Possible side effects of vaccination

After a vaccine, you or your child may experience side effects. This information explains common reactions that may be experienced after receiving a vaccine and actions to take if you are concerned.

Health professionals

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Side effects from immunisation

Immunisations are safe and effective, although all medication can have unwanted side effects. You may experience minor side effects following vaccination. Most reactions are mild and go away quickly.

Common reactions to vaccination include:

  • pain, redness, itching, swelling or burning where the needle was given
  • mild fever that doesn’t last long

These are generally mild and usually last for 1–2 days.

Common side effects for each vaccine are also listed on the Vaccines pages. If you have any concerns about potential side effects of vaccines, talk to your doctor or nurse.

In general, most children who have had a reaction to a vaccination can be safely re-vaccinated. Speak to your doctor for further advice. They may refer you to Immunisation specialist services for more testing or precautions before receiving further vaccines.

The Consumer Medicine Information available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website also lists the side effects of each vaccine.

Managing common side effects

You can reduce many of the common side effects by:

  • drinking extra fluids
  • resting
  • taking paracetamol
  • not overdressing if hot.

See Following vaccination what to expect and what to do for easy-to-read information on common reactions that may occur after vaccinations.

Rare side effects of immunisation

For most people, the chance of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.

Serious reactions to immunisation are rare. There is a very small risk of a serious allergic reaction to any vaccine. This is why you are advised to stay at the clinic or medical surgery for a period of time following your immunisation.

See your doctor or nurse as soon as possible or go directly to a hospital and inform of recent vaccination if:

  • you have a reaction that you consider severe or unexpected
  • you are worried about yourself or your child’s condition after vaccination
  • you experience any of the below:

Anaphylaxis

A severe allergic reaction which occurs suddenly, usually within 15 minutes, however anaphylaxis can occur within hours of vaccine administration. Early signs of anaphylaxis include: redness and/or itching of the skin, swelling (hives), breathing difficulties, persistent cough, hoarse voice and a sense of distress.

Intussusception

(relates to rotavirus vaccine)

This is an uncommon form of bowel obstruction where one segment of the bowel slides into the next, much like the pieces of a telescope.

There is a very small risk of this occurring in a baby in the first week after receiving the first dose of rotavirus vaccine. There is a smaller risk after the second vaccine dose.

The baby has bouts of crying, looks pale, gets very irritable and pulls the legs up to the abdomen because of pain.

Seizure

Some young children (especially aged 1–3 years) are more prone to seizures when experiencing a high fever from any source (with an infection or after a vaccine). The seizure usually lasts approximately 20 seconds and very rarely more than 2 minutes.

Rash

(relates to shingles vaccine Zostavax®)

Very rarely a generalised chickenpox-like rash following Zostavax® vaccination may occur around 2–4 weeks after vaccination, which may be associated with fever and feeling unwell. This rash may be a sign of a serious reaction to the virus in the vaccine.

How to report a reaction

It is important to report negative reactions to a vaccination. This gives us a better understanding of the safety of vaccines.

You can report vaccine reactions to your state or territory health service.

Alternatively you can report a problem or side effect directly to the Therapeutic Goods Administration online or over the phone.

For email, fax and post use the National Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) reporting form.

Last updated: 
17 May 2022
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