COVID-19 Vaccines for those with Lung Impairment

Posted on April 14, 2021   |   

Dear COPD Coach

I have had COPD for several years. The possibility of getting COVID-19 really scares me but so does the vaccination. Is it dangerous for someone with COPD to get the vaccination? I have heard that even healthy people are having a hard time with the shots.


Dear Scared,

I understand your concern and many of us have shared those same concerns. There seems to be no way of determining who will or will not have any side effects from the vaccine or which, if any, side effects they will have. Currently, the most common side effects for many of those getting the vaccines are tiredness, soreness or slight swelling at the injection site, slight fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and nausea. What is important to mention is that all of these symptoms remain for just a very short period of time and are easily treated with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen.

We received a few reports of slightly increased breathing problems in people with more severe lung disease (including myself) lasting around 24 hours. In each of these reports the symptoms were relieved by slightly increasing their oxygen flow or if they were only a night time oxygen user, having oxygen handy during the day. As with the other side effects from the vaccines, it lasted only a short time.

It goes without saying that the side effects pale in comparison to what one would experience if they actually got COVID-19. In my particular case I am very glad that I got the vaccine. After the first shot I had minor chills and a slight fever the following day. Other than having slightly increased breathlessness the second day after the second shot (that required increasing my oxygen flow by 1 LPM for 24 hours), the only other side effects I experienced were slight fever, tiredness and chills which required rest and some Tylenol. In both cases, I felt better by the third day.

If your symptoms become more serious, consult your doctor. It is important to recognize that you might feel unwell and have a plan in place to make sure you do your pursed lip breathing exercises, drink plenty of water, and eat well in the days leading up to and following getting the shot. I hope this helps and we are here if you need us.

For more information visit our Coronavirus Information page.

The COPD Coach

This page was reviewed on April 14, 2021 by the COPD Foundation Content Review and Evaluation Committee.


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  • Dear Scared,
    I am moderate/severe COPD for six years. I did test positive for the virus after Christmas and was fortunate that a round of steroids handled it. I am receiving my second vaccine (Pfizer) this weekend. The first shot I had a fever and "under the weather" for one day. We are falling prey to the media and they are less than realistic or factual on any topic. Follow your doctor's advice. We're all in this together! Cynthia
  • I've had severe COPD for over 20 years. I had the Pfizer shots with no problems other than a slightly sore arm both times. According to every doc I talked with about the vaccine, the chances of dealing with a reaction to the shot(s) is minimal and gets the older you are and would be far easier to deal with than actually getting the virus. Any reaction is actually your body letting you know that it's responding appropriately.