Association between covid-19 vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 infection, and risk of immune mediated neurological events: population based cohort and self-controlled case series analysis

Xintong Li, Berta Raventós, Elena Roel, Andrea Pistillo, Eugenia Martinez-Hernandez, Antonella Delmestri, Carlen Reyes, Victoria Strauss, Daniel Prieto-Alhambra*, Edward Burn, Talita Duarte-Salles

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To study the association between covid-19 vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 infection, and risk of immune mediated neurological events.

DESIGN: Population based historical rate comparison study and self-controlled case series analysis.

SETTING: Primary care records from the United Kingdom, and primary care records from Spain linked to hospital data.

PARTICIPANTS: 8 330 497 people who received at least one dose of covid-19 vaccines ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, BNT162b2, mRNA-1273, or Ad.26.COV2.S between the rollout of the vaccination campaigns and end of data availability (UK: 9 May 2021; Spain: 30 June 2021). The study sample also comprised a cohort of 735 870 unvaccinated individuals with a first positive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test result for SARS-CoV-2 from 1 September 2020, and 14 330 080 participants from the general population.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Outcomes were incidence of Bell's palsy, encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and transverse myelitis. Incidence rates were estimated in the 21 days after the first vaccine dose, 90 days after a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2, and between 2017 and 2019 for background rates in the general population cohort. Indirectly standardised incidence ratios were estimated. Adjusted incidence rate ratios were estimated from the self-controlled case series.

RESULTS: The study included 4 376 535 people who received ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, 3 588 318 who received BNT162b2, 244 913 who received mRNA-1273, and 120 731 who received Ad26.CoV.2; 735 870 people with SARS-CoV-2 infection; and 14 330 080 people from the general population. Overall, post-vaccine rates were consistent with expected (background) rates for Bell's palsy, encephalomyelitis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Self-controlled case series was conducted only for Bell's palsy, given limited statistical power, but with no safety signal seen for those vaccinated. Rates were, however, higher than expected after SARS-CoV-2 infection. For example, in the data from the UK, the standardised incidence ratio for Bell's palsy was 1.33 (1.02 to 1.74), for encephalomyelitis was 6.89 (3.82 to 12.44), and for Guillain-Barré syndrome was 3.53 (1.83 to 6.77). Transverse myelitis was rare (<5 events in all vaccinated cohorts) and could not be analysed.

CONCLUSIONS: No safety signal was observed between covid-19 vaccines and the immune mediated neurological events of Bell's palsy, encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and transverse myelitis. An increased risk of Bell's palsy, encephalomyelitis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome was, however, observed for people with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere068373
JournalBMJ (Clinical research ed.)
Volume376
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was partially funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and European Health Data and Evidence Network (EHDEN). EHDEN has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 806968. The Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The study funders had no role in the conceptualisation, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. ER and EMH were supported by Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain (grant No CM20/00174, and JR17/00012).

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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