Women more likely to experience serious side effects from COVID-19 vaccine, CDC study reveals

ByJosh Chapin WABC logo
Saturday, March 20, 2021
CDC: Women more likely to have serious side effects from COVID vaccine
A recent study from the CDC analyzed the first 13.7 million people who have received their COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. -- out of that group, 79% of people reporting side effects were women.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A new CDC study found women were more likely to have serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. One UNC doctor says more women actually reporting symptoms and differing immune systems probably factor into the study results.

Reka Jennings, of Raleigh, felt fine after her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and didn't feel much after the second one.

"I woke up around 2:30 a.m.," said Jennings.

At most, she felt fatigued -- a common side effect after getting both doses of the vaccine -- but then it lingered into the next day.

"I actually went to work," Jennings, a healthcare worker, said. "And right after I started working, I started experiencing the headache again. I started getting the chills again. It was almost as if I couldn't function, so I ended up leaving work and going home."

Despite the side effects, she says Tylenol and time helped with her symptoms.

Jennings' symptoms are consistent with a recent CDC study that shows women experience more serious side effects than men do after COVID-19 vaccinations.

"Nine times out of ten if there is somebody feeling flush or their heart is racing, it will be a woman," said Dr. David Wohl, infectious diseases physician at UNC Health.

Dr. Wohl has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and said he has seen the differences in reports at the Friday Center -- UNC's mass vaccination site.

"Most women do not experience anything at all," he said. "These are really well-tolerated shots."

The CDC study looked at data from the first 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given to Americans. Among the side effects reported to federal officials, more than 79% came from women.

Dr. Wohl attributes the differences to a couple of things. He said women are more likely to report how they're feeling after a vaccine. There are also biological reasons namely the difference in immune systems.

"We see more autoimmune diseases in women than we do in men and we know the effects of pregnancy on the immune system can be significant," he said, adding that this is no reason to chance the doses of vaccine for men versus women.

No matter what, Jennings is still confident in her decision to get the vaccine to protect herself and her family.

"I would definitely rather have it for 24 hours than to have to fight as others have actually had to fight COVID-19," Jennings said.