What are the side effects of the RSV vaccines for older adults?

Infectious Diseases Vaccines

Side effects for both RSV vaccinations include the usual injection site pain, feeling tired and achy, and headache. The are nearly always so mild that they do not interfere with usual activities.

Side effects for both RSV vaccinations (Arexvy and Abrysvo) are nearly always so mild they do not interfere with usual activities. Rates of side effects are lower than for many other vaccinations such as flu. The most common side effects are a sore arm, feeling tired or achy, and headache.

In 2023, two vaccines became available to people 60 and older in the U.S. Arexvy and Abrysvo prevent RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year, especially among very young people and older adults.

The side effect profile for these two vaccines is overall mild. In the clinical trials, just 4% of Arexvy recipients and 1% of Abrysvo recipients reported any side effect that was severe enough to interfere with their normal daily activities.

For Arexvy, the most common side effect at the site of the injection, with 61% of participants reporting some pain. One in three recipients had fatigue, headache, or muscle/joint aches.

For people receiving Abrysvo, 1 in 10 reported pain at the injection site. About 1 in 6 experienced tiredness or headaches.

These side effect rates are overall lower than for many other common vaccinations, including annual flu vaccines.

You can also get RSV vaccines at the same time as other vaccines, such as flu. The effectiveness of getting RSV at the same time as flu and TDAP (pertussis) was studied as part of the clinical trials. There were no issues identified with getting the RSV vaccines with these other vaccines, though not enough people were in those parts of the trials to make firm conclusions about whether side effects might be more common with two at once.

If you do experience vaccine side effects, over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil can help. Warm or cool compresses can help relieve injection site pain. It can also be a good idea to plan a low-energy day after your vaccination.

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