Vaccine side effects? When you should contact the doctor

With the general public now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin, there's renewed attention on what's normal and what isn’t when it comes to side effects, so what should you expect after getting the shot, and when should you call the doctor?

In the age of the COVID-19 vaccine, comparing side effects is the new conversation starter around the dinner table. 

"I had flu-like symptoms, and I just went to bed," said Laurie Shovers.

COVID-19 vaccine

"I had zero side effects," said Harvey Shovers. "I was actually concerned that they even got the needle."

The Shovers, husband and wife, had opposite reactions. Experts say both are completely normal. 

"Different people’s bodies react differently," said Dr. Matt Anderson, UW Health.

Anderson said side effects are a sign that the body's immune system is responding appropriately, but he assured the absence of them doesn’t mean an inadequate immune response or an inadequate dose.  

"It may mean that you just got lucky that you’re not having side effects," said Anderson. "It sort of is what it is."


According to the CDC, the most common side effects are pain, redness and swelling around the shot area as well as fatigue, headache, fever and nausea. Pain medication is not recommended prior to being pricked, but the CDC says it is OK afterward as long as it's doctor or vaccinator-approved.

Anderson said the only time to be concerned is if side effects last longer than a few days or worsen, adding that symptoms from the real virus can linger for months and could result in hospitalization or death. 

"The amount of taxation on your body from COVID-19 is going to be way more than what it is from the vaccine," said Anderson.

The Shovers said that risk isn't worth it.

"We got hit pretty hard by it a year ago in March," said Harvey Shovers.

They contracted the illness when the pandemic first began, both developing serious breathing issues.  

"Lung problems for quite a while," said Harvey Shovers. "We had a big sigh of relief once we got the vaccination actually."

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