Survey results show safety of COVID-19 vaccine in Aotearoa

News article

10 May 2022

A recent survey of nearly 150,000 people shows no new safety concerns have been identified for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, with reported reactions similar to those seen in clinical trials of the vaccine.

The Ministry of Health’s Post Vaccine Symptom Check survey results also show a similar number of people reported a reaction after receiving their Pfizer COVID-19 second dose and booster dose, says National Immunisation Programme Group Manager Post Event, Dr Tim Hanlon.

“Over 58,000 or 40% of those surveyed, reported they experienced at least one adverse event/reaction to the vaccines. Whereas 60% reported they did not experience an adverse event.

“The most frequently reported adverse events were injection site reactions, headache, muscle and body aches, joint pain, and chills. These are common adverse reactions linked to the immune response following immunisation,” said Dr Hanlon.

“Post Vaccine Symptom Check is an ‘active’ reporting system managed out of the National Immunisation Programme at the Ministry, and the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand. It complements the existing ‘passive’ reporting, which is managed by Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM).

“We know what to expect after COVID-19 vaccinations based on data from clinical trials. Having our own reporting systems in Aotearoa New Zealand helps us to ensure that the vaccine is working as expected in a local context,” says Dr. Hanlon.

“Aotearoa New Zealand has a good reporting culture in comparison to other countries, meaning that people are more likely to submit a report after vaccination, even for something minor like a headache or sore arm.

“It’s important that you report how you feel after your COVID-19 vaccination, even if it seems minor. You don’t have to be a healthcare professional to submit a report, and you don’t need to be sure that the vaccine caused the reaction you experienced.

“We encourage people to report reactions at any time at: or by calling Healthline for free on: 0800 358 5453.

“The reports we’ve received to date are reassuring that the COVID-19 vaccines are working the way we expect them to, and we will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the lifetime of their use in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Dr Hanlon.


The first post vaccine symptom check text message survey was from 27 August to 5 October 2021 of people who had received dose one or dose two of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

  • From 14 December 2021, the Ministry of Health sent text messages to random samples of people who had received a booster dose.
  • In all three surveys 147,389 people responded to the text messages. Of those who responded to the survey: 54% were female, and 46% were male, 17% of respondents were Māori, and 8.5% were Pacific peoples.
  • More information about Post Vaccine Symptom Check can be found on the Medsafe website.
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