Dr. Fauci Says You Should Expect These COVID Vaccine Side Effects

Kali Coleman
·5 min read

Health officials are optimistic about the prospect of multiple coronavirus vaccines just around the corner. As with any medical advancement, however, people are worried about the complications that could arise from a new vaccine. Fortunately, Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is preparing the public for what exactly they should expect. In a Nov. 23 interview with The Washington Post, Fauci said you should be ready for these COVID vaccine side effects: arm discomfort, mild swelling, ache, and a 24-hour fever. Read on for more about these side effects, and for more of the health expert's vaccine predictions, These 5 People Will Get the COVID Vaccine First, Dr. Fauci Says.

According to Fauci, there are three types of side effects that come along with a vaccine: immediate, intermediate, and long-term. And so far, the immediate side effects are the only ones he's certain of. These can include "a little discomfort in the arm, a little swelling, maybe a little ache, [and] fever" for 24 hours.

"The intermediate may be, you know, a few days later where you get a reaction—the way it has happened with other vaccines years and years ago, when there was Guillain-Barre associated with the pandemic flu vaccine," Fauci explained. However, he said that they "haven't seen any of those serious adverse events," such as the Guillain-Barre disease, when it comes to intermediate side effects.

As for long-term side effects, Fauci said that those will be monitored by the FDA and various vaccine companies over the next few years. While these potential effects "remain to be seen," Fauci is confident that everyone should take the vaccine to help protect themselves and the rest of society. He assured The Washington Post that there has been a "sound process" in creating a safe and effective vaccine.

"The speed was based on very exquisite, scientific advances and an enormous amount of resources that were put into Operation Warp Speed to make this happen," Fauci said. "There was no compromise of safety, nor was there compromise of scientific integrity."

According to Fauci, a vaccine has to go through several independent means of approval before it is approved for personal use. He said that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, which is a "completely independent board that doesn't have to answer to the administration or to the company," has looked at the data for both the Moderna and the Pfizer coronavirus vaccines and has deemed them both to be effective and safe. But the process doesn't end there.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still has to analyze and approve the vaccines, Fauci explained. And according to the FDA, "currently there is no FDA-approved or authorized vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19." However, Pfizer just applied for emergency FDA approval of its vaccine on Nov. 20, with Moderna following suit on Nov. 30. If the latter is granted, Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel said the first public vaccination may be given as early as Dec. 21.

According to Fauci, possible side effects are most likely what is holding up the FDA from approving a vaccine. He said that the FDA doesn't want to grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) until 60 days have passed after at least 50 percent of the vaccine trial participants have received their last dose. In the history of vaccines, Fauci noted, 90 to 95 percent reveal their long-term side effects 30 to 45 days after their final doses.

"That is a very prudent way to rule out any overwhelming majority of any serious effects," he said. "They're still going to be looking a year or two later, but the bulk of things that might happen have already been looked at by that 60-day wait before you allow the EUA to actually be issued so that people will get the vaccine."

Fauci also said that the vaccine data will be overseen by him and his colleagues before it is approved for public use, in a process that is "independent and it's transparent." Despite any mixed messages, Fauci urged the public to get vaccinated as soon as a COVID vaccine is approved.

"I can tell you when my turn comes up and the FDA says that this is safe and effective, I, myself, will get vaccinated and I will recommend that my family gets vaccinated," he said.

Of course, other health officials and participants have spoken about the possible side effects of COVID vaccines. To get a fuller picture of complications you may experience, read on, and for more on the coronavirus, If You Have This Symptom, There's an 80 Percent Chance You Have COVID.

1

Nausea

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable man sitting alone on his bed and suffering from stomach cramps while home alone
Cropped shot of an unrecognizable man sitting alone on his bed and suffering from stomach cramps while home alone

Ian Haydon received the highest dose during Moderna's first human in trial in May. According to Science Magazine, Haydon experienced severe nausea as a result of the vaccine, which caused him to vomit and faint. Fortunately Haydon said it was a "small price to pay" for safety from COVID, and Moderna has since reduced the dosage. And for more on coronavirus and your stomach, This Is How to Tell If Your Upset Stomach Is COVID, Doctors Say.

2

Headache

Shot of a mature woman experiencing a headache
Shot of a mature woman experiencing a headache

Haydon also reported having a headache after his second injection. According to Science Magazine, this was a side effect for both vaccine trials—Moderna and Pfizer. For Moderna, 4.5 percent of participants experienced this side effect and for Pfizer, 2 percent. And for more vaccine concerns, Doctors Have This One Worry About the COVID Vaccine.

3

Temperature changes

Sick woman wrapped in blanket
Sick woman wrapped in blanket

A fever may not be your only temperature issue when it comes to vaccine side effects. Luke Hutchinson, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology–educated computational biologist, participated in the Moderna COVID trial over the summer and said he ended up shaking with "cold and hot rushes." He said that his fever (which was 102 degrees Fahrenheit) felt "unbearable." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

4

Fatigue

Tired woman on couch
Tired woman on couch

According to Science Magazine, fatigue was the most common side effect in both Moderna and Pfizer's trials. For Moderna, fatigue was a side effect for 9.7 percent of participants and for Pfizer, 3.8 percent. And to make sure you're prepared for immunization, You Need to Quit This Bad Habit Before Getting a COVID Vaccine, Study Says.