Each week, OMRF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Judith James opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
Here’s a question from a reader:
Why did I get so sick from my Covid vaccine, but my parents felt nothing? My parents had a little ache in their arms for a day. Meanwhile, I had body aches, a migraine and a fever. Three days later, my arm still hurts.
Sara Marie Bodenstein
Dr. James Prescribes
Unfortunately, we don’t know why some people experience side effects following Covid vaccination while others don’t. However, I can offer a few possible explanations.
One possibility is that our reader received a different vaccine than her parents. So-called “Covid arm” is known to be more common with the Moderna vaccine than its Pfizer counterpart.
This is not because one vaccine is more effective than the other. Rather, it’s most likely due to the particular type of adjuvants (ingredients in the vaccines that help create a stronger immune response) used in Moderna’s formulation.
It’s also been found that females are slightly more likely to experience side effects from the vaccine than males. Still, this wouldn’t explain why the reader felt so much worse than her mother.
All of the symptoms the reader experienced could be a signal that her immune system is doing its job, making a protective response that will prepare the body’s defenses to ward off future infection. Indeed, studies have found that people with self-reported side effects – including fever, chills, body aches and fatigue – had slightly more antibodies than those without symptoms.
These findings are supported by a new study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Although the research, posted online, has not been reviewed for publication in a scientific journal, it found that people with side effects like chills and headaches produced nearly double the antibody levels as subjects who reported none.
Sometimes, as we age, our bodies’ responses to vaccines are just not as robust. The fact that the reader’s parents didn’t experience side effects doesn’t indicate their bodies aren’t making a protective response; it just might be that their response to the adjuvant isn’t quite as strong as that produced by a younger person like their daughter.
Do you have a health query for Dr. James? Email email@example.com and your question may be answered in a future column!