Women reporting worse side effects from COVID-19 vaccines


One group of people is experiencing worse side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines.

Men and women react differently to a variety of drugs, but as more vaccine doses get into arms, women have reported more severe reactions to the shots.

Migena Gace had hesitations about the coronavirus vaccine back in September.

“I’m not going to be first in line just because it feels like the vaccine is being rushed and not tested,” she said.

Now, six months later, she says the more she has learned about the vaccines, the more confidence she has in them.

“We are waiting cautiously and patiently until our turn comes.”

But new data could impact efforts to get more women vaccinated. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds women are more likely than men to experience side effects from the coronavirus vaccines, and in a New England Journal of Medicine study tracking adverse reactions, 10 out of 12 of the patients are women.

“Any type of medication is always going to have some type of side effects. The good news here is that the side effects seem to be relatively few and in short duration,” said Dr. Ken Thorpe with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

This reaction isn’t unique to the coronavirus vaccines. A 2012 study found that women often mount stronger immune responses than men, which can lead to stronger side effects.

“Women have this kind of hypersensitivity reaction because they have these T cells that respond a little bit better. And so you can see a little bit more of the redness, you can see a little bit more systemic effects,” said Dr. Michael Teng, Ph.D., with USF Health.

Teng says this could actually be good news for women.

“That actually really helps produce an antiviral response. So it could be that this means that women are going to be better protected than men.”

As for Gace, the threat of an adverse reaction won’t change her mind.

“Our bodies are different and we’re built differently, so how we react probably will be different,” she said.

A majority of the adverse reactions to the coronavirus reactions were mild and didn’t last for very long.

Study: Sex influences immune responses to viruses, and efficacy of prophylaxis and therapeutic treatments for viral diseases

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