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Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in UK school-aged children and young people decreases infection rates and reduces COVID-19 symptoms

By Erika Molteni, Liane S Canas, Kerstin Klaser, Jie Deng, Sunil S Bhopal, Robert C Hughes, Liyuan Chen, Benjamin Murray, Eric Kerfoot, Michela Antonelli, Carole Helene Sudre, Joan Capdevila Pujol, Lorenzo Polidori, Anna May, Alexander Hammers, Jonathan Wolf, Timothy Spector, Claire J Steves, Sebastien Ourselin, Michael Absoud, Marc Modat, Emma L Duncan

Posted 13 Mar 2022
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.03.13.22272176

Background We aim to explore the effectiveness of one-dose BNT162b2 vaccination upon SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in children and young people (CYP) during Delta and Omicron variant predominance in the UK, and study its effect on COVID-19 presentation and post-vaccination symptoms. Methods In this prospective longitudinal cohort study, we analysed data from 115,775 CYP aged 12-17 years, proxy-reported through the Covid Symptom Study (CSS) smartphone application. We calculated post-vaccination infection risk after one dose of BNT162b2. We described the illness profile of CYP with post-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 infection, compared to unvaccinated CYP. Findings Between August 5, 2021 and February 14, 2022, 25,971 UK CYP aged 12-17 years received one dose of BNT162b2 vaccine. Vaccination reduced infection (reporting) risk (-80.4% and -53.7% at 14-30 days with Delta and Omicron variants respectively, and -61.5% and -63.7% after 61-90 days). The probability of remaining infection-free diverged after vaccination, and was more robust with prior infection. Vaccinated CYP who contracted SARS-CoV-2 during the Delta period had milder disease than unvaccinated CYP; however, during the Omicron period this was only evident in children aged 12-15 years, and overall disease profile was similar in both vaccinated and unvaccinated CYP. Post-vaccination local side-effects were common, systemic side-effects were uncommon, and both resolved quickly. Interpretation One dose of BNT162b2 vaccine reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 90 days in CYP aged 12-17 years. Vaccine protection was modulated by SARS-CoV-2 variant type (lower for Omicron than Delta variant), and was enhanced by pre-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 infection. Severity of COVID-19 presentation after vaccination is generally milder, although unvaccinated CYP also have an uncomplicated course. Overall, vaccination was well-tolerated.

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