Why Do Women Suffer Worse COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Than Men?

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All vaccines can cause side effects. Most often it is just soreness, swelling, and sometimes bruising at the injection site. Fever and tiredness may also be experienced. Keep in mind, doctors say this can happen after any vaccine. So, it should not come as a surprise that those are some of the same side effects people are experiencing after they receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s estimated that about 10% to 15% of people may experience side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine, but most are mild and go away in a couple of days. Interestingly, the severity of your symptoms may depend upon your gender.

WebMD found that women report more severe side effects than men. It cites CDC data from the first 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the United States. It found that of the 7,000 people who reported side effects, almost 80% were women. Experts say this is no cause for alarm. Women typically experience more severe side effects after vaccines. CDC studies found that four times as many women had allergic reactions after the 2009 pandemic flu vaccine. Women also tend to have more reactions to vaccines for the flu and hepatitis B, as well as the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Why does this happen? Scientists think it’s because women tend to have a more robust immune system that produces more antibodies in response to a vaccine. This may be related to reproductive hormones. For instance, estrogen can cause immune cells to produce more antibodies. Another theory is that it may be because the immune-related genes are on the X chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, but men only have one.

Fear of suffering from side effects should not deter anyone from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Doctors say the COVID-19 vaccine side effects reported by women tend to be mild and short. These types of reactions are also indicators that the vaccine is working and your body is building antibodies.

Education is key. Immunologists believe it’s good to prepare women that they may experience more adverse reactions than men. Women need to understand that side effects are normal and it’s a positive sign that their immune system is working.

Bottom line – it’s important that everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available to them. A day or two of discomfort far outweighs the possibly lethal effect of contracting COVID-19.

The Seniors Trust is committed to improving the lives of seniors. We work to pass the Social Security Expansion Act. Once passed, this landmark piece of legislation will provide bigger monthly Social Security benefits, establish a more realistic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for seniors, and guarantee the long-term solvency of the Social Security program. 

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