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  • COVID-19
  • Vaccine Safety

What common side effects are expected after vaccination with mRNA vaccines?

Recipients of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines often experience local (e.g., pain, swelling, redness at the injection site, localized swollen lymph nodes in the armpit of the vaccinated arm) or systemic (e.g., fever, fatigue, headache, chills, body and joint aches) post-vaccination symptoms. Depending on vaccine product (Pfizer-BioNTech vs. Moderna), age group, and vaccine dose, in clinical trials, approximately 80–91% of vaccinated people develop at least one local symptom and 55–91% develop at least one systemic symptom following vaccination.

Most systemic post-vaccination symptoms are mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first three days of vaccination, and resolve within 1–3 days of onset.

Among children ages 6 months through 4 years (Pfizer-BioNTech) or 6 months through 5 years (Moderna), pain or tenderness at the injection site was the most frequent local reaction. The most common systemic symptom in older children was fatigue; in younger children (ages 6 through 23 months), irritability/crying and drowsiness/sleepiness were most common. Most systemic symptoms were mild to moderate in severity, typically began 1 to 2 days after vaccination, and resolved after 1 to 2 days.

Last reviewed: October 26, 2023

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