Are Women Facing Worse Side Effects from the COVID Vaccine?

by Aditi Hukerikar //

Disclaimer: This article often mentions women and female bodies alongside each other. However, we completely understand that not all women have female bodies, and not all of those with female bodies identify as women.

A recent CDC study has reported that after the first month of vaccination against COVID-19, over 79% of reported side effects were reported by women. In addition to various accounts of women themselves describing the severity of their side effects, this study has been raising concerns in many women about whether or not to receive a COVID vaccine. 

Most of the time, these side effects aren’t severe, nor do they tend to last very long, so women do not need to be overly concerned about potential side effects from the COVID vaccine. And because vaccination against COVID-19 has been shown to effectively protect against becoming infected with the novel coronavirus, the benefits of receiving the vaccine will likely outweigh most of the potential side effects. Essentially, the prospect of vaccine side effects should not deter women, or really anyone, from getting the COVID vaccine. 

Personally, when I first heard about this, I thought it was just a coincidence that women were reporting more side effects. However, upon looking into this issue, I’ve realized that there are actually several reasons for why this may be occurring. 

One reason could simply be that more women than men are mentioning side effects after getting the COVID vaccine. Women tend to be more likely to address their medical symptoms than men are, so it’s possible that one reason women seem to have more side effects is because more women are actually talking about their side effects.  

Still, there could be other reasons that have more to do with the biological differences between male and female bodies. Though not all women have female bodies, those who do tend to have stronger immune systems than people with male bodies. As a result, “XX females” tend to have a greater immune response to viral infections, which results in greater antibody production in females receiving vaccines, not just the COVID vaccine. Even influenza vaccines produce a greater antibody response in people with female bodies, so females facing greater side effects from vaccination is not just unique to the COVID vaccine. 

Also, the dosage size of many vaccines are tailored towards male bodies. For many years, clinical trials have been centered around male patients, and a result, the dosage of many vaccines is tailored to the ideal dose for an average male patient. Females may be receiving a larger dose than needed to produce a sufficient immune response, which could be a reason behind the higher levels of side effects many female women are facing. 

As mentioned previously, though an increased risk for side effects does appear in women and others with female bodies, the chances of a severe reaction to the COVID vaccine are still fairly low. The CDC reminds us that getting vaccinated against COVID still has many benefits, so again, if you are able to receive the COVID vaccine, the thought of potential side effects should not deter you from doing so.