COVID vaccine safety data for children ‘extremely reassuring’

Morgan Liotta

28/07/2022 4:40:08 PM

A new study tracking nearly 400,000 children aged 5–15 post-vaccination found adverse events were generally short-term and mild.

Child having COVID vaccine.
New real world data shows vaccines having even fewer side effects than in clinical trials.

Despite the national rollout of childhood COVID-19 vaccination commencing in January this year, Australia is still playing catch up.
Latest figures show that as of 24 July, only 40.46% of children aged 5–11 have received two doses, while those aged 12–15 stand at 79.53%. Both rates lag well behind the 16 and older cohort, of whom more than 96% have received two doses.
While there are many factors contributing to lower uptake among younger age groups, safety concerns have been identified as a major issue for parents when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children against COVID.
However, a new AusVaxSafety study tracking Australian recipients of COVID vaccines aged 5–15 years has been released in an effort to ease concerns and boost uptake.
The study, led by a team from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), analysed 392,268 survey responses from AusVaxSafety’s national surveillance system of children in two age groups (5–11 and 12–15 years) who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine between July 2021 and May 2022.
According to the findings, these children reported fewer side effects in the days following vaccination than those reported in clinical trials and published safety data, and only 0.3% of recipients required medical review.
Local reaction (including pain, itching, redness and swelling at injection site), fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint pain were the most common side effects in both age groups.
In the 5–11 years cohort, 25% of respondents reported at least one side effect in the first three days following the first dose of the Pfizer 10-microgram vaccine, and 28% after the second dose.
Reported adverse side effects were highest following the second dose in ages 12–15 years. For this older cohort, 32% of respondents reported at least one side effect in the first three days after the first dose of the Pfizer 30-microgram vaccine, and 49% after the second dose.
Of those receiving the Moderna 100-micrograms vaccine, 34% reported side effects following the first dose and 64% after the second.
Lead study author NCIRS Associate Professor Nick Wood says the findings are ‘extremely reassuring’.
‘Side effect rates in children aged 5–11 years are below what has been observed internationally for this age group,’ he said.
‘Importantly, fever, which is a concern in children under six years of age due to the potential for febrile seizures, was low in the youngest age group and similar to that seen following annual influenza vaccination.’
Fever was reported in the survey as low in children aged five years after any dose, at 4%.
Additionally, there were no presentations of myocarditis or pericarditis, conditions which have previously been linked with risks for younger people receiving vaccines.
‘No self-reported cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were identified in this study and these data provide confidence to parents on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia,’ Associate Professor Wood said.
Reported side effects were similar across sex and Indigenous status, but increased with age and for children with chronic conditions. The overall reported impact on routine activities following vaccination was just 7%.
Additionally, the latest AusVaxSafety report shows that as of 25 July, fewer than one in 100 children aged 5–11 reported seeing a GP or attending a hospital emergency department in the days following their first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
AusVaxSafety will continue to monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety in children, including for booster doses, with safety data regularly updated on the website.
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