Category: Vaccine Side Effects

How Long Do Side Effects of Immunizations Last?

Immunizations are safe, but they can have some risks and side effects.

Vaccine side effects can be reported to VAERS online or using a downloadable form.
Vaccine adverse events can be reported to VAERS online or using a downloadable form.

Fortunately, most are fairly mild, like pain and fever.

How Long Do Side Effects of Immunizations Last?

And most vaccine side effects go away quickly.

For example, fever and fussiness, two of the most common vaccine reactions, typically only lasts a day or two.

Others can last a little longer, but still usually go away on their own:

  • when kids get a rash after their MMR vaccine, it might last three or four days
  • even when kids get swelling of an entire arm or leg after the DTaP shot is given, it might last for 1–7 days
  • pain at the injection site typically only lasts a few days
  • shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) can last months and sometimes doesn’t go away
  • arthritis after a rubella containing vaccine, which mostly occurs in adults, typically only lasts a few days
  • febrile seizures are usually brief and rarely lead to non-febrile seizures
  • immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) after a measles containing vaccine resolves in two weeks to six months, typically without any treatment
  • intussusception after a rotavirus vaccine resolves with treatment, either an air contrast enema or surgery
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome after a seasonal flu vaccine, which is very rare, resolves in the majority of people over a period of years

Do any have more long lasting effects?

VAPP or vaccine-associated paralytic polio after the oral polio vaccine might not resolve. Fortunately, it only occurs in about 1 in every 1.27 million children receiving their first dose of OPV. It is even less common after bOPV, which is oral polio vaccine that is now being used. And won’t happen at all once we stop using oral polio vaccines.

Encephalitis or encephalopathy after a pertussis or a measles, mumps, and rubella virus containing vaccine might also lead to long lasting effects.

And some, like anaphylaxis, are life-threatening.

Fortunately, most long-term vaccine studies have shown that immunizations are safe, rarely causing severe reactions, and don’t have many long term side effects.

What to Know About How Long Immunization Side Effects Last

Most vaccine side effects are mild and only last a few days.

More on Immunization Side Effects

What is SIRVA?

Vaccines are safe.

Of course, they aren’t 100% safe.

One possible problem though, SIRVA, isn’t necessarily caused by the vaccine itself, but how it is given.

Or more precisely, where it is given.

What is SIRVA?

SIRVA is an acronym for shoulder injury related to vaccine administration.

It can occur when a vaccine is injected into the underlying bursa of the shoulder joint, instead of the deltoid muscle, causing shoulder pain and limited range of motion.

“These symptoms are thought to occur as a result of unintended injection of vaccine antigen or trauma from the needle into and around the underlying bursa of the shoulder resulting in an inflammatory reaction. SIRVA is caused by an injury to the musculoskeletal structures of the shoulder (e.g. tendons, ligaments, bursae, etc.). SIRVA is not a neurological injury and abnormalities on neurological examination or nerve conduction studies (NCS) and/or electromyographic (EMG) studies would not support SIRVA as a diagnosis (even if the condition causing the neurological abnormality is not known).”

Vaccine Injury Table

Why would someone want to give you a vaccine in the shoulder joint?

They shouldn’t!

In addition to giving shots in the correct location, to prevent SIRVA, it is also important to use the proper needle length.
In addition to giving shots in the correct location, to prevent SIRVA, it is also important to use the proper needle length.

In older kids and adults, intramuscular injections are typically given “in the central and thickest portion of the deltoid muscle – above the level of the armpit and approximately 2–3 fingerbreadths (~2″) below the acromion process.”

Giving the shot properly can prevent SIRVA.
Giving the shot properly can prevent SIRVA, keeping in mind that you might use a 5/8 inch needle in younger children.

If the shot is given in the shoulder joint, then it was given too high, typically in the upper 1/3 of the deltoid muscle.

Improved education will hopefully decrease SIRVA cases, but tell your doctor and report your case to VAERS if you think you developed SIRVA within 48 hours of getting a vaccine in your upper arm.

As a table injury, folks with SIRVA can also get compensated under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

More on SIRVA

Do Flu Vaccines Have More Reported Side Effects Than Other Vaccines?

Flu vaccines are safe, with few side effects.

Anti-vaccine propaganda scares people about flu shots.

So why do some people think that they are dangerous and have a lot of side effects?

Do Flu Vaccines Have More Reported Side Effects Than Other Vaccines?

Unlike most things anti-vaccine folks say, there is a hint of truth to the idea that flu vaccines have more reported side effects than other vaccines.


Just over 160 million doses of flu vaccine will be distributed in the United States this season.
Just over 160 million doses of flu vaccine will be distributed in the United States this season.

Since 2006, over 1.6 trillion doses of flu vaccine have been distributed in the United States, which equals about the combined total of all the other vaccines we use, including DTaP, rotavirus, hepatitis B, MMR, Tdap, and HPV, etc.

Overall, since we give so many more flu vaccines than any other vaccine, we can expect to get more reports of side effects from those flu vaccines.

That’s simple math.

On the other hand though, after getting a flu vaccine, you should not expect to have any extra side effects as compared to getting any other vaccine.

Remember, side effects from flu vaccines are generally mild and go away quickly. And more serious side effects are rare.

Get your flu vaccine and avoid getting the flu.

More on Flu Vaccine Reported Side Effects

What Are the Non-Specific Effects of Vaccinations?

Most of us are well aware of the risks (small) and benefits (big) of vaccines. That’s why we vaccinate our kids!

You probably aren’t aware that vaccines can also have non-specific effects.

What Are the Non-Specific Effects of Vaccinations?

Not getting measles after getting an MMR vaccine is a direct or specific effect of the vaccine.

“Vaccines are developed to produce an immune response to protect against specific disease targets. In addition to the specific effect of vaccines in reducing illness and death due to the disease targeted by the vaccine, some researchers have argued that there are additional “off-target” or “non-specific effects” (NSE) of vaccines, based on findings from observational studies. This refers to the potential effects besides the direct protection against the disease for which a given vaccine was developed.

In other words, NSE refers to any effect of a given vaccine, other than the intended effect of preventing disease caused by the specific pathogen they were designed to protect against. If present for a vaccine, NSE could potentially be beneficial, e.g. increasing protection against non-targeted infections, or disadvantageous, e.g. by increasing susceptibility to non-targeted infections.”

Non-specific effects of vaccines: Questions and answers

Not dying of another disease because you didn’t get measles would be a non-specific effect of the MMR vaccine.

It is also thought that the BCG vaccine might have a non-specific effect that protects you against other infections.

Are these non-specific effects real?

What about the studies that found the DPT vaccine could increase mortality from other infections?

Non-specific effects aren’t all positive…

The initial research on these non-specific effects of vaccines was done by Peter Aaby in Guinea-Bissau West Africa.

“A study in Guinea-Bissau published in the British Medical Journal in December 2000 suggested a nonspecific effect of routine vaccination that might influence survival in infants, either negatively or positively, depending upon the vaccine. Increased mortality was reported in children vaccinated with DPT in the 6 months following vaccination. Female gender was suggested as a modifier of the outcome.

GACVS reviewed this issue and urged WHO to arrange for testing of the hypothesis on different data sets from different countries where vaccination data, death, and other factors possibly influencing mortality had been recorded. Following an open call for proposals, WHO funded or cofunded studies in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Analysis of those studies was completed: all of them showed reduced mortality in the children vaccinated with all of the vaccines. In particular, the studies showed no negative effect of DPT vaccination and no difference between males and females. Preliminary results of an independent analysis conducted to test the hypothesis on another six data sets have been communicated to GACVS. None of these confirmed the observations from Guinea-Bissau with respect to the DPT vaccine.

GACVS concluded that the evidence is sufficient to reject the hypothesis for an increased nonspecific mortality following vaccination.”

Potential adverse impact of routine vaccination

The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the WHO thoroughly looked into Aaby’s hypothesis.

It was rejected after further studies were done.

“The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the WHO, an independent group of experts in drug safety, vaccine science, and epidemiology that advises the Department of Vaccines and Biologicals of the organisation, has closely considered the reported findings and conclusions of the paper. It has found that numerous and serious deficiencies in the paper did not allow it to reach the same definitive conclusions reached by the authors. In particular, it found that the reported observations are incomplete and do not tally, no systematic effort has been made to address the likelihood of bias introduced by the method of data collection, and categorical inferences have been drawn from data that are either not significant or critically dependent on a very small number of results that might equally be explained by chance. In addition, the probability of the results being distorted by confounding factors has not been adequately addressed. The analysis was data driven and not based on a priori generation of a hypothesis, which makes interpretation of significance values and confidence limits problematic. The conclusions of this paper need to be scrutinised to the same extent as adverse events previously mistakenly attributed to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine.”

WHO responds to Guinea-Bissau report

And as Peter Aaby continues to publish new reports on the effects of the DPT vaccine in Guinea-Bissau, researchers have continued to investigate any possible role these non-specific effects might have on children.

The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has been reviewing the evidence on non-specific effects of vaccines on mortality since Peter Aaby published his initial research.
The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has been reviewing the evidence on non-specific effects of vaccines on mortality since Peter Aaby published his initial research.

One of the latest, a report to the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization in 2014 concluded that the “data available do not provide conclusive evidence that the current schedule results in deleterious effects on all-cause mortality in children less than five years of age.”

This is mostly because studies about non-specific effects are thought to be weak and at high risk of bias.

What does this all mean?

It means that for now, we should likely stick with making our immunization decisions based on the direct effects of vaccines, knowing that they are safe, with few risks, and huge benefits.

More on the Non-Specific Effects of Vaccinations?