April 29, 2021

CDC Webpage Gathers Information on Managing Post-Vaccination Symptoms

CDC’s new webpage, “Post-Vaccination Considerations for Workplaces,” compiles guidance that occupational health professionals and public officials can use to manage employees who may be showing side effects consistent with having received a COVID-19 vaccine. The guidance is intended to limit the effect of post-vaccination symptoms on workplaces and help occupational health professionals assess and respond to possible vaccine side effects, including by differentiating normal side effects from actual COVID-19 infection or other illnesses. CDC’s approach to the problem of identifying vaccine side effects as opposed to symptoms of illness aims to both reduce the spread of COVID-19 and avoid unnecessarily excluding employees from work.

After receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, it is common for employees to experience side effects that include pain, redness, swelling in the arm that received the vaccine, fever, chills, tiredness, headache, nausea, and muscle pains. Clinical trials have shown that most post-vaccination side effects are mild to moderate in severity; occur within the first three days of vaccination; improve within one or two days; and are more frequent and severe following the second dose of an mRNA vaccine and among people younger than 55. However, symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not consistent with vaccine side effects and could be signs of COVID-19 or other illness.

To mitigate the effects of vaccine side effects in the workplace, CDC recommends that occupational health professionals encourage employees to get vaccinated as soon as they can and schedule their vaccine appointments one to two days before planned days off from work. Employee vaccination appointments should also be staggered so that not all workers in the same department, service, or unit receive vaccinations at the same time, especially for those receiving the second dose of an mRNA vaccine, when post-vaccination symptoms are particularly likely to occur. Employees should be informed of the potential for common side effects, provided with options for COVID-19 viral testing, and offered flexible, nonpunitive sick leave options in the case of significant side effects after vaccination.

In addition, occupational health professionals should be prepared to manage vaccine-related side effects such as immediate hypersensitivity reactions, including hives and anaphylaxis, and local symptoms such as pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Side effects following receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System through its website or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

More information is available from the CDC website and on the agency’s webpages discussing the post-vaccination side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. CDC has also compiled a webpage on post-vaccination considerations for residents of long-term care facilities.