AstraZeneca vaccine: Are side effects worse after the second jab? What the data shows

COVID-19 vaccine side effects are 'pot luck' says expert

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The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has made its way into millions of arms across the UK and many of these recipients will be about to get their second dose. Naturally, there will be some apprehension amongst this cohort following reports of blood clot complications in a small number of people receiving the vaccine. Experiencing a bad turn after the first shot will also prompt some people to wonder whether they are in store for the same or worse experience after their second jab.

Clinical trial data involving more than 23,000 participants should allay some of these fears.

Adverse reactions reported after the second dose were milder and reported less frequently than after the first dose.

Broken down by age, adverse reactions were generally milder and reported less frequently in older adults (65 years and older) than in younger people.

What side effects should I expect?

The COVID Symptom Study app has pooled together and analysed data submissions to establish the most common side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

As the team of experts behind the app explained, it is perfectly normal and actually encouraging to experience vaccine side effects.

“COVID-19 vaccines work by using a harmless version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to train the immune system, so when we encounter the virus for real we’re able to fight it off,” they explained.

According to the experts, this “training” response can feel a bit like the effects we get when we’re fighting off a real infection.

Side effects include headaches, fever, chills or shivers, tiredness (fatigue), muscle or joint pains, diarrhoea and feeling sick (nausea).

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The data also indicates that it’s common to experience local effects like pain, swelling, redness or itchiness at the site of the injection, or swelling of the glands (lymph nodes) in the armpit.

“While they may make you feel grotty, all these effects are a sign that your immune system is kicking into action to protect you from COVID-19,” noted the researchers.

At the same time, don’t worry if you don’t experience any of these effects after your vaccine.

As the experts pointed out, your immune system will still be learning to respond to the virus.

According to clinical trial data, side effects happen shortly after the vaccination and are not associated with more serious or lasting illness.

The nature of reported suspected side effects is broadly similar across age groups, although, as was seen in clinical trials and as is usually seen with other vaccines, they may be reported more frequently in younger adults.

The link to blood clots

Cases of an extremely rare specific type of blood clot with low blood platelets continue to be investigated.

According to Public Health England (PHE), anyone who experienced cerebral or other major blood clots occurring with low levels of platelets after their first vaccine dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca should not have their second dose.

Anyone who did not have these side effects should come forward for their second dose when invited, the PHE advises.

The UK’s medicine authority recently confirmed that the evidence to date does not suggest that the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca causes venous thromboembolism without a low platelet count.

If you experience any blood clot symptoms from around four days after vaccination should seek medical advice urgently, advises PHE.

These include:

  • A severe headache that is not relieved with simple painkillers or is getting worse or feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • An unusual headache that may be accompanied by blurred vision, confusion, Difficulty with speech, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin beyond the injection site
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain.

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