How Flu Vaccine Side Effects Compare To The COVID-19 Vaccine

Across social media people are posting selfies to commemorate the moment they received their COVID-19 vaccination. It's been a long time, perhaps since the polio vaccine, since the public was this excited about getting a shot.

Many of us are used to getting vaccinations because of international travel requirements or, more commonly, the annual flu shot. So, how does the COVID-19 vaccine stack up against that inoculation we know so well? Are the side effects similar, or are there other things to watch for?

The first thing to note is that for most people, the COVID-19 vaccine will be administered as a two-shot series. If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you'll only need to get one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots administered three weeks (Pfizer) or four weeks (Moderna) apart. Side effects are possible after each shot, so that gives you twice as much opportunity to experience them as you might have with the single-dose flu shot.

If you experience side effects, here's what to do

The actual side effects for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are very similar. Pain or redness at the injection site, headache, low-grade fever, and muscle aches, are all common with both the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Medical News Today. With the COVID-19 vaccination, there is also the possibility for fatigue, chills, and joint pain. With the flu shot there is an additional chance you may experience some nausea.

The major difference seems to be with intensity of the side effects. Litjen Tan, Ph.D., chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition told Healthline, "The side effects from COVID-19 vaccines are a little bit stronger. It's a more reactive vaccine than flu vaccine."

The good news? The side effects you experience are an indication that the body is responding to the inoculation and the immune system is ramping up defenses against disease. And if side effects are uncomfortable, you can take over the counter medications like pain relievers to help lessen their effects, according to CNN. Contact your health care provider if side effects don't clear up after a few days or are causing major discomfort or concern.