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Concerns About Common Side Effects Shouldn’t Stop You From Getting COVID-19 Vaccines, Doctor Says

Concerns About Common Side Effects Shouldn’t Stop You From Getting COVID-19 Vaccines, Doctor Says

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti empathizes with other Canadians who have reported common side effects after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine. After his second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he had a mild fever and joint pain.

But Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., Said the end result of COVID-19 protection was worth the discomfort.

“I don’t want to trivialize how people feel. I know it’s unpleasant,” he said. “Keep in mind that these symptoms go away relatively quickly and that ultimately you will be immune to COVID.”

The federal government classifies its reports of vaccine reactions as serious and non-serious adverse events. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that anyone who experiences an adverse reaction contact their health care provider, who file a report on their behalf.

CBC News received messages from audience members who reported a range of reactions to their inoculations, with some reluctant to return for a second dose. Although new research suggests a first dose offers strong immune protection, experts and officials still recommend receiving both doses of the proposed two-course vaccines.

Here’s an overview of the types of reactions some people have had, what to do if you experience these side effects, and when people should see a doctor.

What side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have been reported?

As of April 23, 4,128 serious and non-serious adverse events have been reported out of more than 12 million doses of vaccine administered, according to the latest federal government statistics. The seriousness of the reactions reported ranges from common side effects to rare but serious complications from vaccines.

The most commonly reported side effects include different types of irritation at the vaccine site, followed by headache, hives, nausea, fatigue and fever, according to the data.

“The interesting thing is that all of these symptoms are actually coming from your immune system which is activated by the vaccine, and that’s what makes you feel that way,” Chakrabarti said.

“Fortunately, from what we’ve seen, even those that can put you to bed for a day, they usually don’t last more than 24 hours, maximum 36 hours, and people are doing better.”

Other side effects reported, but in smaller numbers, include chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, and anaphylaxis.

Each of the vaccines approved for use in Canada – Pfizer-BioNTech, Modern, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) – have published product monographs showing possible side effects of their respective vaccines.

WATCH | Does a vaccine have more side effects?

Infectious disease specialist Dr Alex Wong answers questions about COVID-19 vaccines, including whether any of the vaccines have more side effects and whether the vaccines can be mixed. 3:10

What is the difference between serious and non-serious side effects?

Chakrabarti said that aside from a few rare complications, most of the side effects that have been reported are considered non-serious in nature. But even those classified as severe can go from being unwell for about a day to requiring additional medical attention.

“It can vary a bit from person to person. But again, as I mentioned, these things happen very rarely and for the most part, even in older people, they don’t last longer than a day.” , did he declare.

“If you feel really bad you can always take Advil or Tylenol. This will usually help.”

What about reports of vaccine-related clots?

In rare but serious cases, vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) is a possible complication of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says this rare type of aggressive blood clotting “is most often estimated to be between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000 people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine”, with a death rate of around 40%, although more research is needed – and this number is subject to change.

“The aggressive nature of these blood clots is really of concern,” said Dr. Menaka Pai, clinical hematologist at McMaster University and member of the Ontario COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Committee.

The scientific community believes that VITT is driven by antibodies after receiving an adenovirus vector vaccine (such as AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson), can cause low platelet counts, and is often present in unusual places such as the brain or abdomen, Pai said.

The key is knowing it’s happening, said Pai, who is also an associate professor of hematology and thromboembolism. “If these clots are left untreated they can be very serious. They can be fatal.”

When should you see a doctor?

Pai said to watch for the following symptoms between four and 28 days after vaccination that could be a sign of VITT and should prompt people to see a doctor:

  • Persistent and severe headache.
  • Difficulty moving part of your body.
  • Seizures.
  • Vision problems, including blurred vision or double vision.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Severe pain in the chest, back or abdomen.
  • Swelling or change in color of an arm or leg.

“I’m not talking about a brief headache. I’m talking about something that doesn’t go away, ”she said.

A seventh Canadian confirmed case of VITT linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, in more than 1.1 million doses administered, has been reported in Quebec the Saturday; At the end of last month, Francine Boyer, 54, died of cerebral thrombosis in a Montreal hospital after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 9.

WATCH | Dr Zain Chagla talks about the rare death from vaccine-related blood clots:

An infectious disease specialist puts the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in context after the death of a Quebec woman. 1:15

As for those who express hesitation, Pai said it is essential for everyone to assess their personal circumstances – including the severity of COVID-19 in their community and the risks of contracting the virus – before making a decision. informed on whether to take the first vaccine offered or to wait. a specific stroke.

“When you get this vaccine there is a good chance that everything will be fine. It’s a rare disease after all, ”she said.


If you have a personal question about the pandemic, you can send it to COVID@cbc.ca.

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