COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Adolescents Aged 12–17 Years

United States, December 14, 2020-July 16, 2021

Anne M. Hause, PhD; Julianne Gee, MPH; James Baggs, PhD; Winston E. Abara, MD; Paige Marquez, MSPH; Deborah Thompson, MD; John R. Su, MD, PhD; Charles Licata, PhD; Hannah G. Rosenblum, MD; Tanya R. Myers, PhD; Tom T. Shimabukuro, MD; David K. Shay, MD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2021;70(31):1053-1058. 

In This Article

Review of VAERS Data

VAERS received and processed 9,246 reports of adverse events for adolescents aged 12–17 years who received Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during December 14, 2020–July 16, 2021 (Table 1); 5,376 (58.1%) were in adolescents aged 12–15 years and 3,870 (41.9%) in persons aged 16–17 years.*** No adverse events were reported disproportionately to VAERS in association with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. Common conditions among all reports included dizziness (1,862; 20.1%), syncope (1,228; 13.3%), and headache (1,027; 11.1%). Among the 1,228 reports of syncope, 901 met a standard case definition†††; 548 (60.8%) of these events occurred in females, and median age was 15 years. Among those who met the syncope case definition, 147 (16.3%) reported a history of anxiety around needles, and 145 (16.1%) were transported to an emergency department for further evaluation.

Overall, 8,383 (90.7%) VAERS reports were for nonserious events, and 863 (9.3%) for serious events, including death; 609 (70.6%) reports of serious events were among males, and median age was 15 years. The most commonly reported conditions and diagnostic findings among reports of serious events were chest pain (56.4%), increased troponin levels (41.7%), myocarditis (40.3%), increased c-reactive protein (30.6%), and negative SARS-CoV-2 test results (29.4%) (Table 2); these findings are consistent with a diagnosis of myocarditis. Myocarditis was listed among 4.3% (397) of all VAERS reports.

CDC reviewed 14 reports of death after vaccination. Among the decedents, four were aged 12–15 years and 10 were aged 16–17 years. All death reports were reviewed by CDC physicians; impressions regarding cause of death were pulmonary embolism (two), suicide (two), intracranial hemorrhage (two), heart failure (one), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and disseminated Mycobacterium chelonae infection (one), and unknown or pending further records (six).

***Processed VAERS reports are those that have been coded using MedDRA, have been deduplicated, and have undergone standard quality assurance and quality control review.
†††CDC reviewed VAERS reports of syncope for additional information. Syncopal events that occurred off-site or ≥1 hour after vaccine administration were excluded from analysis.