Of the first nearly 14 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, serious adverse reactions were extraordinarily rare, according to CDC research published Friday.
The findings, reported in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, illustrate that the vaccine is a safe preventative for the overwhelming majority of its recipients.
“The postauthorization safety profiles for both vaccines are reassuring,” researchers wrote.
The researchers identified 62 cases of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, between Dec. 14 and Jan. 13.
This equates to 4.5 cases per million doses administered, the report states, an occurrence rate on par with other vaccines like the flu shot (1.4 per million), the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (2.5 per million) and the shingles vaccine (9.6 per million).
During the same time span, 113 vaccine recipients died after receiving a dose. However, the researchers found information from death certificates, autopsy reports, medical records and clinical descriptions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) “did not suggest any causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and death.”
In other words, the CDC found they died after receiving the vaccine, not because of the vaccine.
Seventy-eight of the people who died after receiving the vaccine lived in long term care facilities like nursing homes, where the mortality rate is already high. Forty-two of those residents were in hospice care at the time or on “do not resuscitate” status.
Available death certificate data from 17 of the residents shows they died from things like cardiac disease, dementia, pneumonia, and failure to thrive. Death certificate data was not available for 19 cases, researchers found.
Records were available for 16 (of 35) non-long term care facility residents who died after receiving the vaccine. Death certificates and other data list the cause of death as heart disease, cancer, stroke, probable pulmonary embolism and “otherwise frail health.”
Mild side effects are common with the vaccine, VAERS data shows. Of the 6,994 vaccine “adverse events” reported, the most common were headaches (22.4%), fatigue (16.5%) and dizziness (16.5%).
The data comes from two main sources: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a system ran by the CDC and FDA which fields adverse event reports from patients, parents, caregivers, and health care providers of any adverse event noticed after a vaccination; and “v-safe,” a new, smartphone based tool vaccine recipients can opt in to that allows them to quickly tell the CDC about any potential side effect after receiving the vaccine.
The researchers said health care providers and vaccine recipients alike can be reassured about the safety of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, both of which are about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
The data comes as about three in 10 Americans say they want to wait until the vaccine has been around a while before they’ll take it, and about one in five who say they won’t take it or will only take it if their employer requires it. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the poll last month, found the hesitancy is waning.
In Ohio, about 1.45 million residents — more than 12% of the population — have taken at least one dose of the vaccine (a two-dose regimen) as of Monday.