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VERIFY: Does the second COVID-19 shot cause stronger side effects?

Lots of people are sharing their experiences online with being vaccinated against COVID-19, noting their second dose made them worse. Is this expected?
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Immunization and vaccination for flu shot, influenza, HPV or Covid-19 prevention with young child girl having vaccine injection for World immunization week and International HPV awareness day

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, health officials have said to prepare to feel a little under-the-weather for a short time after your shots. It's a normal bodily response as your immunity grows.

However, there are many claims online that the second dose could have stronger side effects.


Is your second COVID-19 shot expected to give you stronger side effects?


Yes. Health experts say, while not everyone will experience side effects after being vaccinated, it's common to feel them more after the second dose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common side effects are mild and typically arise within a day or two of getting the vaccine.

The CDC states, "They might feel like flu symptoms and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days."

It also warns, in its summary of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, second-dose side effects were more common.

These are possible symptoms, according to the CDC:

In the arm where you got the shot:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness

Throughout the rest of your body: 

  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Dr. Brannon Traxler, South Carolina's Interim Public Health Director, is not surprised to see the data about stronger second-dose responses, considering the fact that those symptoms are from your immune system ramping up and the second shot boosts your immunity the most.

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"The first dose is that primer for the immune system, and that second dose really is that booster shot," said Traxler. "It's the one that really kicks that antibody production into high gear."

Traxler said not everyone will have the side effects, but for those who do, it will be worth the payoff.

"It's a minor uncomfortable feeling of the symptoms for a short period of time for getting protection from disease that could be, in the worst case, fatal," said Traxler. "I would not let that stop anyone from getting their second dose."

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