Early Covid symptoms are similar to vaccine side-effects, study warns

Early Covid symptoms are no different to minor side effects from vaccines and people who develop a headache or fever after their jab should get tested, experts say

  • Study found early Covid symptoms like headaches and a fever could be mistake for a vaccine side-effect
  • Scientists say recently jabbed could be spreading the virus, thinking their symptom was from the vaccine
  • Researchers have urged jabbed to not make assumptions and get a Covid test to help keep other people safe
  • Study was based on data submitted by 362,770 people who got their jab in from December to May last year
  • Findings comes as cases and vaccine drive are on the rise in UK, over fears of the impact of Omicron variant 

Some side effects of the Covid jab are almost indistinguishable from early symptoms of the virus itself, scientists have warned. 

Researchers fear it may lead to people inadvertently spreading coronavirus, and say people should isolate if they get ill after getting the jab and get tested.

Vaccines do not offer immediate protection, with the body taking up to two weeks to learn how to fight off the virus. Even then, they may not stop people getting symptoms of the virus if they catch it. 

Up to one in 10 people can suffer side effects after the jab including headache, fatigue, and a fever. King’s College London experts say these side effects are also early warning signs of Covid.

Although UK guidance only officially recognises three symptoms of Covid, surveillance studies have suggested it causes dozens. 

The academics found 1 per cent of the people who reported symptoms after the jab actually tested positive.  

Professor Emma Duncan said: ‘Vaccination remains extremely important, to help protect yourself, your family, and your community from Covid. 

‘However, if you do have symptoms afterwards, you should not assume that it’s just side effects of the vaccination although fortunately this was the most likely outcome.’

The warning is timely, with the UK currently embarking on a huge Covid booster programme. Cases of the virus in Britain are also on the rise, bolstering fears that the Omicron variant is already taking hold in the community.

This chart shows the symptoms reported by vaccinated people in the seven days after they received their jab. The orange bars indicate the symptoms of those who tested positive for Covid, while the teal shows the symptoms of those who tested negative. It shows that in most cases the symptoms between the groups were very similar and there is no way to tell if a person is Covid positive or suffering a vaccine side-effect without a test. A * indicates a symptom for which there was statistical difference

This heatmap graphic shows on which of the seven after a jab a person was most likely to report a symptom. The left shows the findings for those who tested positive and the right shows those who tested negative. They are both very similar

The research, part of the ZOE Covid Study, examined data from 362,770 people in the UK who were vaccinated between December 8 and May 17 and who reported at least one potential Covid symptom in the days after they were jabbed.   

Of this group, 14,842 people took a Covid test with 150 subsequently testing positive for the virus.  

Like all medicines, Covid vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You may also get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery one or two days after your vaccination. You can take painkillers such as paracetamol if you need to. If your symptoms get worse or you’re worried, call 111.

If you have a high temperature that lasts longer than two days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, you may have Covid. Stay at home and get a test.

You cannot catch Covid from the vaccine, but you may have caught it just before or after your vaccination.

After examining the data the scientists, who published their findings in the journal eClinical Medicine, said there was no way to tell if the symptoms people reported were from Covid or a side effect of the jab, unless a test was taken. 

Professor Duncan said: ‘You should check to make sure you don’t have early Covid, by getting tested.

‘This is particularly important now, when the UK is experiencing high levels of infection circulating in the community and particularly while we are still learning about the new variant, Omicron.’

She added that it was important to remember that vaccines take time to work, and urged people to be responsible to other people and get a test. 

Professor Duncan said: ‘It takes time to develop immunity after vaccination; and if you are infected it’s important to know this – both for your own sake, so that you can receive appropriate care, and for the sake of other people, so that you can ensure you don’t pass it along to vulnerable individuals.

‘Being tested if you have symptoms – even if you’ve been vaccinated – will help stop the spread of Covid.’  

The scientists did not say if their findings differed by the type of vaccine received.  

People can get a free PCR Covid test if they are experiencing a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell, classic symptoms of a Covid infection.

The NHS says some of the most common side effects of getting a Covid jab are, a sore arm at the injection site, fatigue, aches and pains, and feeling or being sick.   

People can also get a temperature in the days immediately following their jab, with the NHS advising anyone whose temperature does not disappear after two days to self-isolate and get a Covid test.

The study’s findings come at a time of both rising Covid cases and an increased focus on vaccination, with the Government aiming to offer a third dose to every eligible adult by the end of January.

The Department of Health recorded 51,459 new Covid cases yesterday, a fifth more than last Monday, and the third time in a week figures have breached the 50,000 mark. 

The rise incases comes with fears that the new Covid super-mutant variant Omicron is beginning to have an impact on rising cases. 

Top epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector has claimed cases of the highly evolved variant were doubling every two days and that there were up to 2,000 infections already — six times more than the official count because only a fraction of tests are currently being thoroughly analysed. 

There have been only 336 official Omicron cases confirmed in the UK so far, but there are likely more than a thousand already, according to Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia

This is the image that has sparked fear among scientists, prompted ministers to turbocharge the UK’s booster vaccine rollout and seen the return of mask mandates in England. It details the new super-mutant Omicron variant’s 32 spike protein mutations which experts fear will make it the most infectious and vaccine-resistant strain yet. The graphic, released by the country’s top variant monitoring team, also lays bare how it is far more evolved than even the world-dominant Delta strain, with nearly five times as many alterations on the spike 

Total Covid cases are rising fastest in London and the South East of England with most of the Omicron infections linked to travellers flying back into the UK

The King’s College London scientist, who runs the country’s largest symptom-tracking study, estimated that in 10 days’ time Britain will have more Omicron cases than most African countries at the epicentre of the new outbreak, meaning there would be ‘very little point’ in having travel restrictions.

No10 yesterday warned the variant is now spreading domestically in multiple regions, with the official count now standing at 336 although none of those infected with it have been hospitalised. Separate data shows the strain is thought to make up one in 60 of all new cases.  

Scientists expect booster jabs to give high protection against severe illness and death from Omicron, even if the variant makes vaccines much less effective at preventing infection. 

No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all 53million British adults by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave. 

But the scheme already appears to be stalling with just 290,000 delivered across Britain. And, on average, just 378,000 are being administered each day.

Booster roll-out hits standstill despite ministers promising to put programme on ‘steroids’ 

 Britain’s turbocharged Covid booster campaign appears to be stalling, despite the Government pinning its hopes of warding off Omicron on the programme. 

Officials last week promised to put the rollout on ‘steroids’ and ramp up the number of third doses delivered to 500,000-a-day, as well as open up the scheme to under-40s.

However, the latest NHS data shows the UK is nowhere near that goal and is in fact delivering fewer booster jabs than before Boris Johnson’s announcement, on some days. 

On Sunday, the day for which the latest data is available, only 290,165 boosters were rolled out. For comparison, the figure the previous week stood at 285,335.

The closest the roll-out has got to the Government’s half-million-per-day goal was on Saturday, when 464,616 were administered. But this was actually slightly fewer than the amount of jabs delivered the week prior, when 465,111 jabs were given. 

At the current speed of 2.7million per week, it will take until March for every eligible Briton to be offered get their third Covid vaccine, well outside the Government’s end of January target.  

Despite the bold promises, there are still scores of elderly and vulnerable people in the UK struggling to get a Covid booster. They have reported being unable to get an appointment and that staff are too busy to give them jabs. 

The programme has still yet to be expanded to include the under-40s, and won’t be open to the majority until next week. 

According to The Telegraph, officials have blamed the lack of acceleration on red-tape due to waiting for legal instructions on the roll-out to be provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). 

 In total just over 20.5million Covid boosters have been administered across the UK.

This is fewer than half of the 53million health chiefs hope to have offered the booster by the end of January.

Sources told The Telegraph the NHS delayed the opening up of its booking systems because it was waiting for legal instructions to be provided by UKHSA.

Although others insisted such paperwork should not cause delays because doctors, nurses and pharmacists can already follow the updated advice to dish out boosters after just three months. 

Non-medics aren’t yet able to, however, and have to follow the previous six-month gap.

NHS officials have insisted supply is not the issue.

An NHS spokesman said that once the directions had been ‘updated by the UKHSA to reflect the new clinical advice set out last week, the national booking service can also be updated’. This may not happen before December 13, officials have previously warned. 

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