FDA preprint sparks concerns about COVID-19 vaccine side effects

In an preprint study analyzing the safety of monovalent COVID-19 vaccines in children and teenagers, the FDA identified the following safety concerns: myocarditis, pericarditis, convulsions, and seizures, although the rates of seizures were not statistically different from rates naturally occuring in the population. The FDA concluded that the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risk of side effects. Despite this, social media posts used this analysis to falsely claim the updated COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe for children. Several Spanish language accounts also promoted unrelated concerns about seizures following MMR and flu vaccination in infants.

Risk level: High

Recommendation: Cherry-picking data is a common tactic used to distort information. Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe for children may discourage parents from vaccinating their children against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Talking points may emphasize that staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations substantially reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19, of COVID-19-related hospitalization, and of long COVID. Doctors may also emphasize that the risk of vaccine-induced febrile seizures is extremely low and that vaccines help prevent febrile seizures caused by vaccine-preventable illnesses. The CDC continues recommending vaccination for children.