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Health & Wellness

What You Need to Know About the COVID Vaccine and Side Effects

By Ochsner Lafayette General
January 6, 2021

Ochsner Lafayette General employees and physicians were among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which is a major step in bringing this pandemic to an end. Rigorous research has demonstrated to the FDA that the vaccine is highly effective and safe. Ochsner employees and patients at other facilities across the region participated in the Pfizer clinical trial, and that data has, in part, led to the creation of the first COVID-19 vaccine.

You might be wondering about the possible side effects. There’s good news. Current data from COVID-19 vaccine trials support the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. More than 37,000 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine during the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials with no significant side effects.

We've answered the most commonly asked questions we receive on receiving the vaccine and possible side effects. 


How is the Vaccine Administered?

Like the flu shot, the vaccine is administered into a large muscle in the upper arm or thigh. As with any vaccine, allergic reactions may occur. The most common side effects reported by vaccine participants in trials conducted by Pfizer include:

  • Pain, redness and/or swelling of the skin where you received the shot
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Mild fever

These are signs of an immune response to the vaccine and are expected in some patients. The symptoms might last for a few hours or a day or two. Pfizer reports that older adults tended to report fewer and milder side effects than younger people after being vaccinated. Less commonly reported side effects include vomiting or diarrhea.


What if I feel sick after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

Contact your healthcare provider should you feel ill or experience an adverse effect discussed prior to your COVID-19 vaccination. Refer to the list above of possible side effects to see if you are experiencing an immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine compared to the symptoms of the common cold, flu or the COVID-19 virus. 

Note: The vaccine does not contain a live virus, and you cannot get the virus from the COVID-19 vaccine.


Can I still become infected after receiving the vaccine? 

The vaccine cannot cause you to test positive via nasal swab or saliva test. This is not a live vaccine and will not cause you to shed virus. Some patients may still become infected or develop symptoms following vaccination against COVID-19. However, the current vaccines under consideration all have greater than 90% efficacy of preventing you from getting infected. They also have demonstrated that your risk of a severe infection that requires you to be hospitalized is greatly reduced following immunization.


Are there any health restrictions that would prevent me from receiving the vaccine?

Following guidelines from the FDA, no one is excluded from receiving the vaccine, even patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The only medical contraindications to receiving this vaccine are severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine or severe allergic reaction to components of this vaccine. 


For more answers to your COVID questions, please refer to the latest FAQs.