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COVID-19 Vaccines and Migraine
With the roll out of the COVID-19 Vaccine programme and hope on the horizon, things are beginning to look brighter for many of us. However, if you are yet to have your vaccine, you may be a little worried about how it will affect you; if it will trigger an attack or make your migraine worse.
Unfortunately, there is currently no specific scientific data on COVID-19 Vaccines and Migraine, however the COVID-19 vaccines should present no greater risk than the flu vaccine.
You should follow the current guidelines and speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns at all.
As with any vaccine, you should not be ill in any way when getting it. Ideally you should be well rested in advance of the immunisation and avoid planning heavy work/duties after receiving the vaccination.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
According to the HSE, all COVID-19 vaccines used in Ireland are safe. All vaccines used in Ireland must be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EMA only approves vaccines once they are satisfied that they are safe and effective.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any live virus. However, if you have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in the days preceding the vaccination, symptoms may not appear for a few days. They can coincide with vaccination or appear shortly after you receive the vaccination.
Will my migraine get worse after having the vaccine?
No. However, if you are stressed about the vaccination and stress is one of your migraine triggers, then you may experience a headache after vaccination. It shouldn’t last longer than a few days. If you do get a headache, you should be able to take your usual migraine medication to help ease the symptoms.
There appears to be a greater risk of COVID-19 itself triggering your usual migraine attacks and causing long-term issues than any of the vaccines. However, if you are concerned you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Should I continue to take my regular migraine medications?
Yes. If you take medication regularly for migraine you can continue to do so under the advice prescribed by your doctor.
Can I still continue to have Botox for migraine, or will the COVID-19 Vaccine affect it?
Yes, however, it is better if possible to avoid having Botox the same day as the vaccination as you will not be properly prepared for both treatments on the same day. We suggest you could speak to your specialist about the timing of these injections before and after vaccination.
Can I continue to take my Anti-CGRP medication, or will the COVID-19 Vaccine affect it?
Yes. As with Botox, avoid having the CGRP injection the same day if possible. If you can leave it for 2-3 days after the vaccination it may be better. Again, discuss timings with your specialist. CGRP medications have been shown not to suppress the immune system so should not affect the immunity response to the vaccine.
What are side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?
Some people do not get any side effects at all. Side effects from COVID-19 vaccines are similar to the side effects that you can get from other vaccines such as the flu vaccine. You can report any you experience to the HPRA at www.hpra.ie. The vaccines should protect you from developing severe effects and symptoms of COVID-19 if you do get the virus.
Common side-effects (1 in 10 people)
- Sore arm or itching in the part where the injection was given,
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle/joint pain
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sick,
These common side-effects are usually mild and temporary, lasting from hours to maybe two days. These side-effects can be as a result of the body’s immune system responding to the vaccine which is exactly what you want to happen.
Less common (1 in 100 people)
- Swollen lymph glands in the arm where the vaccine was given,
- Body chills or feeling like you have a fever.
Rare – (1 in 1,000 people)
- Temporary weakness in their face muscles.
- Allergic reactions
- Blood Clots
Is there an increased risk of blood clots with migraine and the vaccines?
No. There should be no greater risk for migraineurs than non-migraineurs.
However, as one of the signs of brain blood clot (Cerebral Venous Thrombosis CVT) is headache, individuals who suffer with migraine may worry that they won’t recognise the signs for CVT. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which is the regulatory body for health products in the UK, has advised the following…
“Vaccinated individuals should also seek immediate medical attention if four or more days after vaccination they develop new onset or worsening severe or persistent headaches with blurred vision, which do not respond to simple painkillers or if they develop new symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, confusion or seizures or unusual skin bruising” Most people who got any of the above side-effects got them within 14 days of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
According to the HSE website, the COVID-19 vaccines were not tested on pregnant or breastfeeding women during clinical trials. But more than 100,000 pregnant women in the US have now had a COVID-19 vaccine. No safety concerns have been raised for these women or their babies.
Pregnant women are offered the whopping cough vaccine during pregnancy. They should leave at least 14 days between the COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine.
There is a chance that the vaccine and COVID-19 antibodies could be passed to your baby during breastfeeding. As there are no live viruses used in the vaccines, they cannot give your baby COVID-19. You should speak to your doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
See the HSE website for more information https://www2.hse.ie/screening-and-vaccinations/COVID-19-vaccine/get-the-vaccine/pregnancy/
Do I still need to wear a mask, keep my distance, and wash my hands after I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccination is not 100% effective so there is still a small chance of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others, even if you don’t get sick yourself after being fully vaccinated. It is important to keep following the HSE and government advice about washing your hands, keeping your distance and wearing a face mask.
How were these vaccines developed so quickly?
COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster than normal because:
- There was huge global investment into their research
- The high number of new cases of COVID-19 across the world meant the vaccine trials could quickly measure differences in disease risk
- Large scale manufacturing of vaccines started before the results of trials were available
- Regulators and those developing the vaccines started their conversations very early so the authorisation process could be as quick as possible
I have migraine. I am reluctant to get the vaccine if I’m not required to.
As previously mentioned, there is no scientific data on COVID-19 vaccines and migraine. We put this question to one of our GP experts in headache. Their initial reaction was that those with migraine need the COVID-19 vaccination. The ill-effects from COVID-19 are far more severe than any transient reaction from the vaccines.
While you are not required by law to get the vaccine, it is recommended that you do so to keep yourself, your family and the wider community safer. It’s up to all of us to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Migraine is a complex, painful and very disabling disease; however, it is rarely life-threatening. COVID-19 is life-threatening.
Where can I get more information?
- For more information on COVID-19 and Migraine, please see our FAQs on our website, drawn up at the beginning of the Pandemic by Dr. Mary Kearney, and Dr. Martin Ruttledge & Clinical Nurse Specialist Esther Tomkins of the Migraine Clinic Beaumont Hospital.
- The Migraine Trust in the UK has further information (please remember much of this information applies to the NHS, available medications in the UK and the UK’s Vaccine rollout plans and pandemic legislation)
- Much of the information above came from the HSE Covid Vaccine Portal. They have a lot of information and some excellent information leaflets.
- You can get more information on the individual vaccines from the European Medicines Agency
- Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine -Comirnaty https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/human/EPAR/comirnaty
- Moderna https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/human/EPAR/COVID-19-vaccine-moderna
- AstraZeneca – Vaxzevria https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/human/EPAR/vaxzevria-previously-COVID-19-vaccine-astrazeneca
- The WHO has a series of talks, answering questions on COVID-19 and the vaccines, you can see them here
- The HSE has a really good PDF on vaccines and how they benefit the community
This article was reviewed by one of our Medical Advisors, whom we thank for their time and assistance.