The Vaccine Side Effects in Search

In February, we started tracking the top questions the British public are asking around Covid-19 vaccines, more specifically the Pfizer and the Oxford/AstraZeneca. At the time, the Moderna vaccine was not being rolled out in the UK. We updated the graphs on a daily basis to see how information needs and perceptions changed over five weeks.

Many of those queries appeared to be from people yet to have the vaccine, with pre-emptive questions such as the vaccine’s ingredients, price or whether one type was safer than another. Now that two months have passed since we began the tracker – and at the time of writing 30 million British adults have had their vaccines – we were inspired to dig a little deeper into the searches around side effects.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine raises many questions around side effects

For this we used a range of terms to reflect the ways the public refer to the two vaccine types: ‘the Oxford vaccine’, ‘the AstraZeneca vaccine’, ‘the Pfizer vaccine’, ‘the vaccine’ and ‘the covid vaccine’. In fact, the public’s confusion around the name of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is mirrored in search with questions like “Is the Oxford vaccine the same as AstraZeneca?”.

Some of these side-effect related queries will be proactive – maybe concerns were heightened after a friend or family experienced a reaction – but some of them could also be the recently vaccinated checking whether their side effects are normal.

Not all the searches are negative. In fact, on the 29th March “Why Covid vaccine side effects are good” began ranking among search suggestions.

It’s worth noting that people could be influenced by search suggestions which might not have been their original search. For example, someone searching to see if the AstraZeneca jab can make you vomit could then have felt intrigued to see if it can also give you a rash after seeing it in the suggestions, despite that not being relevant to them.

We also checked the results that were appearing for these searches; they were sometimes confusing and contradictory. Answer boxes weren’t always relevant to the search and – although Google has been trying hard to collate information from trustworthy sources – there’s still a lot of outstanding work to ensure searchers don’t easily fall upon irresponsible content.

Here are the search queries around side effects.


Many queries are around pregnancy. Can the Covid vaccine affect pregnancy? Affect chances of getting pregnant in the future? Can the Pfizer vaccine affect your period? These questions could be from both expecting ladies and those planning to be. As it’s common knowledge that live viruses are avoided during pregnancy, this influx of questions is to be anticipated.

Skin Irritation

Searches around rashes and itching are prevalent – especially where the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is concerned. “Can the Oxford vaccine make you itch?”, “Can the AstraZeneca vaccine give you a rash?”. The Government is ranking a rash as an ‘uncommon’ side effect of this vaccine, affecting up to 1 in 100 people, yet it’s one of the most searched-for symptoms around the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Stomach trouble

Another query which appears to be frequently searched around the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is whether it can “make you vomit”, “upset your stomach” or “give you diarrhoea”. This is currently being classed as a common side effect which is echoed here as another of the most searched-for complaints.

Flu-like symptoms

There’s also been plenty of questions around dizziness, temperatures, fevers, sore throats, headaches and coughs. These span across both the Pfizer and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine types.

The first result – an ad from the NHS – takes you to a page with no mention of dizziness whatsoever. The second result is a forum where people are sharing their experience with dizziness from the vaccine.

The answer box also gives no mention of dizziness.

Naturally, many of the people posting in the forum are experiencing adverse reactions and are searching for advice – (maybe because helpful content was hard to find?!) As a result, this page is accumulating many reports of extreme reactions which could be quite scary to read ahead of a jab.

“I have been dizzy and nauseated every day since and it’s borderline debilitating at this point.”

“It’s been 6 days still feeling a bit dizzy and off balance. I suspect it’s from the vaccine as I’ve never felt this way before, makes me incredibly nervous to get the second shot.”

“I am scheduled to get my second vaccine on March 11 and am very concerned about the increased dizziness.”

Extreme cases

In mid-March, reports surfaced of several tragic deaths linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine causing severe blood clots – this appears to be an exceptionally rare side effect. As a result, the media has reported many countries halting the roll out of this vaccine. Fears in response to this news are reflected in search as shown below.

“Can the AstraZeneca cause blood clots”; “Can the AstraZeneca kill you”

If you enjoyed this, you should also check out our Covid Vaccine Tracker and give How to use search insight to have a positive impact on people’s health a read.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper into search – may it be for your business or your own curiosity – we recommend you check out which gathers suggestions around a specific term all in one place. See this infographic to help you get started. Or, give us a shout and we can help you with your search listening endeavours!