A study shows that the Covid-19 vaccination is not associated with an increased rate of herpes zoster (shingles). Even compared to the influenza vaccination, there was no higher risk.
Fear of perceived side effects keeps some people from taking it vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. With regard to a possible vaccine-associated herpes zoster disease (shingles), however, this is not justified. This is shown by a study with over 2 million vaccinated people, as reported by the German Society for Neurology (DGN).
A supplementary cohort analysis also showed no increased vaccination risk for herpes zoster compared to the influenza vaccination from before the pandemic.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles
Anyone who has had chickenpox before can get herpes zoster. The chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus/VZV) persists in the body for life and can be reactivated by various triggers, which then does not lead to chickenpox again, but to shingles. Reactivation can occur, for example, in the case of (temporary) immune deficiency or in older people due to falling VZV antibody levels.
First analyzes of vaccination side effects showed an increase in reports of Covid-19 vaccination-associated herpes zoster infections. However, it was not clear whether these cases were due to increased reporting or a real increase in incidence. A study by the University of California in San Francisco therefore specifically investigated this question.
No increased risk of shingles after Covid-19 vaccination
Health data from 2,039,854 US citizens vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 were evaluated. Vaccines: Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson. Period of vaccination: December 2020 – June 2021. The mean age of those vaccinated was 43.2 years, 50.6 percent were female. 1,451 people were diagnosed with shingles.
As a result, the Covid-19 vaccination was not associated with an increased risk of VZV reactivation. The incidence was also no higher than in a subgroup vaccinated against influenza in the pre-pandemic period or in the early phase of the pandemic. “Accordingly, shingles after corona vaccination was not nearly as common as it initially appeared in the reports,” concludes Prof. Peter Berlit, Secretary General of the DGN.
Mild courses of myocarditis after vaccination
Other supposed vaccination complications, about which there have always been case reports (e.g. myocarditis or Guillain-Barré syndrome), have now been evaluated in large studies. An analysis of more than 5 million fully vaccinated people from Israel showed that 182,605 vaccinated adolescents developed 20 myocarditis cases, of which nine cases were classified as probable to certain according to CDC criteria (Center for Disease and Control).
The incidence was thus 4.8/100,000 vaccinates; the courses were mild, the inpatient treatment was 2 to 4 days and the follow-up showed a good prognosis after six months.
DGN: All clear also for Guillain-Barré syndrome
The all-clear is also given with regard to Guillain-Barré syndrome: an epidemiological study from Mexico showed an incidence of 1.19/1,000,000 for 81,842,426 vaccine doses (with seven SARS-CoV-2 vaccines). The incidence was thus lower than before the pandemic (2019) with 7.1/1,000,000 person-years.
“People who are afraid of the Covid-19 vaccination because of extremely rare possible side effects must be aware that all these complications are much more common with SARS-CoV-2 infections. This has now also been shown for many other potential, neurological side effects have also been shown,” emphasizes Prof. Berlit. The DGN therefore recommends accepting the vaccination offers in accordance with the recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute.