Published: 30 June 2021


Adverse events following immunisation with COVID-19 vaccines: Safety Report #14 – 5 June 2021


This page provides information on the number of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) reports received for COVID-19 vaccines.

The national roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines commenced on 20 February 2021. The vaccine currently available in New Zealand is Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty). All medicines can cause side effects, the known side effects for Comirnaty are listed in the data sheet and consumer medicine information.

Suspected AEFI to COVID-19 vaccines are reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). The Ministry of Health (through Medsafe) contracts the collection of this information to CARM, based at the University of Otago in Dunedin. Medsafe is closely monitoring the AEFI reported from the use of the COVID-19 vaccine. Find out more about vaccine safety monitoring.

Medsafe and CARM thank everyone who has contributed to the monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines. Please continue to report any adverse events following immunisation.

Adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) reported

The information below includes:

  • AEFI reports received and vaccine doses administered
  • AEFI reports by prioritised ethnicity and vaccine dose
  • AEFI reports by age band and vaccine dose
  • the top 10 most frequently reported AEFIs by vaccine dose.

AEFI reports received and vaccine doses administered, up to and including 5 June 2021


New AEFI reports since last update

(428 new non-serious and 23 new serious)


New safety signal (potential safety issue) has been identified

Menstrual disorder


Total doses administered



Total AEFI reports that were non-serious


Total AEFI reports that were serious


Total AEFI reports that were received


There were 428 non-serious and 23 serious reports this week. Sadly, two of these serious reports reported on deaths. For more information, please refer to the summary of reported deaths. No safety concerns with the Comirnaty vaccine were raised by these reports.

Furthermore, five of the serious reports were described as allergic reactions and the remaining reports were for: stroke (3), atrial fibrillation (2), seizure (2), c-reactive protein increased (2), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), hypotension, myopericarditis, ataxia, Guillain-Barré syndrome, blood in urine (haematuria) and jaundice.


Anaphylaxis is a rare adverse event that can occur with any vaccine. People giving vaccines must have medical treatment for anaphylaxis on hand, and must keep people under observation for at least 20 minutes so that anaphylaxis can be managed, if it happens.

Of the five serious reports of allergic reactions this week, there were two reports where the reporter indicated suspected anaphylaxis. CARM assessed these cases against the Brighton Collaboration case definition for anaphylaxis. The cases were a possible Brighton anaphylaxis level 3 and 5.

New safety signal: menstrual disorder

Reports of menstrual disorders and unexpected vaginal bleeding have been reviewed by the COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB). The number of reports received is low compared to how many females have been vaccinated and how common these types of disorders are generally. The CV-ISMB considered that the current evidence does not suggest an increased risk of these disorders following vaccination with Comirnaty. Medsafe will continue to monitor reports of menstrual disorders and unexpected vaginal bleeding.

Ongoing safety signal: bell’s palsy/facial paralysis

As of 5 June 2021, there have been 13 reports of Bell’s palsy/facial paralysis. Medsafe is currently reviewing this signal and we will provide further information once the review is completed.

Ongoing safety signal: myocarditis

Medsafe continues to investigate this safety signal. We have published a monitoring communication to encourage further reporting of cases of myocarditis in patients who have been vaccinated with Comirnaty.

AEFI reports received by prioritised ethnicity and vaccine dose, up to and including 5 June 2021

Ethnicitya Dose 1 Dose 2 Dose
Māori 181 144 0 325
Pacific Peoples 137 110 0 247
Asian 432 342 0 774
European/Other 1,632 1,448 0 3,080
Unknownb 54 39 0 93
Total 2,436 2,083 0 4,519c


  1. The prioritised ethnicity classification system allocates each person to a single ethnic group, based on the ethnic groups they identify with. Where people identify with more than one group, they are assigned in this order of priority: Māori, Pacific Peoples, Asian, and European/Other. So, if a person identifies as being Māori and New Zealand European, the person is counted as Māori. See Ethnicity Data Protocols for further information.
  2. There were 93 AEFI reports where the person’s ethnicity was not reported. Ethnicity and dose number are not required for an AEFI report to be considered valid. See ‘Valid report’ in the Definitions section below.
  3. The total is different from the cumulative total above because it excludes 2 AEFI reports received for infants who did not receive the vaccine (see safety report 10).

AEFI reports received by age band and vaccine dose, up to and including 5 June 2021

Age Dose 1 Dose 2 Dose
10 - 19 years 59 31 0 90
20 - 29 years 463 429 0 892
30 - 39 years 479 487 0 966
40 - 49 years 426 450 0 876
50 - 59 years 436 398 0 834
60 - 69 years 319 210 0 529
70 - 79 years 155 44 0 199
80+ years 71 15 0 86
Unknowna 28 19 0 47
Total 2,436 2,083 0 4,519b


  1. There were 47 AEFI reports where the person’s age was not reported. Age and dose number are not required for an AEFI report to be considered valid. See ‘Valid report’ in the Definitions section below.
  2. The total is different from the cumulative total above because it excludes 2 AEFI reports received for infants who did not receive the vaccine (see safety report 10).

Top 10 most frequently reported AEFIs, any dose, up to and including 5 June 2021

Reaction Number
Headache 1,690
Dizziness 1,321
Nausea 1,121
Fever 1,103
Lethargy 1,067
Injection site pain 915
Musculoskeletal pain 523
Feeling of body temperature change 423
Numbness 306
Chest discomfort 291

Top 10 most frequently reported AEFIs, dose 1 only, up to and including 5 June 2021

Reaction Number
Dizziness 772
Headache 696
Nausea 491
Fever 386
Lethargy 368
Injection site pain 312
Numbness 157
Syncope (fainting) 149
Musculoskeletal pain 147
Chest discomfort 136

Top 10 most frequently reported AEFIs, dose 2 only, up to and including 5 June 2021

Reaction Number
Headache 994
Fever 717
Lethargy 696
Nausea 630
Injection site pain 603
Dizziness 546
Musculoskeletal pain 376
Feeling of body temperature change 313
Myalgia (muscle pain) 157
Chest discomfort 154

Please note that one adverse event report, which represents one person, may report on more than one symptom. Reports are sent to CARM if the reporter suspects that the vaccine may have caused the event. This does not necessarily mean that the vaccine did cause the event.

The number of reports can be influenced by how many people are being vaccinated, media attention, the nature of the events (eg, how painful the vaccination was), and other factors which vary over time. Not everyone who has an adverse reaction reports it, and some people may report AEFIs after each vaccination. The information here shows the number of reports not the number of people who experienced an AEFI.

The information is limited by the information provided in the report and may change over time due to quality control procedures and/or receipt of additional information. Non-valid reports are not included in the data.

Summary of reported deaths

Up to and including 5 June 2021, a total of eight deaths were reported to CARM after the administration of the Comirnaty vaccine. Following medical assessments by CARM and Medsafe it has been determined that:

  • 4 of these deaths are unlikely related to the COVID-19 vaccine
  • 2 deaths could not be assessed due to insufficient information
  • 2 cases are still under investigation.

By chance, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly. Therefore, part of our review process includes comparing natural death rates to observed death rates following vaccination, to determine if there are any specific trends or patterns that might indicate a vaccine safety concern. There are currently no indications to suggest that the vaccine caused the deaths.

To date, the observed number of deaths reported after vaccination is actually less than the expected number of deaths.

Adverse events of special interest

Adverse events of special interest (AESI) are pre-specified medically significant events that have the potential to be causally associated with the vaccine and must be carefully monitored. AESI can be serious or non-serious and can include:

  • Events of interest due to their association with COVID-19 infection.
  • Events of interest for vaccines in general (e.g. to the specific vaccine type or adjuvants).

The list of AESIs below takes into consideration the lists of AESIs from expert groups such as the Brighton Collaboration, manufacturers and other regulatory authorities. The AESI list changes based on the evolving safety profile of vaccines. It is important to note that although these adverse events may occur after being vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand, they are rare and may not necessarily be related to the vaccine. Medsafe and CARM review the reports to determine whether the vaccine may have played a role in the occurrence of these events.

Adverse events of special interest (AESI) up to and including 5 June 2021

AESI Category AESI Totala
Immune system disorders Guillain-Barré Syndrome <6
Thrombocytopenia 0
Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) 0
Anaphylaxisb 14
Cardiovascular system Myocardial infarction (heart attack) <6
Myocarditis/pericarditis <6
Blood and lymphatic system Thrombosis <6
Embolism <6
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) 6
Vasculitis <6
Haemorrhage 8
Hepato-gastrointestinal and renal system Acute kidney injury 0
Acute liver injury <6
Nervous system Aseptic meningitis 0
Encephalitis 0
Stroke 7
Bell's Palsy/facial paralysis 13
Myelitis 0
Infections and musculoskeletal Erythema multiforme 0
Arthritis 0
Herpes zoster 13
  1. Includes all reports, both serious and non-serious. Counts below 6 are reported as <6 for privacy reasons.
  2. Includes reports meeting levels 1-3 of the Brighton Collaboration case definition.


Adverse event following immunisation (AEFI)
An AEFI is an untoward medical event which follows immunisation and does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the administration of the vaccine. The adverse event may be an unfavourable or unintended sign, abnormal laboratory finding, symptom or disease.
Serious adverse event following immunisation
An AEFI is considered serious if it:
  • is a medically important event or reaction
  • requires hospitalisation or prolongs an existing hospitalisation
  • causes persistent or significant disability or incapacity
  • is life threatening
  • causes a congenital anomaly/birth defect
  • results in death.
It is possible for different people to have experienced the same event but for the report to be serious for one person and non-serious for another person.
Adverse events of special interest (AESI)
An AESI is a pre-specified medically significant event that has the potential to be causally associated with the vaccine product based on past experience, the technology used to make the vaccine or the infection the vaccine is used to protect against. AESIs need to be carefully monitored and any potential association to vaccination confirmed by further analysis and studies.
Safety signal
Information on a new or known adverse event that may be caused by the vaccine and requires further investigation. Safety signals can be detected from a wide range of sources such as CARM reports, clinical studies and scientific literature.
Valid report
There are only four requirements for a valid AEFI report:
  1. one patient identifier (eg, name, initials, gender, date of birth, age)
  2. suspect medicine(s)
  3. suspected reaction(s)
  4. reporter details.
These four requirements are the minimum requirements. However, including more information in the report helps Medsafe to investigate the reaction more quickly. Reporting is easiest online.

More information

See the data sheets and consumer medicine information for the expected reactions for approved COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring Process

View Ministry of Health COVID-19 vaccine data

Latest listing of all cases received

The latest listing of AEFIs received is included in the attached spreadsheet. Medsafe advises patients NOT to make any decisions about vaccination based on information contained here.

Download AEFI-line-listing.xlsm

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