November 24, 2022

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More than half of Australians experienced a reaction to at least one of their first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but less than 1 per cent sought medical advice for it.

Those are the findings of a new study by AusVaxSafety, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, which surveyed more than three million Aussies after they were vaccinated.

The second Pfizer dose and the first AstraZeneca dose were the doses who made most Australians feel unwell in the days after the injections, the study found.

Most people had some reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Almost 55 per cent of people who had Pfizer reported a reaction after the second dose, while only 36 per cent had a reaction to the first dose.

Almost 53 per cent of people who had AstraZeneca reported a reaction after the first dose, and only 22 per cent reported one after the second dose.

The most common symptoms were pain at the injection site, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches.

Most people said the symptoms were “short-lived” and resolved themselves within eight days of the vaccine being administered.

Only 0.9 per cent of people sought medical advice in the three days following vaccination, the study found.

Researchers also found that adverse events were more frequently reported by people with underlying medical conditions, including a history of anaphylaxis.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 21: A COVID-19 testing clinic sign at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on January 21, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. NSW has recorded 46 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, marking the deadliest day in the state since the start of the pandemic. NSW also recorded 25,168 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hour reporting period. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Your COVID-19 questions answered

They found the chance of a reaction to a vaccine was “higher for women than men, for people with a history of anaphylaxis, and for people reporting certain underlying conditions, including obesity, immunodeficiency, or chronic inflammatory disease”.

The researchers also discovered that the frequency of reactions were higher for the COVID-19 vaccines than for other vaccines in Australia.

“Perhaps because mRNA and viral vector vaccines more often elicit transient mild to moderate side effects than other vaccine types,” the researchers wrote.

The study surveyed 3,035,983 people who received COVID-19 vaccines between February 22, 2021 and August 30, 2021, asking them about any reaction they may have experienced three days and eight days after they received a vaccine.

It included frontline workers, older adults, people with underlying medical conditions and Indigenous Australians.

The authors of the study have said they are continuing to monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety in Australia, including for booster doses.

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