How do I know if I have vaccine side-effects or Covid-19 symptoms?

We ask the experts

21 July 2021 - 06:00
The most common vaccine side-effect is likely to be pain at the site of the injection, says Dr Kgosi Letlape. Stock photo.
The most common vaccine side-effect is likely to be pain at the site of the injection, says Dr Kgosi Letlape. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/milkos

From the lives it has claimed to the economic devastation it has unleashed worldwide, Covid-19 continues to pose a major threat to society.

It remains necessary to be vigilant and to take care not to infect others if you’ve contracted the disease, even if you’ve had the vaccine.

That’s because you can still get Covid-19 after having your jab.

It’s also possible you may have been infected with Covid-19 prior to receiving the vaccine but weren’t aware you had it.

Adding to the confusion is that the side-effects you may experience after the jab are similar to the symptoms characteristic of Covid-19.

How do you tell the difference between the two?

According to Dr Anastacia Tomson, side-effects from the vaccine usually develop eight to 24 hours after the injection.

“Common side-effects include fever, light-headedness, chills, muscle aches and pains, headaches or nausea. These usually respond very well to paracetamol and seldom last longer than a day or two,” Tomson said

“If you experience a dry cough, loss of smell or taste, a sore throat  or symptoms that don’t subside after a day or two,  these might not be vaccine-related  and medical attention, which may include a Covid-19 test, should be sought.” 

Dr Susan Louw, a haematopathologist at SA’s National Health Laboratory Service, agrees that vaccine side-effects usually last for a shorter duration than the effects you may experience if you have Covid-19.

They’re also likely to be milder in comparison, she said.

Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of SA, said the most common vaccine side-effect is likely to be pain at the site of the injection, although some people do not experience this.

If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing vaccine side-effects or coronavirus symptoms, Letlape said it is best to do a Covid-19 test.

“If in doubt, don’t self-diagnose and don’t treat yourself. Seek medical attention. The vaccine centre is there to help you,” he said,

“If you have any symptoms, report to the vaccine centre and tell them so we can collect information of how people react to the vaccine based on actual experience.”


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