Feeling Sick After Your COVID-19 Booster Vaccine? Here’s What to Do

The COVID-19 booster vaccine offers better protection against the Omicron variant. What can you do to ease the side effects after getting your shot?

Woman with a scarf on her shoulders sitting on a sofa while blowing her nose

There are doubts as to whether the COVID-19 vaccines are available in Malaysia – Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech), Vaxzevria (previously known as Oxford-AstraZeneca), CoronaVac (SinoVac), and Convidecia (CanSino) – can protect the body against a new mutation of the virus called Omicron. Hence, the introduction of a “booster” vaccine to provide enhanced immunity against the variant.

It’s unclear why an additional vaccine dose offers better protection than the initial one or two doses. Researchers suggest that a “booster” vaccine creates antibodies that bind more tightly to the virus’ spike protein, increasing its efficacy.

Though it’s worth noting that you may experience side effects – fever, headache, fatigue, and pain at the injection site – of mild to moderate severity after vaccination.

Let’s discover the steps you can take to alleviate the intensity of post-vaccine side effects.

Doctor with a glove on right hand holding a syringe upright as a woman folds up her left sleeve in the background
Different booster vaccines have varying efficacy levels in preventing a COVID-19 infection.

How Efficient is the COVID-19 “Booster” Vaccine Against Omicron?

A study by the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) showed that an mRNA – Comirnaty – “booster” vaccine can prevent up to 90% of hospitalisation during this Omicron outbreak as compared to only 57% efficacy in people with two vaccine doses.

Likewise, preliminary study data on the Vaxzevria vaccine also exhibits higher efficacy against Omicron when given as a “booster” shot. Meanwhile, people who previously received two doses of the CoronaVac vaccine should get a Comirnaty, Vaxzevria or CoronaVac “booster”.

However, the CoronaVac “booster” shot is less effective against the Omicron variant. Hence, it’s better for people who previously received the Convidecia vaccine to get the Comirnaty or Vaxzevria “booster” shot instead.

3D illustrations of the Baihui, Sanyinjiao, and Zusanli acupoints
Stimulating the Baihui (DU20), Sanyinjiao (SP6), and Zusanli (ST36) acupoints can ease the side effects of a booster vaccine.

How to Reduce Discomforts of a COVID-19 “Booster” Vaccine

For people who have received two doses of the vaccine a few months prior, you are recommended to get a “booster” shot.

It’s also suitable for:

  • Those who are actively undergoing treatment for blood cancers
  • Those who recently underwent an organ transplant procedure
  • Those who underwent a stem cell transplant within the last two years
  • Those who are taking medication to suppress the immune system
  • Those who have moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency disorders like DiGeorge or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Those who are diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Introduce temporary practices to your daily routine

You’re likely to experience soreness or swelling at the specific area of the arm where the “booster” vaccine was administered. To relieve this pain, you can use an ice pack or a cool, damp cloth to ease soreness.

To ease fever or headaches, increase your fluid intake or use a warm compress. Alternatively, you can take over-the-counter pain relief medications. However, consult a clinical physician beforehand to avoid potential contraindications.

Consume Herbal Formulas 

If you’re considering the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbal formulas like Yin Qiao San (银翘散), Xiao Chai Hu Tang (小柴胡汤), Gan Lu Xiao Du Dan (甘露消毒丹), Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang (麻杏石甘汤) and San Ren Tang (三仁汤) can help ease “booster” vaccine pain that is mild. The consumption of a herbal beverage consisting of winter melon and brown sugar can also help alleviate discomforts associated with body heat.

“Please always bear in mind that herbal formulas are only meant for general use. Some people might benefit from them, and some might not. Others may even experience worse pain or encounter new problems.

“As such, try not to purchase any of these TCM medications to self-medicate without first undergoing a proper assessment and getting professional guidance from a registered TCM practitioner”, Real Health Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew explains.

Stimulate acupressure points

You can stimulate several acupressure points to calm the pain after taking the COVID-19 “booster” vaccine. These are the Baihui (DU20), Zusanli (ST36), Danzhong (RN17), Hegu (LI4), Neiguan (PC6) and Taichong (LR3) acupoints.

One way to do this is to massage an acupressure point with both clockwise and anti-clockwise circular motions. Do this 20 times and repeat an average of three minutes per acupoint. If the pain does worsen, promptly seek assistance from clinical and TCM physicians.

However, the use of alternative remedies may, to a certain degree, lower the efficacy of a “booster” vaccine. Hence, short-term non-medical actions and healthy lifestyle habits are ideal in ensuring the full extent of immune system protection against the Omicron variant.

Examples of these include temporarily refraining from exercise after getting your third dose. Also, adopting a balanced diet that’s free from fatty, processed, or sugary foods can help too. Most importantly, get enough sleep and hydrate adequately. Use these tips to help you function daily as you recover from the pain of the “booster” vaccine.

References

  1. The Harvard Gazette. No Omicron immunity without booster, study finds. [online]  [Accessed 3 February 2022]
  2. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. 2022. New data show booster doses protect against Omicron. [online] [Accessed 3 February 2022]
  3. 2022. AstraZeneca says early trial data indicates third dose helps against Omicron. [online] [Accessed 3 February 2022]
  4. net. 2022. FAQs about COVID-19 booster shots in Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 3 February 2022
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Booster Shots, Third Doses and Additional Doses for COVID-19 Vaccines — What You Need to Know. [online]  [Accessed 3 February 2022]

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