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Pfizer is one of the leading coronavirus vaccines being rolled out across the globe, having proven effective against all existing strains of COVID-19. Since the vaccine was first produced, Pfizer-BioNTech has reached more than 130 countries and territories worldwide and has spearheaded booster efforts alongside the Moderna vaccine. Side effects are a natural reaction to any vaccination – but what can you expect from your Pfizer booster?
Are side effects of the booster worse than the first two doses?
Booster vaccines are given to prolong the body’s protection against coronavirus following the first and second dose.
While the Pfizer booster is given in the same quantity as the initial two doses, data from clinical trials suggest side effects are unlikely to worsen with each course of the vaccine.
According to a report from the Health Ministry in Israel, where over four million doses of the Pfizer booster have now been given to people who had Pfizer as their first two doses, the side effects are often milder after the booster shot, than after the two first doses.
When receiving a booster vaccine, not everyone who is given Pfizer will have had the same vaccine for their two previous doses.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are the leading booster vaccinations used in the UK, which means those who have previously had the other authorised vaccines – such as AstraZeneca or Moderna, could receive the Pfizer booster.
Analysis by the ZOE Covid study found that: “For contributors who got three Pfizer doses, slightly fewer people reported systemic after effects after their booster (13.1 percent) compared to after their second dose (19.2 percent), and were also less likely to have local effects third time around.”
Data from ZOE also found people getting ‘mix and match’ vaccines were 1.5 times more likely to have systemic after-effects following their booster, particularly if they had a Moderna booster after two Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.
While each person’s experience of the Pfizer booster will be different, there are a few common symptoms which are known to affect around one in 10 patients.
What are the most common side effects of the Pfizer booster?
Like all vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination can cause side effects, though it is not guaranteed that everyone will experience them.
According to Gov.uk, ‘very common’ side effects of the Pfizer vaccine include:
- Injection site pain, swelling
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Gov.uk states: “Most side effects are mild or moderate and go away within a few days of appearing.
“If side effects such as pain and/or fever are troublesome, they can be treated by medicines for pain and fever such as paracetamol.”
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While more severe side effects have been found to be less common with the Pfizer booster dose, the Government has identified a number of ‘common’ side effects, which affect up to one in 10 people who receive the vaccine.
These include redness at the injection site as well as nausea and vomiting.
Though these effects are still common, persistent symptoms could be a cause for concern, so it is recommended that you seek medical advice to deal with your symptoms.
Other less commonly reported side effects include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Feeling unwell
- Arm pain
- injection site itching
- Allergic reactions such as rash or itching
- Feeling weak or lack of energy/sleepy
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Night sweats
According to Gov.uk, these after-effects of the Pfizer vaccine may affect up to one in 100 people.
Which side effects should I be concerned about?
Symptoms of the vaccine can be unpleasant no matter how small, but there are a few less common side effects which could indicate a deeper problem.
Some side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are extremely rare – affecting between one in 1,000 to one in 10,000 people.
If you experience any of the below rarer side effects, you should ring 111 for advice, or attend hospital if you are concerned and the symptoms are worsening.
- Temporary one-sided facial drooping
- Allergic reactions such as hives or swelling of the face
- Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
- Inflammation of the lining outside the heart (pericarditis) which can result in breathlessness, palpitations or chest pain
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