Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?

Data to date shows a preponderance of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events (AEs) among women compared to men. This finding may be due to the generally more robust immunological response to infections and vaccines among women, increased reporting of AEs by women, genetic factors, microbiome differences as well as other factors.1-3

A CDC study involving mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) during the 1st month of vaccination roll out in the US, found that nearly 80% of adverse events were reported by women.  The great majority (>90%) of these AEs were not serious and included symptoms such as headache, dizziness and fatigue.1

A JAMA study involving individuals receiving one of the mRNA vaccines found that 94% (Pfizer) and 100% (Moderna) of anaphylaxis events occurred among women. Of note, the median age was ~40 years  with the majority of anaphylaxis events were reported after the first dose. 2

Higher incidence of AEs following Covid-19 vaccination is not surprising and may be explained biologically. Women typically have a more robust immune response to infections and vaccination, both at the level of innate and adaptive immunity with higher antibody responses.  

These findings may be in part due to hormones such as estrogen which is known to enhance differentiation of dendritic cells and proinflammatory cytokine production. Other proposed mechanisms include differences in microbiome between sexes and sex-based genetic influences on humoral immune profile with the X chromosome expressing 10 times more genes than the Y chromosome, including genes that influence immunity.3

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that anaphylactic reaction to the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines is extremely rare, occurring in only 2-5 cases/ million!2

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References

  1. Gee J, Marquez P, Su J, et al. First month of Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring—United States, December 14, 2020—January 13, 2021. MMWR 2021;70:283-88. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7008e3.htm
  2. Shimabukuro TT, Cole M, Su JR. Reports of anaphylaxis after receipt of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in the US—December 14, 2020-January 18, 2021. JAMA 20201;325:1101-1102. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776557
  3. Fischinger S, Boudreau CM, Butler AL, et al. Sex differences in vaccine-induced humoral immunity. Semin Immunopath 2019;41:239-49. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30547182/

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?

How common are neurological symptoms in patients with Covid-19 infection?

Although we usually think of it as primarily a respiratory tract disease, neurological manifestations with Covid-19 are not at all uncommon,1-6 occurring in over one-third of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 according to one medRxiv report.1

In a Chinese study1 involving 214 hospitalized patients with Covid-19, 36.4% had 1 or more neurological symptoms, with the majority involving the central nervous system (CNS) (25.0%), of which the most common complaints were dizziness (17%) and headache (13.0%). Some patients (9.0%) had cranial nerve/peripheral nerve complaints of which the most common were difficulty with taste (hypogeusia) (6.0%) and sense of smell (hyposmia) (5.0%).  A fewer number of patients had impaired consciousness, acute cerebrovascular disease (including ischemic stroke and cerebral hemorrhage). Although not strictly-speaking a neurological manifestation, the study also reported “muscle injury” in ~20.0% of patients     (defined as myalgia plus CK >200 IU/L).

Descriptions of Covid-19 encephalopathy, including one associated with acute hemorrhagic necrotizing process, are also beginning to appear in the literature.3-5 Reports of “Neuro-Covid-19 units” in Italy further underlines the common occurrence of neurological symptoms in these patients.6

More than one mechanism for neurological complications in Covid-19 are likely,  including:1-2

  1. Direct viral invasion into the CNS which could explain the associated headache, high fever, vomiting, convulsions, and consciousness disorders. Some have reported normal CSF parameters but a report of PCR positive CSF suggests direct injury from the virus itself.2 Covid-19 virus may gain access to the CNS through direct invasion of neuronal pathways (eg. olfactory nerve given recent reports of difficulty with sense of smell) or through blood circulation.
  2. Indirect CNS injury through extreme systemic derangements such as hypoxia, or immune/inflammatory response-related injury (eg, through cytokines, hypercoagulability related to infection). Some have also posited that binding of Covid-19 virus to ACE2 may cause abnormally elevated blood pressure and increase the risk of cerebral hemorrhage.2

The fact that Covid-19 is so versatile and affects the nervous system as well shouldn’t surprise us. Neurological complications have been reported with couple of other related respiratory Coronaviruses such as those of SARS and MERS.2

 

Bonus pearl: Did you know that as early 1970-80s some coronaviruses were shown to cause “nasoencephalopathy” when injected intranasally in mice with subsequent spread to the CNS through the olfactory nerve?7 Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised that sense of smell is impaired in some Covid-19 patients. If we could only stop the virus at the nose!

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References

  1. Mao L, Wang M, Chen S, et al. Neurological manifestations of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective case series study. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.22.20026500v1
  2. Wu Y, Xu X, Chen Z, et al. Nervous system involvement after infection with COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2020, March 30. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159120303573
  3. Xiang et al. 2020. First case of 2019 novel Coronavirus disease with encephalitis. ChinaXiv, T202003 (2020), p. 00015 (obtained from reference 2).
  4. Poyiadji N, Shain G, Noujaim D, et al. COVID-19-associated acute hemorrhagic necrotizing encephalopathy: CT and MRI features. Radiology 2020 https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020201187
  5. Filatov A, Sharma P, Hindi F, et al. Neurological complications of coronavirus (COVID-19): encephalopathy. Cureus 12(3): e7352. DOI 10.7759/cureus.7352 https://www.cureus.com/articles/29414-neurological-complications-of-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-encephalopathy
  6. Talan J. COVID-19: Neurologists in Italy to Colleagues in US: Look for poorly-defined neurologic conditions in patients with the Coronavirus. Neurology Today 2020, March 27. https://journals.lww.com/neurotodayonline/blog/breakingnews/pages/post.aspx?PostID=920
  7. Perlman S, Jacobsen G, Afifi A. Spread of a neurotropic murine Coronavirus into the CNS via the trigeminal and olfactory nerves. Virology 1989;170:556-560 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0042682289904467

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How common are neurological symptoms in patients with Covid-19 infection?

How can I be sure that my patient truly has orthostatic hypotension (OH)?

 

OH is a sustained reduction of systolic blood pressure (SBP) of ≥ 20 mm Hg or diastolic BP ≥ 10 mm Hg within 3 min of standing or head-up tilt to at least 60° on a tilt table (1); symptoms are not part of the criteria. In patients with supine hypertension, a reduction in SBP of 30 mm Hg has been suggested (1).  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends BP measurements when patient is supine for 5 min, and after standing for 1 and 3 min (2).  In some patients symptomatic OH occurs beyond 3 minutes of standing (1). Preference for mercury column sphygmomanometer due to its reliability and simplicity, with arm at the level of the heart has been stressed (3). 

A 2017 report involving over 11,000 middle-aged participants (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study) has challenged the notion of waiting 3 minutes before OH is measured (4).  This prospective study  found a significant association between participant-reported history of dizziness on standing and OH but only at 1st measurement (mean of 28.0 seconds after standing), not at subsequent ones over a 2 minute period. It was concluded that measuring OH during the first minute “not only makes a lot of sense” but it’s more appropriate “because it’s more predictive of future falls”.

Keep in mind that OH is more common and more severe during mornings and after meals, and is exacerbated by large meals, meals high in carbohydrate, and alcohol intake (1).

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 References

 

  1. Freeman R, Wieling W, Axelrod FB, et al. Consensus statement on the definition of orthostatic hypotension, neurally mediated syncope and the postural tachycardia syndrome. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical 2011;161: 46–48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21431947
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/measuring_orthostatic_blood_pressure-a.pdf , accessed Dec 13, 2015.
  3. Naschitz J, Rosner I. Orthostatic hypotension: framework of the syndrome . Postgrad Med J 2007; 83:568-574. http://pmj.bmj.com/content/83/983/568
  4. Juraschek SP, Daya N, Rawlings AM, et al. Comparison of early versus late orthostatic hypotension assessment times in middle-age adults. JAMA Intern Med 2017;1177:1316-1323. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661881/

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How can I be sure that my patient truly has orthostatic hypotension (OH)?