Specialist helps ease fears over COVID-19 vaccine side effects

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Health leaders say a sore arm is pretty much guaranteed after the COVID-19 vaccine, but ABC11 is hearing from some people who, to their surprise, are developing other side effects.

"I think what most people are concerned about is feeling sick," said UNC Health infectious disease expert Dr. David Wohl.

Wohl helps run The Friday Center vaccination clinic, which has administered more than 40,000 doses to date

"For dose 1 of the Moderna and Pzifer vaccines, and even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-and-done vaccine, most (people) don't experience anything," he said.

Nonetheless, some people are reporting large, blotchy rashes post-dose and it's been dubbed the "COVID arm."

"That's really, really, really rare - one in thousands and thousands," Wohl said.

Doctors think it's an immune reaction.

"It's very local. It has to do with where it was injected. It's not dangerous. It goes away," Wohl said.

Other people feel downright crummy after receiving the first dose of the Moderna or Pzifer vaccine

Where can you get a COVID-19 vaccine in NC? Tracking availability and progress

Wohl said this could be a sign of something.

"In dose 1, (it's) really uncommon, unless you had COVID-19 before, whether you knew it or not, to have any of that muscle ache, or feeling like you're coming down with a cold or the flu," Wohl said.

In dose 2, health experts say that may pack a punch.

"This is by design. Your immune system now says, 'I've seen this before, and I'm going to react.' So many of us, not all of us, get a reaction," Wohl said.

He said there is not much you can do beforehand, although you can try to book any appointment strategically.

"Think about the next day, not having much to do on your calendar. I think that's smart," he said.

Wohl said these reactions usually happen within 24 hours and the side effects shouldn't last long.

If something lingers, like an arm rash, you should seek medical help.

Physicians suggest holding off on taking aspirin or Advil before a vaccine, but it is fine after.

Wohl said that even with these possibilities, the vaccine's benefit outweighs the risks associated with COVID-19.

"This is deadly. We really should be thinking hard about that this vaccine is safe," he said.
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.