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Do New COVID Boosters Come With More Side Effects? Chicago's Top Doctor Weighs In

As health officials encourage those eligible to get the recently-updated COVID-19 booster shots ahead of the winter months, some may be wondering more about the shots, including whether side effects are similar to those experienced with previous boosters. Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, explained that with the bivalent boosters, people aren’t reporting as many side effects, because recipients have already gotten other doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. “…We are not seeing people reporting any different side effects,” the doctor said during a Facebook question-and-answer session earlier this week. “And in fact, when you look on on the national level and in some of the studies, we’re seeing even fewer side effects than we saw early on.” When it comes to the side effects someone may experience, they may not be that different from those seen with previous doses. “We just don’t have any data on this [yet], essentially giving two vaccines in one shot — but biologically, I just wouldn’t expect the side effects, severity or the safety profile of the shots to be different from the current mRNA vaccines and boosters,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and member of an independent advisory group to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC’s Make It. The Food and Drug Administration states that those who receive the bivalent vaccine “may experience side effects commonly reported by individuals who receive authorized or approved monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.” Among the side effects study participants reported were: pain, redness or swelling where the shot was administeredfatigueheadachemuscle painjoin painchillsswelling of the lymph nodes in the arm where the shot was givennausea or vomitingfever The side effects were similar for both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines and largely mirror expected side effects for earlier doses. The CDC stated that side effects with the third shot were also “similar to that of the two-dose series.” The most common symptoms then included fatigue and pain at the injection site, but “most symptoms were mild to moderate.” According to Arwady, some people who may experience a more robust immune response can feel tired for 24 to 48 hours afterward, and in some cases, may experience a short-term fever. As people get older and as they’ve had vaccines, they’re less likely to have side effects, the doctor said. “If you have a side effect, it sometimes is not that comfortable for a day or two, but know that you have a really strong immune system, generally a really robust immune response, and it suggests a good level of protection as well,” Arwady said. As with previous doses of the vaccine, the CDC notes that “serious side effects are rare, but may occur.”

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