How Different Types of COVID-19 Vaccines Affect People Living with Migraine

If you live with migraine, it is important to know the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 tore through the migraine patient community, with many of us asking how both the virus and vaccine could impact migraine frequency and severity. The vaccine is crucial to ending the global pandemic, but, like all vaccines, it also comes with its own side effects. The COVID-19 vaccine can come with side effects like fatigue, muscle aches and fever. Those who live with migraine may experience migraine symptoms after getting vaccinated.

While the vaccine may trigger symptoms, it should not discourage those with migraine from getting vaccinated. Researchers conducted an online survey in Egypt to determine the frequency and traits of post-vaccine headache. The survey also aimed to pin down the type of COVID-19 vaccine that would most frequently cause post-vaccine headache or headache symptoms.

“It’s an expected symptom,” says Dr. Teshamae Monteith, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Miami and a member of the American Migraine Foundation’s (AMF) Editorial Board about headaches after vaccinations. “It’s a sign that the vaccination is doing something to produce an immune response.”

The survey was also meant to raise awareness and highlight why it is important to learn about the side effects vaccines may have on those living with migraine. Read more to find out about the study’s results and how you can minimize side effects, even if you live with migraine.

What the Results Found

The survey had a total of 1,372 participants, ranging from 18 to 78 years old. The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines had the highest frequency of headache with 53.6%, followed by the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech with 48% and Sinovac, Bharat Biotech and Sinopharm with 34.8%.

Females and patients with thyroid disorders were also more likely to develop headaches after getting vaccinated. This may have to do with the changing hormone levels experienced by people who menstruate and patients with thyroid disorders. Patients with thyroid disorders were four times more likely to develop headaches after receiving their vaccines.

When you have a disturbance in your thyroid, that might be a sensitizing factor that can produce headache,” explains Dr. Monteith. Hormone levels play a huge role in diseases like migraine, and COVID-19 vaccines—due to activating the immune system—may disrupt these hormone levels.

What This Means if You’re Getting Vaccinated

If you live with migraine or another headache disease and are planning to get vaccinated, make sure you speak with your doctor about any concerns you have about side effects. Give yourself enough time and preparation in advance before you get your vaccine. Be sure to rest before and after getting your vaccine and try to avoid any activities that may trigger an attack.

“Headaches happen. They’re common,” says Dr. Monteith. “They’re generally transient and may be associated with a more generalized systemic response to the vaccination, and they can be pretreated or treated if needed. And generally speaking, headaches should not prevent people from getting the vaccination, especially in times of pandemics.” Vaccine-related headaches tend to be mild. The headaches due to COVID-19 infection are more severe and persist for many months or more (long COVID).

The American Migraine Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to treat their disease, manage symptoms and educate others on how debilitating migraine is. If you live with migraine, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. Read our Migraine and Post-COVID Headache article for more information on the longer lasting effects of COVID-19 and visit the AMF Resource Library for more information about migraine.

To read the full study, click here.

Investigators across the country are collecting and analyzing data to better understand the impact for those living with migraine or those who may have developed headache as a long-haul symptom after COVID-19 infection. Like much about this novel disease, there are many more questions than answers. But be assured that AMF will keep you updated as new evidence is uncovered. Avoiding COVID-associated headache is another reason to get vaccinated if you haven’t already and get boosted when eligible.

Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.