Methods: Self-controlled case series (SCCS) analysis was conducted using the data from the electronic health records in Hospital Authority and COVID-19 vaccination records in the Department of Health in Hong Kong. We conducted the SCCS analysis including patients with a first primary diagnosis of herpes zoster in the hospital inpatient setting between February 23 and July 31, 2021. A confirmatory analysis by nested case-control method was also conducted. Each herpes zoster case was randomly matched with ten controls according to sex, age, Charlson comorbidity index, and date of hospital admission. Conditional Poisson regression and logistic regression models were used to assess the potential excess rates of herpes zoster after vaccination.
Findings: From February 23 to July 31, 2021, a total of 16 and 27 patients were identified with a first primary hospital diagnosis of herpes zoster within 28 days after CoronaVac and BNT162b2 vaccinations. The incidence of herpes zoster was 7.9 (95% Confidence interval [CI]: 5.2−11.5) for CoronaVac and 7.1 (95% CI: 4.1−11.5) for BNT162b2 per 1,000,000 doses administered. In SCCS analysis, CoronaVac vaccination was associated with significantly higher risk of herpes zoster within 14 days after first dose (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR]=2.67, 95% CI: 1.08−6.59) but not in other periods afterwards compared to the baseline period. Regarding BNT162b2 vaccination, a significantly increased risk of herpes zoster was observed after first dose up to 14 days after second dose (0-13 days after first
dose: aIRR=5.23, 95% CI: 1.61−17.03; 14−27 days after first dose: aIRR=5.82, 95% CI: 1.62−20.91; 0-13 days after second dose: aIRR=5.14, 95% CI: 1.29−20.47). Using these relative rates, we estimated that there has been an excess of approximately 5 and 7 cases of hospitalization as a result of herpes zoster after every 1,000,000 doses of CoronaVac and BNT162b2 vaccination, respectively. The findings in the nested case control analysis showed similar results.
Interpretation: We identified an increased risk of herpes zoster related hospitalization after CoronaVac and BNT162b2 vaccinations. However, the absolute risks of such adverse event after CoronaVac and BNT162b2 vaccinations were very low. In locations where COVID-19 is prevalent, the protective effects on COVID-19 from vaccinations will greatly outweigh the potential side effects of vaccination.