San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Department of Public Health publishes side effect information for COVID-19 vaccinations

Ed Walsh
San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center vaccination siteEd Walsh

The San Francisco Department of Public Health is detailing a list of side effects you can expect after receiving one of the Covid-19 vaccines. Many people report no side effects but San Francisco health officials advise that side effects are common.

The three vaccines available now are Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). Health officials say the vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19. For the COVID-19 vaccine and any vaccines, it takes up to two weeks to reach full immunity.

Both Pfizer and Moderna require 2 doses, at least two weeks apart. You must go to two appointments. Most facilities will make your second appointment when you get your first shot.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just one single shot. After a short pause out of an abundance of caution to review health data, San Francisco resumed using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April. The city advises you to talk to a healthcare provider about getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if you have a history of blood clots and low platelet count, or if you are female 18 to 50 years old and have questions. The city adds that if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and have any of the following symptoms within 3 to 4 weeks, get medical care right away: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain or swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headaches or blurred vision
  • Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the site of injection

The city notes that the following are common side effects you may experience but that they are not cause for alarm or undo concern:

At injection site:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Throughout your body:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

To reduce side effects health officials say first to talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally.

It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects.

When should you call a doctor?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises."In most cases, discomfort from pain or fever is a normal sign that your body is building protection. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and rare severe allergic reactions."

The CDC also cautions, "It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. You should keep using all the tools available to protect yourself and others until you are fully vaccinated."

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