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3 min read

Flu Vaccine Side Effects: Common Reactions, Risks, and Severe Complications

Millions of people get the flu shot each year to protect themselves from the seasonal flu. While generally safe, the flu vaccine has been linked to rare but serious side effects such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, allergic reactions, and neurological complications.

Common Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

The incidence rates of these side effects are low, typically fewer than 1-2 cases per million vaccinations. Nevertheless, these incidents change lives and need to be taken seriously. Individuals who experience severe symptoms following vaccination should seek medical advice to determine if they have experienced a vaccine-related injury. Most people experience only mild side effects from the flu vaccine, which typically resolve on their own.

In a study with healthy working adults, 34% of vaccine recipients reported at least one systemic symptom, such as fever or fatigue. However, injection site soreness was far more common in the vaccine group with nearly 64% reporting so (Nichol et al., 1996).

Common side effects of the flu vaccine include:

  • Soreness or redness at the injection site
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle aches

For these mild side effects, simple remedies like rest, hydration, and over-the-counter pain relievers usually help alleviate the discomfort.

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Severe Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

While severe side effects are rare, they can occur and may require medical attention. These include:

  • Allergic Reactions to the Flu Vaccine: Severe allergic reactions can manifest as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. Immediate medical attention is crucial in such cases.

    Among 89.6 million doses of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine in China, 1083 reported serious adverse events, with 1050 being allergic reactions (Liang et al., 2011).

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS): This is a rare autoimmune disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. If you experience tingling sensations, muscle weakness, or difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately.

    The 1976 swine flu vaccination program showed a significantly increased risk of GBS, with an incidence rate of 13.3 per million among vaccine recipients compared to 2.6 per million in non-recipients (Marks & Halpin, 1980).

  • Nerve Damage: Although rare, nerve damage can occur from the flu shot. This can include conditions like brachial neuritis and transverse myelitis, causing pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected areas.

    Neurological complications including GBS and encephalomyelitis have been observed following influenza vaccination, although these occurrences are rare, with estimated frequencies of 1 case per 0.7-1.3 million vaccinations (Ehrengut & Allerdist, 1977).

Recognizing Severe Side Effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms after receiving a flu shot, it's important to consult your doctor promptly:

  • Severe muscle weakness
  • Persistent numbness or tingling
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling or hives

What to Do If You Experience Flu Vaccine Side Effects

If you experience side effects after receiving a flu shot, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers can help. However, if you notice severe symptoms like persistent numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, or severe pain, seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to minimize the risk of long-term complications. For severe side effects like nerve damage, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or other treatments.

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Can I File A Lawsuit For Side Effects From The Flu Shot?

If you believe you have suffered serious side effects caused by the flu shot, speak with an experienced Flu shot injury lawyer who will assess your case and advise you on your legal rights.

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for: 

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages
  • pain and suffering

One of our attorneys will help guide you through the federal claims process (VICP) and ensure that your legal rights are protected.

What Is The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that provides financial compensation to individuals who are injured by certain vaccines. The VICP covers vaccine-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths caused by the flu shot. To be eligible for compensation under the VICP, you must file a claim within two years of receiving the vaccine or within two years when the injury or illness was first recognized. If your claim is valid, you may receive a lump sum payment as compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

It's important to note that the VICP is not an insurance program but rather a no-fault system that compensates those injured by vaccines. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered an injury or illness due to a flu shot, it's important to speak with your doctor and reach out to the VICP for more information on how to file a claim.

How My Vaccine Lawyer Will Help You

My Vaccine Lawyer will help ensure that all evidence is properly presented and that the statute of limitations is not exceeded. Our attorneys will also help you understand the VICP and guide you through the claims process to maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation

Don't wait to get legal help after suffering nerve damage from a flu shot. Reach out to My Vaccine Lawyer for assistance in filing an injury claim and securing the financial compensation you deserve.

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Meet the Author

Leigh Finfer - Associate Attorney

Leigh A. Finfer is a vaccine and personal injury attorney at Muller Brazil and My Vaccine Lawyer. Mrs. Finfer has been with the firm since June 2018 and her practice includes representing vaccine injury victims, personal injury victims, and those who suffer injuries as a result of unsafe drugs and medical devices.


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