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What to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination

Side effects

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose.

Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the full recommended course will give you the best protection against the virus.

Very common side effects in the first day or two include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
  • feeling tired
  • headache, aches and chills

You may also have flu like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two. However, a high temperature could also indicate that you have COVID-19 or another infection. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better.

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 a mammogram in the few weeks after the vaccine, then you should mention that when you attend.

What to do if you are concerned about your symptoms

These symptoms normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111.

If you experience any of the following from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination you should seek medical advice urgently:

  • a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
  • an unusual headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or may be accompanied by
    • blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
    • difficulty with your speech,
    • weakness, drowsiness or seizures
  • new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain