Side effects of the coronavirus vaccines

It’s normal to experience side effects after the vaccine. It shows the vaccine is teaching your body’s immune system how to protect itself from the disease, however not everyone gets them.

Most of these are mild and short term. They may include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
  • headache or muscle ache
  • joint pain
  • chills
  • nausea or vomiting
  • feeling tired
  • fever (temperature above 37.8°C).

You may also have flu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two.

These common side effects are much less serious than developing coronavirus or complications associated with coronavirus and they usually go away within a few days.

If you feel uncomfortable, you can rest and take paracetamol. Make sure you take paracetamol as directed on the label or leaflet.

An uncommon side effect is swollen glands in the armpit or neck, on the same side as the arm where you had the vaccine. This can last for around 10 days, but if it lasts longer see your doctor.

If you are due for breast screening (a mammogram) then you should mention that you have had the vaccine when you attend.

These side effects normally last less than a week. If your side effects seem to get worse or if you are concerned, phone NHS 24 free on 111. If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination so that they can assess you properly. 

Side effects for each dose

Not all coronavirus vaccines are the same. Some tend to cause more side effects after the first dose, others cause more side effects after the second dose. The very common side effects are the same and should still only last a day or two.

Even if you do have side effects after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. The full recommended course will give you the best protection against the virus. 

Reports of very rare blood clots

The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The problem can also happen in people who have not been vaccinated and it's not yet clear why it affects some people.

On 7 May 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said to date and overall, just over 10 people develop this condition for every million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine given.

The coronavirus vaccine can help stop you from getting seriously ill or dying from coronavirus. For people aged 40 or over and those with underlying health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any risk of clotting problems.

For people under 40 without underlying health conditions, it's currently advised that it's preferable to have another coronavirus vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

If you have already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine without suffering any serious side effects you should complete the course (unless there is a medical reason for you not to have the same vaccine).

This includes people aged 18 to 39 years who are health and social care workers, unpaid carers and household contacts of those who are severely immunosuppressed.

Non-urgent advice: When to call 111

Call 111 immediately if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that's unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain

Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clots information leaflet

For further guidance please read the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination and rare blood clotting information leaflet.

Fever after the coronavirus vaccine

It’s quite common to develop a fever after a vaccination. This normally happens within 48 hours of the vaccination and usually goes away within 48 hours.

You do not need to self-isolate or book a test unless you have other coronavirus symptoms or:

  • you have been told by NHS Test and Protect, or your occupational health team, that you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
  • you live with someone who has recently tested positive for coronavirus
  • you live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus

If the fever starts more than 48 hours after the vaccination or lasts longer than 48 hours, you should self-isolate and book a test.

Side effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

A full list of common side effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available on GOV.UK.

Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Side effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

A full list of common side effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is available on GOV.UK.

Information for UK recipients on Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

A full list of common side effects of the Moderna vaccine is available on GOV.UK.

Information for UK recipients on Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Reporting side effects

As with all vaccines, you can report suspected side effects through the Yellow Card website.

Continue to follow FACTS

It is not known whether having the vaccine stops you from spreading the virus to others so it’s important that we all continue to follow FACTS:

  • F – Face coverings
  • A – Avoid crowds
  • C – Clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • T – Two-metre distance
  • S – Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms