People Are Reporting Unexpected Side Effects After COVID-19 Vaccination
Abigail(29-year-old from New York City), knew to expect some sideeffects after she got her second COVID-19 vaccine in February. The fever, body aches, and fatigue she felt were nothing surprising. But when she began experiencing heavy, “stupidly painful, debilitating” menstrual periods, she felt blindsided. “I had not heard a single person talking about it,” she says.
While scientists have not confirmed that COVID-19 vaccines can cause menstrual changes like Abigail’s, she feels confident that issues, since she experienced something similar after a probable case of COVID-19 last spring. As of mid-April, more than 19,000 people had reported similar experiences in a University of Illinois survey. Even without scientific confirmation, their stories are drawing attention to the fact that vaccination side effects can be far more worried than what’s often discussed in the mainstream.
Side effects while temporarily uncomfortable are a standard part of vaccination, says Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine and a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. They show that the body is responding to the shot and mounting an immune response. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists common COVID-19 vaccine side effects like pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site; fatigue; headaches; muscle pain; chills; fever; and nausea. But that list isn’t exhaustive. Sheets describing each vaccine, manufacturers listed additional possible side effects including diarrhea, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, hives, rashes, and facial swelling and noted that there could be even more side effects beyond those specified.
Menstrual changes may fall into that category if conclusive evidence links them to the vaccines. A spokesperson for Janssen said menstrual changes were not tracked as part of its study.
There are bound to be more side effects observed and reported by the general population than are uncovered during a clinical trial, Perlman says. Each COVID-19 vaccine trial had to have at least 30,000 participants. That’s a lot, but it’s a small fraction of the people who have been vaccinated in the U.S., now that 215 million doses have been administered. Even side effects that were uncommon during clinical trials may affect a relatively large number of people once vaccines are widely distributed, Perlman says.
That’s what people like Abigail are trying to make sure of, by speaking out about potential side effects like menstrual changes. Abigail says she remains glad she got vaccinated and recommends that everyone do the same. She just wants others to go into the experience feeling more informed than she did.