Insights

Arm Soreness After COVID-19 Vaccine? You’re Not Alone.

Mira Research Team09 Feb 2021

Is it normal to get body aches and muscle soreness after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to Bloomberg, as of January 14th, the United States has administered 11.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two current options for the vaccines are Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna. 

Jurisdiction Doses distributedDoses administered% shots used
U.S. totals30,628,17511,400,00038.8

During the same period, we saw an increasing trend of social signals indicating that injection site soreness and muscle aches 24-48 hours after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the most common adverse reaction. We also found that many are experiencing soreness beyond the injection site. 

While soreness is a recently reported side effect of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, it is not atypical. As a matter of fact, millions of people who receive the Influenza (flu) vaccine every year also report the same experience. 

"The reason why your arm specifically is sore is that your immune system is giving you a robust response to the flu vaccination," says Dr. Juanita Mora, an allergist/immunologist. 

Both Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna employ a different approach to manufacturing the vaccine compared to the traditional flu vaccine. However, similar immune system responses are expected and well documented in the analysis submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by both manufacturers. 

What does the research say?

Summary: 

  • We reviewed the FDA analyses from both vaccines and found that there was a higher level of severe adverse reactions from participants in the Moderna vaccine clinical trial.
  • Injection site reaction, fatigue, headache, and muscle aches are among the most common reactions from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Severe adverse reactions occurred more frequently in younger adults.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

According to the FDA Briefing Document published by the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting on December 10th, 2020, Pfizer-BioNTech has conducted a clinical trial that enrolled approximately 44,000 participants worldwide. 

Get Mira - Healthcare you can afford.

Get doctor visits, lab tests, prescription, and more. Affordable copays. Available 35+ states.

In November, the company carried out an analysis of 36,621 participants and found “efficacy in preventing confirmed COVID-19 occurring at least 7 days after the second dose of vaccine was 95.0%”. 

The FDA analysis also found that severe adverse reactions occurred in 0.0% to 4.6% of participants. The most common solicited adverse reactions were:

  • Injection site reactions (84.1%)
  • Fatigue (62.9%)
  • Headache (55.1%)
  • Muscle pain (38.3%)
  • Chills (31.9%)
  • Joint pain (23.6%)
  • Fever (14.2%)

These reactions occurred in 0.0% to 4.6% of participants, more frequently after Dose 2 than after Dose 1. In addition, these reactions were more frequent in younger adults. 

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

According to the FDA Briefing document published on December 17, 2020, Moderna has conducted a clinical trial that enrolled approximately 30,400 participants. 

An interim analysis of the study in November found that “efficacy in preventing confirmed COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after the second dose of vaccine was 94.5%” 

The severe adverse reactions that occurred in the Moderna clinical trial were similar to that of the Pfizer-BioNTech study:

  • Injection site pain (91.6%)
  • Fatigue (68.5%)
  • Headache (63.0%)
  • Muscle pain (59.6%)
  • Joint pain (44.8%)
  • Chills (43.4%)

Severe adverse reactions occurred in 0.2% to 9.7% of participants, were more frequent after dose 2 than after dose 1, and were more frequent in younger adults. 

What could help alleviate the soreness before and after the vaccine?

Getting an injection site reaction (soreness, redness, etc) is not uncommon when receiving any vaccine. Depending on your occupation, the reaction can cause some discomfort that could interfere with your job or daily activities. According to our medical experts, a few things could help:

Healthcare for 80% less

Get affordable copays. Plans start at $25/month.

Before the shot:

  • If possible, get the injection on your non-working arm.
  • If you engage in manual labor, consult with your supervisor in case you have to take a day off.
  • If you have had severe reactions to getting a vaccine before, talk to your doctor before receiving the COVID vaccine to make sure it is okay.

After the shot:

  • Apply pressure to the injection site - compression can reduce inflammation.
  • Move your arm around after getting the vaccine.
  • Cover your injection site with a warm and cold pack.
  • Use a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If your soreness or redness does not improve and keeps getting worse, contact a medical provider immediately and notify your vaccine to administer. 

Should I register for V-safe?

V-safe is a smartphone-based app developed by the CDC to help you report side effects from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, you may get a call from the CDC to check on you and provide you with more information. 

The V-safe program can also remind you to get the second dose of vaccine if appropriate. 

How to register for the V-safe program: click on this link and fill out a quick form, you will get a text reminder daily to fill out a survey. 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-we-know-about-the-side-effects-of-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/coronavirus-vaccine-side-effects/

https://www.lung.org/blog/arm-hurts-after-flu-shot

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/

https://www.fda.gov/media/144245/download

https://www.fda.gov/media/144434/download