In 2020, prior to COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the Brighton Collaboration created a priority list, endorsed by the World Health Organization, of potential adverse events relevant to COVID-19 vaccines. We adapted the Brighton Collaboration list to evaluate serious adverse events of special interest observed in mRNA COVID-19 vaccine trials.
Secondary analysis of serious adverse events reported in the placebo-controlled, phase III randomized clinical trials of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in adults (NCT04368728 and NCT04470427), focusing analysis on Brighton Collaboration adverse events of special interest.
Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest of 10.1 and 15.1 per 10,000 vaccinated over placebo baselines of 17.6 and 42.2 (95 % CI −0.4 to 20.6 and −3.6 to 33.8), respectively. Combined, the mRNA vaccines were associated with an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest of 12.5 per 10,000 vaccinated (95 % CI 2.1 to 22.9); risk ratio 1.43 (95 % CI 1.07 to 1.92). The Pfizer trial exhibited a 36 % higher risk of serious adverse events in the vaccine group; risk difference 18.0 per 10,000 vaccinated (95 % CI 1.2 to 34.9); risk ratio 1.36 (95 % CI 1.02 to 1.83). The Moderna trial exhibited a 6 % higher risk of serious adverse events in the vaccine group: risk difference 7.1 per 10,000 (95 % CI –23.2 to 37.4); risk ratio 1.06 (95 % CI 0.84 to 1.33). Combined, there was a 16 % higher risk of serious adverse events in mRNA vaccine recipients: risk difference 13.2 (95 % CI −3.2 to 29.6); risk ratio 1.16 (95 % CI 0.97 to 1.39).
The excess risk of serious adverse events found in our study points to the need for formal harm-benefit analyses, particularly those that are stratified according to risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes. These analyses will require public release of participant level datasets.
In March 2020, the Brighton Collaboration and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations partnership, Safety Platform for Emergency vACcines (SPEAC), created and subsequently updated a “priority list of potential adverse events of special interest relevant to COVID-19 vaccine trials.”  The list comprises adverse events of special interest (AESIs) based on the specific vaccine platform, adverse events associated with prior vaccines in general, theoretical associations based on animal models, and COVID-19 specific immunopathogenesis.  The Brighton Collaboration is a global authority on the topic of vaccine safety and in May 2020, the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety endorsed and recommended the reporting of AESIs based on this priority list. To our knowledge, however, the list has not been applied to serious adverse events in randomized trial data.
We sought to investigate the association between FDA-authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and serious adverse events identified by the Brighton Collaboration, using data from the phase III randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials on which authorization was based. We consider these trial data against findings from post-authorization observational safety data. Our study was not designed to evaluate the overall harm-benefit of vaccination programs so far. To put our safety results in context, we conducted a simple comparison of harms with benefits to illustrate the need for formal harm-benefit analyses of the vaccines that are stratified according to risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes. Our analysis is restricted to the randomized trial data, and does not consider data on post-authorization vaccination program impact. It does however show the need for public release of participant level trial datasets.
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By Joseph Fraiman, Juan Erviti, Dr. Peter Doshi, and et al.
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