Most Common COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Among Seniors

Seniors were among the first group of Americans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines when they became available this past winter. At this point, most people ages 65 and over have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccines are an essential tool for defeating the coronavirus pandemic, however there is still a small percentage of senior citizens who have yet to receive their vaccinations. Many people have expressed fears about potential side effects. That’s why it’s important to know the most common side effects that seniors may experience with the COVID-19 vaccines.

Note: This information is intended for informational use only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Please consult with your licensed physician to address any specific concerns.

Injection Site Pain

The single most common side effect that seniors can experience from the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines is injection site pain. Around 83.4% of individuals ages 65 and older reported that they experienced a sore arm after receiving their second dose of the Moderna vaccine. Around 66% of people over 55 said they had a sore arm after their second Pfizer vaccine dose, and 33% of those 60 and older reported sore arms after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In most cases, this soreness disappears after a day or two.


Among seniors who receive the two-shot vaccines, fatigue is the second most common side effect. Around 58.4% of those who received Moderna’s shot and 50.5% of those who received the Pfizer vaccine reported feeling fatigued after their second dose. Only 29.7% of seniors who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine experienced fatigue as a side effect. Fatigue often passes after a few hours or a few days, so plan to get some rest following your vaccine.


Headaches are another common side effect of COVID-19 vaccines among seniors. Around 46% of older adults reported having a headache after their second dose of the Moderna vaccine. Just under 40% of seniors cited this side effect after their second Pfizer shot, and 30.4% claimed they experienced headaches after getting the Johnson & Johnson shot.

You can relieve most or all of these side effects by taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. Avoid taking these medications before getting your vaccine, and only take them after your side effects have set in. Be mindful of how OTC pain relievers may interact with any current medications and always use them at the direction of a physician.

When to Call the Doctor

While serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are rare, some people have experienced severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis. If you experience any of the following, you should immediately call your doctor and seek medical attention:

  • Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Hives, itching, and swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat
  • Cardiovascular problems like fast heartbeat, dizziness, low blood pressure, or fainting
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting

Remember, the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are well worth the protection they offer against the severe symptoms associated with the coronavirus. At Dellwood Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care in St. Paul, Minnesota, we care greatly about the health and safety of our residents.


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