What the COVID-19 vaccines feel like

Updated April 13, 2021

We will add information to this page as we learn more about each of the vaccines. 

The Pfizer vaccine 

The side effects reported with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine include: 

  • Injection site pain
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Injection site swelling
  • Injection site redness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling unwell
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, given three weeks apart. The likelihood of side effects is higher following the second dose. These side effects generally were mild or moderate and lasted for just a few days.  Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease these side effects, but these medicines should be taken after receiving the vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine

The side effects reported with both the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine include:  

At the injection site: 

  • Pain 
  • Tenderness 
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection 
  • Swelling (hardness) 
  • Redness 

General side effects: 

  • Tiredness 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Chills 
  • Joint pain 
  • Fever 
  • Nausea and vomiting  

The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, given one month apart. Side effects generally were mild or moderate and lasted for just a few days.  Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease these side effects, but these medicines should be taken after receiving the vaccine. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine 

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The decision follows the joint Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation

A Nebraska resident recently experienced a blood clot about two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. They were admitted to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. We reported the case details to local and state public health authorities, the CDC and the FDA. DHHS is working closely with the CDC and the FDA to review this incident. 

More than 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered nationwide as of April 12, 2021. According to the CDC and the FDA, six people have experienced a rare form of blood clot, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, within two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

These blood-clotting events appear to be extremely rare. The pause allows a thorough review and investigation of each event. COVID-19 vaccines remain our best chance at protecting ourselves and those we love.  

If you recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please contact your doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms within three weeks after receiving your vaccine: 

  • A severe headache 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Leg pain 
  • Shortness of breath 

Current confirmed Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine side effects include:    

At the injection site:  

  • Pain  
  • Redness of the skin 
  • Swelling 

General side effects:  

  • Headache 
  • Feeling very tired 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Nausea 
  • Fever 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose. Side effects generally were mild or moderate and lasted for just a few days.  Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease these side effects, but these medicines should be taken after receiving the vaccine. 

Allergic reactions

As with any vaccine, there is a remote chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after receiving the vaccine. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your face and throat
  • A fast heartbeat
  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Dizziness and weakness

If you’ve had a severe, anaphylactic reaction to components inside the COVID-19 vaccine, you should speak to your doctor before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

View a list of Pfizer vaccine ingredients here

View a list of Moderna vaccine ingredients here

View a list of Johnson & Johnson vaccine ingredients 

This does not include allergic reactions related to things like bee stings or certain foods – it only involves severe reactions exclusively related to vaccine components.  

If you receive the vaccine at a Nebraska Medicine location, health care professionals will monitor you for 15 minutes after receiving the shot. If you experience an allergic reaction after leaving your health care provider, please call 911. 

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has a program called "Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP)" that will reimburse any unexpected medical bills related to the COVID-19 vaccines.

We are not currently accepting COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Call for more information.

800.922.0000