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Women are reporting more side effects than men to COVID vaccinations. According to a USA Today report, of nearly 7,000 adverse event reports processed by the CDC in December 2020 through January 2021, 79% came from women.  The most frequent side effects have been headache, fatigue, and dizziness.  And women are more likely than men to have the more unusual side effects such as an itchy red rash at the injection site on the arm (usually with the Moderna vaccine) and the rare blood clots experienced following the J & J vaccine.

Why is this?  Women generally have a greater immune response to any type of vaccine than men.  Women and girls produce up to twice as many antibodies from vaccines.  This might be because women have higher amounts of “T helper cells” which activate other immune system cells to fight viruses.

Hormones can also affect different immune responses between women and men.  Some immune cells have estrogen receptors on them.  Women produce more estrogen than men which might affect how their immune systems work.

The good news is that side effects mean your immune system is working.  And they are the preferred choice over getting the coronavirus.

On another note pertaining to women, be careful about the timing of your mammograms with your vaccinations.  Because the vaccine stimulates your immune system, you can develop swollen lymph nodes afterward, usually in the arm pit of the arm where you received your injection.  If you have a mammogram within a few weeks of your vaccine, these lymph nodes can show up.  Swollen lymph nodes under one arm can be a sign of breast cancer.  When a doctor sees this, they will likely order more testing.  It is now recommended that you wait 4-6 weeks after your vaccine to schedule your mammogram.  However, if you feel a lump or something unusual in your breast, definitely have a mammogram if recommended by your doctor.

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