please contact your primary care provider.   For any other questions about managing side effects after your vaccination, please contact your primary care provider or the CHI Health pharmacy nearest you!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Jan 11, 2021, “What to Expect After Getting a Covid-19 Vaccine”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services; Accessed Feb 5, 2021,

Ann Thompson, RP, BCACP
Ann Thompson, RP, BCACP

Ann Thompson has been a pharmacist with CHI Health for 23 years, and is currently the CHI Health Retail Pharmacy manager. She has a board certification in Ambulatory Care, and loves working with patients and helping them manage their medications and overall health. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising, trying new healthy recipes, and spending time outdoors.

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