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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

A closer look at reported COVID-19 vaccine side effects

The most common mild symptoms reported were headaches, dizziness and nausea.

HOUSTON — From mild headaches to seizure activity that required hospitalization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have logged more than 1,000 reports of side effects involving those receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC keeps track of these incidents through VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. In the first 10 days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, 1,156 reports were submitted, or 0.6% of the approximately 2.1 million doses administered.

But COVID-19 vaccines account for 68% of all reported adverse events for all vaccine types during the same time period -- everything from flu shots to measles and tetanus vaccinations.

Dr. Luis Ostrosky, a professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said he was not surprised by the numbers, given the enhanced monitoring of the emergency-use vaccines.

“We're actually motivating people to report side effects when we don't usually do that with other vaccines,” Ostrosky said. “As you're getting a COVID vaccine, you're getting a paper that is asking you to register in the system and to report anything.”

The most common reports noted mild symptoms -- 21% complained of headaches, 20% of dizziness and 15% of nausea. Some people reported more than one of those symptoms. The CDC data also revealed 35 hospitalizations of those receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Summaries of their symptoms include heart palpitations, severe abdominal pain, seizures and “almost stroke-like symptoms.” Several people also complained they couldn’t breathe after receiving the shot.

Credit: KHOU
Credit: KHOU

“It’s still exceedingly rare to have a serious adverse event,” said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

Kulkarni pointed out that submissions to VAERS are not necessarily verified, connected to, or caused by the vaccine.

“Anybody is able to report,” Kulkarni said. “That includes medical folks, it can be patients themselves, it can be family members, it can be anybody in the public.”

In the first 10 days of the rollout, Texas leads the nation with 141 reported adverse events from COVID-19 vaccines. California and Illinois followed with 93 and 92 reports, respectively. The data also revealed 77% of those affected are women, and the average overall age is 42.

Both health experts agreed the relatively low chance of side effects far outweighs the risk of getting sick or even dying, from coronavirus.

“So far what we are seeing is a very safe rollout of this vaccine,” Ostrosky said.

"I would encourage everybody to obtain the first COVID-19 vaccine that is available to them,” Kulkarni added.