New Data on Side Effects of Second Pfizer Shot in Children Shows Fewer Adverse Effects than for Teens
A child receives a vaccine through the Maccabi Health Fund in Israel in December 2021.
A child receives a vaccine through the Maccabi Health Fund in Israel in December 2021.

Two new large scale reviews of the effects of the two-dose Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine in children aged 5-11 shows fewer severe effects than in older groups.

Tuesday’s report, by the Israeli Health Fund Maccabi covering more than 20,000 children, comes on the heels of a similar US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of some 42,504 children that found nearly all side effects have been mild as well.

The findings also coincide with a US Food and Drug Administration announcement that it has expanded its approval of booster vaccines to kids aged 12- to 15-years-old. It also said that it would allow some children aged five to 11 who are immunocompromised to get a third shot, such as those who have undergone organ transplants. A CDC expert group is meeting today to decide on implementation of the FDA authorization.

Children ages 5-11 did not experience any severe or unusual side effects after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, according to a report released Tuesday by Maccabi Health Services – one of Israel’s four national health funds.

No reports of heart inflammation

In the CDC study, there were 12 serious reports of seizure and 11 reports of myocarditis among the children enrolled in the CDC-FDA Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) – none fatal. Two deaths reported in 5-year-olds with complicated health histories could not be directly linked to the vaccine.

Notably, in the Israeli study, there have been no reports of myocarditis – a rare heart inflammation condition that was found to affect most young men between the ages of 16 and 30 in previous studies of those age groups.

“There were no unusual side effects,” said Dr. Miri Mizrahi Reuveni, director of the Health Division at Maccabi Healthcare Services in a briefing.

According to the report, 70% of children experienced pain at the site of injection – the same percentage who experienced pain after their first jab.

In addition, a third (33%) of children experienced general side effects, such as fatigue, headaches and general achiness. Only 20% of children experienced similar side effects after the first shot.

“One in four (26%) of 11-year-olds vaccinated with a second coronavirus vaccine dose missed a school day or afternoon activity due to side effects,” Reuveni said.

Fewer side effects the younger the age group

She noted that there are fewer side effects the younger the children are. Only 11% of five-year-olds missed a school day or activity. Also, 18% of 11-year-olds experienced a headache, for example, compared to 8% of five-year-olds.

This is also the case when comparing vaccinated children to adults, the Maccabi data shows.

Israel approved vaccines for children 5-11 shortly in late November, shortly after the United States.

So far, around 9% of Israel’s 5-11-year-olds are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had two shots in the last six months, although much higher percentages of children have had their first dose.

Maccabi has vaccinated 44,300 children and another 34,000 have appointments for shots. Around 50% of children have received their second dose.

About one in five children in the US have gotten their first COVID vaccine, according to data by the CDC.

Image Credits: Maccabi Health Services.

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