Pfizer side effects ‘mild or moderate’ in at-risk 12 to 15 year olds as calls grow to vaccinate children before term

Researchers in Bristol looked at 27 children with severe neurodisabilities

Side effects from the Pfizer vaccine in 27 children aged between 12 and 15 who are considered vulnerable to Covid have been monitored in a new study.

Adverse reactions were either mild or moderate in all of the young people, except one who had “severe fatigue and severe discomfort combined with increased agitation”.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Researchers in Bristol looked at 27 children whose parents recorded any side effects after the jab
  • Experts said the small size and scope of the study does not allow for conclusions on rare side effects or inform the debate on vaccinating healthy younger teens
  • There have been calls from some quarters to extend the rollout to all healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, especially as the return of schools is expected to lead to a rise in infections
  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not given a recommendation to widen the rollout to this age group, but the NHS in England is reportedly making preparations to enable it to proceed if there is a decision to do so
  • Currently, children aged between 12 and 15 who are clinically vulnerable to Covid or live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are eligible for a Covid vaccine

What’s been said

The study was carried out by scientists from the department of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and the University of Bristol noted ‘adverse events’ were all resolved within a week.

They said: “Numbers were small but the data is especially important as it is 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.”

Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at UCL Institute of Child Health, noted that the study “should reassure parents and doctors that there are no special precautions or issues with this vaccine in this small group of children”.

He added: “However this data can tell us very little about rare side effects or about vaccinating healthy teenagers or those with common conditions such as asthma and diabetes. For that we must await further data in the order of millions of doses.”

Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “This is a small study, as the authors point out, and it is not explained how these patients were chosen to be included.

“It is useful to know the nature of the reactions to the vaccine, not all of which were minor, but because of the size of the study it would be unwise to assume that this picture could be generalised to a larger group of similar children.”

Background

All of the participants in the study were children with severe neurodisabilities who tend to get recurrent respiratory infections and spend time in residential care.

Researchers said one family reported a change in seizure type but this had been resolved a week after the vaccine.

Effects in six of the children after a first dose included a mild rash, headache, diarrhoea, presumed sore throat, neck pain, difficulty sleeping and low blood sugars.

But all of these had gone away within 72 hours, according to the study, which is due to be published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Five of the children had effects including diarrhoea, vomiting, armpit swelling and blisters around the mouth after the second dose.

The researchers said fever was more common than in adult studies, with 13% of the children having a temperature greater than 38C compared with 4% in people aged between 16 and 55.

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