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What side effects to expect after getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Virus Outbreak-Johnson Johnson Vaccine
Posted at 4:32 AM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 16:00:26-05

PHOENIX — The mission of ABC15's Health Insider series is to dive deeper into the things impacting your health and the health of those around you. We're going in-depth with expert advice from people who know it, see it every day in their work, and study it. Have a story idea? Contact the team at HealthInsider@abc15.com.

Here in Arizona, more than a half-million people have already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Chances are, you're still waiting for your turn, so what can you expect when you actually get it? What kind of side effects are doctors seeing?

ABC15 talked to Dr. Piyush Gupta with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona who has also been volunteering his own time to get the vaccine in even more arms. We caught up with him recently at State Farm Stadium.

Dr. Gupta says most people will walk away with some soreness where the shot went in.

"The most common reaction we are seeing is muscle pain," Dr. Gupta explains. "And about two-thirds of people who get it will have muscle pain but there is the unluckier one-third that may have flu-like symptoms."

Those symptoms could include fatigue, body aches, joint pain and headaches.

Dr. Gupta says just like the flu shot, expect the symptoms to go away after a day or two.

"I certainly don't want people to think that is a deterrent to getting the vaccine," Dr. Gupta adds.

And what about the most common symptom: the arm pain? Dr. Gupta's answer surprised us.

"The arm pain is a really good sign," he explains. "That's not to say that if you don't have arm pain that it's not working. But it means your immune system is reacting to the actual vaccine being delivered. That means your cells are activating, you're building antibodies, you're building your memory cells, and that's really, really important."

As the days go on, scientists continue to study the possible side effects and Dr. Gupta says there's no better case study than what we are seeing play out in real-time.

"Since the trials have happened, so many people around the world have been vaccinated, so we actually have much more data now than we did during the trials. We have surpassed anything we would have wanted from a volume perspective...during the trials, than where we are now."

In extremely rare circumstances, the CDC has reported people experiencing allergic reactions to the vaccine, but this has only been reported in a handful of patients.

Dr. Gupta says that if it were to happen, the allergic reaction would occur within just a few minutes of getting the shot. Vaccination sites require you to wait at least 15 minutes after you get it to make sure you're OK and that you are surrounded by health professionals.

As always, talk to your doctor about your specific health needs beforehand.