WHO issues recommendations on flu-like symptoms after COVID-19 vaccination

March 9, 2021

A World Health Organization (WHO) subcommittee met virtually to review available information and data on reports of influenza-like illness in healthcare workers who had received COVID-19 vaccines, according to a news release.

These symptoms have been reported in several countries.

The GACVS COVID-19 subcommittee reviewed clinical trial data and a summary of reports of influenza-like illness following vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines in the WHO global Individual Case Safety Reports database (VigiBase).

The WHO said the subcommittee noted that similar symptoms of influenza-like illness had also been reported in the first few days following vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials. These included headache, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, and chills. Most symptoms were mild to moderate and resolved within a few days. These expected side effects from vaccination were more common in younger vaccine recipients (under the age of 55 years) compared with older people.

Based on a scientific review of the information made available, the subcommittee came to the following conclusions:

·        Symptoms of an influenza-like illness may be expected as immune responses following vaccinations in general.

·         The current reports with the COVID-19 vaccines are consistent with the expected side-effect profile of these vaccines, all of which were well tolerated.

·         In view of this, the committee considers that the benefit-risk balance of the COVID-19 vaccines (for which reports of the influenza-like reactions are available to date) remains favorable and does not suggest any revision, at present, to the recommendations around the safety of these vaccines, according to the WHO.

The committee recommends that people who are vaccinated be informed, prior to vaccination, of the potential for influenza-like symptoms to occur after receipt of COVID-19 vaccines. Such symptoms should be managed accordingly, with medical advice sought if required. The occurrence of transient symptoms, such as headache, fever and muscle aches after a first dose of these vaccines should not prevent administration of the second dose, the WHO committee said.

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