Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine side effects mild to moderate in high-risk children

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The side effects of the Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine in clinically vulnerable 12- to 15-year-olds are likely to be minimal, a study has shown.

In a small study of 27 children with various neurological conditions who were given the Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine, researchers found that the side effects of the jab were mild to moderate in all but one of these children.

The findings from the study have been published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

For healthy children, COVID-19 infection generally results in a mild illness. However, the effects can be more severe in children with co-existing conditions, such as neurological conditions. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the UK’s vaccine advisory group, therefore recommends that children aged over 12 with severe neurological disabilities should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.

Information on the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in this vulnerable group of children is currently relatively limited. To investigate the side effects further, the authors of the study asked the parents of the children to record any side effects experienced following the jab. Of the children involved in the study, who were all aged between 12 and 15, three were hospital inpatients, 16 were boys, and 21 children were white. The children had various neurological conditions, including muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, as well as a range of coexisting medical conditions, such as epilepsy, congenital heart defects, and immune deficiency, for which they were receiving drug treatment of various kinds.

In all but one of the children surveyed, the reported side effects were mild to moderate. One child experienced severe fatigue and discomfort, combined with increased agitation. One family also reported that seizure type changed to clusters, although this was temporary and lasted only a week.

After the first dose of the vaccine, eight ‘events’ were reported in six children, all of which resolved within 72 hours. These side effects included a mild rash; headache; diarrhoea; presumed sore throat; neck pain; difficulty sleeping; and low blood glucose.

Following the second dose, side effects occurred in five children. These included diarrhoea; vomiting; armpit swelling; and blisters around the mouth.

Side effects cleared within one week

Paracetamol use after the first dose was high and fever was more common than reported in studies of adults. However, all recorded side effects cleared up within a week.

The authors note: “Numbers were small, but these data are especially important as they are representative of the children who are most likely to benefit from vaccination, and parents and clinicians may have concerns regarding an increased risk of unexpected events.

“The parents choosing to take up this vaccination at a time when it was off-licence, with little available safety data, did so because they (and their clinicians) believed their children to be at high risk of COVID-19 disease. Indeed, many had been shielding and felt that vaccination would make a significant difference to their lives.”


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