WASHINGTON — Question:
Do young people tend to get stronger side effects from vaccines than older people?
Yes, but this is not a reason to worry, according to medical experts. Young people tend to have stronger immune systems, and so they'll feel the effects of the vaccine doing its job.
The side effects are typically 'mild or moderate,' and tend to pass in a couple of days or less. Medical experts emphasize that young people should get the vaccine as soon as it is made available.
- Dr. Linda Nabha, Infectious Diseases Specialist from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
- Dr. Latasha Perkins, Physician and Professor from The Georgetown University School of Medicine
- The Food and Drug Administration, "Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting December 10, 2020"
- The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, "Local Reactions, Systemic Reactions, Adverse Events, and Serious Adverse Events: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine"
The Verify eam noticed numerous posts on social media about young adults facing side effects, related to the vaccines. Typically these side effects were flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and fever.
Anna Hovey, a 23-year-old medical receptionist from Maryland, was one of the lucky few that got access to a vaccine, due to her job in healthcare.
"I did it for my parents," she said. "For the opportunity to see my grandmother who’s 92."
Hovey is glad she received the vaccine, although she noted some side effects felt after the second dose.
“I just felt not great," she said. "You know just wiped out. It kind of felt like a bad cold or the mild flu.”
To find out if this reaction was normal, the Verify team contacted a pair of doctors. Both confirmed that younger people do tend to receive a stronger reaction after getting the vaccine.
“The reason you’re seeing those side effects is that you have a robust immune system," said Dr. Lataha S. Perkins. "As we age our immune system is a little less robust."
Dr. Linda Nabha, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center agreed.
"When we’re younger," she said. "We tend to mount a bigger and stronger immune reaction if you will. That’s not a bad thing, that’s actually a good thing.”
Data from Pfizer and Moderna studies show the same trend. On the CDC website, a breakdown of the Pfizer data shows that those 18-55 years old had a fever after the 2nd dose about 16% of the time, whereas those older than 55 had fever only about 11% of the time, compared to the placebo.
Dr. Perkins emphasized that this trend should not scare people away from the vaccine. The reactions are simply demonstrating that the immune system is being activated as it's supposed to.
“That is not something to be concerned about," she said. "It’s something to be happy about because it means your immune system works.”
The reactions are typically mild or moderate and tend to go away after a day or two. Nabha said that it's important that young people take the vaccine to protect the community as a whole.
"You're doing the right thing by getting this vaccine," she said. "Not only are you protecting yourself, but you're protecting those around you who may be at higher risk for getting complications related to COVID. You’re doing yourself and doing others a huge favor.”
Hovey, now fully vaccinated, said she's glad she got the shot.
"It’s not fun," she said. "But it’s definitely worth it to get the country that much closer to some immunity.”