The COVID-19 Vaccine Can Cause Delayed Skin Reactions—Here’s Everything We Know

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Recent news reported by The New York Times says a number of people have reported delayed skin reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. While both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven to be effective at slowing the spread of the virus, post-shot skin redness in patients who were vaccinated at Massachusetts General Hospital was only seen in those who received the Moderna shot.

While experiencing a reaction to a new vaccine can be frightening, Moderna only “reported delayed skin reactions in its large clinical trial in 0.8 percent of recipients after the first dose, and 0.2 percent after the second dose,” showing that this side effect is quite rare. The reactions were also found to be completely harmless, despite mild skin discomfort.

“We modified our patient handout once we started seeing this,” says Dr. Kimberly G. Blumenthal, an author of a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine and an allergist at Massachusetts General Hospital according to The New York Times. “We had said it was normal to get redness, itching and swelling when you get the vaccine. We changed the wording to say it can also start seven to 10 days after you get the vaccine.”

In the letter, Dr. Blumenthal and 10 other doctors describe how the 12 patients who had “delayed large local reactions,” which occurred between four to 11 days after the first shot, reacted to the Moderna vaccine. Like many others who have received vaccinations, these patients felt a sore arm shortly after their inoculation, which went away before their skin reaction. “In five people, big, raised skin lesions emerged that measured 10 or more centimeters in diameter near the injection site. Two had rashes in other spots, one near the elbow and one on the palm of the hand. Some also had systemic symptoms at the same time, like fatigue and achy muscles,” the article reports.

New England Journal of Medicine

Although the doctors who wrote the study don’t yet know why patients are currently experiencing these types of reactions, they do note that most cases of post-vaccination skin inflammation can be cured with an at-home remedy, and New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD agrees. “If you experience a delayed reaction after your inoculation, it can most-likely be treated with ice or an antihistamine,” she says. “If that doesn’t do the trick, contact your board-certified doctor to see if an oral cortisone is right for you.”

Dr. Peredo also adds that a local skin reaction after the first shot should not scare you away from receiving a second dose. “After the second vaccine, most patients who experienced an initial reaction did not see one again. The vaccine is much more important than a skin reaction.”

Updated on March 16, 2021:

According to News Medical, a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology illustrates that skin rashes not only can occur as a symptom of the COVID vaccine, but also as a symptom of COVID. In the survey organized for the study, which analyzed 336,847 individuals, 17 percent of COVID-positive cases reported skin rashes as the initial symptom, and 21 percent reported rashes as the only COVID symptom they experienced.

“Recognition of such early signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may enable identification of cases missed when relying only on the core symptoms, allowing preventive measures to be put in place to minimize further spreading of the infection,” says Mario Falichi, PhD, senior author of the study.

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