New Omicron COVID-19 Booster Side Effects

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Experts say Omicron boosters will more directly target the current variant. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
  • Experts expect common side effects of the new Omicron booster to be similar to previous COVID-19 injections.
  • Side effects include fatigue, headache, fever, skin flushing, and muscle aches.
  • Experts note that the new booster could be more effective in preventing serious illness because it more precisely targets current circulating variants.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has a somewhat different set of typical symptoms than other versions of the disease.

However, the possible side effects of new vaccines specifically targeting Omicron are not likely to differ from those associated with previous vaccines and boosters.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to a pair of new boosters, developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Modern. Each targets both the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the latest Omicron variants (BA.4 and BA.5) of the novel coronavirus.

“Having a more specific spike protein for the immune system to seek out should make the vaccine more effective in preventing infection and serious disease with the variants currently in circulation,” Kristen Nichols, PharmD, senior content management consultant for the clinical effectiveness industry at healthcare consultants Wolters Kluwer, told Healthline. “Additionally, since the immune system will now recognize two similar variations, it may be more efficient at recognizing new variants as well.”

The “bivalent” booster vaccines were made available to the public in early September. That’s not long enough to compile real data on booster side effects. But clinical trial research submitted to the FDA found that side effects from the Omicron booster were similar to symptoms of other COVID-19 vaccines.

The most common side effects of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 booster were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, joint and muscle pain, chills, axillary swelling and tenderness, nausea/vomiting, skin redness and swelling at the injection site. site and fever.

Dr. Marisa Montecalvoan infectious disease expert from NYC Health and Hospitals-Metropolitan and Westchester Medical Center, reported that “55-75% of people develop pain at the injection site, and a small percentage of people (5%) may have swelling or redness at the injection site. injection site.

More serious but rare side effects from previous COVID-19 vaccines have included anaphylaxis and other serious allergic reactions, myocarditis, pericarditis, and fainting. FDA officials said it’s possible similar issues could also arise with new vaccine recalls.

“The risk of myocarditis/pericarditis is rare and continues, as with previous vaccines, to be seen primarily in adolescents and young adult males,” Montecalvo told Healthline.

“The risk after a booster dose appears to be lower than after the first series of vaccines,” she added.

There is no reason to think the symptoms of the new booster would be different from previous COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, said Dr. Jason Gallagherinfectious disease expert and clinical professor at Temple University’s School of Pharmacy and clinical pharmacy specialist in infectious diseases at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

“The only thing that has changed is the proteins on the surface of the protein that it encodes,” Gallagher told Healthline. “All the other components are the same and the side effects come from the immune response.”

“Typical side effects after a vaccination can be expected,” agreed Dr Jose Mayorga, executive director of the University of California at Irvine Health Family Health Centers. “These include fatigue, sore arms, fever and headache. Patients we have vaccinated in our clinic have had mild side effects that relief from over-the-counter Tylenol or Motrin.

“The only side effect I had from this vaccination was peace of mind,” Mayorga told Healthline. “I feel safer against serious illnesses.”

Gallagher said more data on the side effects of the Omicron booster will be collected as more people get vaccinated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the side effects are more intense, especially if you’ve been boosted for COVID recently or had COVID, because your immune system is already primed” to attack the virus, he said. declared.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended wait at least two months after a vaccine or COVID illness before receiving a booster.

CDC officials also advise only getting a booster for your initial vaccine doses — a Moderna booster if you were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, for example.

Like other COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, the new Omicron booster should, at a minimum, protect recipients from serious illness and hospitalization. However, Gallagher noted that the new booster has the advantage of precisely targeting the dominant variant of COVID-19 currently circulating.

“It could also prevent some infections,” he said. “It’s a better game [to the virus] that we haven’t had for a long time.

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