Prospective population-based studies investigating associations between reactive symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and serologic responses to vaccination are lacking. We therefore conducted a study in 9003 adults from the UK general population receiving SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as part of the national vaccination programme. Titres of combined IgG/IgA/IgM responses to SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein were determined in eluates of dried blood spots collected from all participants before and after vaccination. 4262 (47.3%) participants experienced systemic reactive symptoms after a first vaccine dose. Factors associating with lower risk of such symptoms included older age (aOR per additional 10 years of age 0.85, 95% CI: 0.81-0.90), male vs. female sex (0.59, 0.53-0.65) and receipt of an mRNA vaccine vs. ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (0.29, 0.26-0.32 for BNT162b2; 0.06, 0.01-0.26 for mRNA-1273). Higher risk of such symptoms was associated with SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity and COVID-19 symptoms prior to vaccination (2.23, 1.78-2.81), but not with SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity in the absence of COVID-19 symptoms (0.94, 0.81-1.09). Presence vs. absence of self-reported anxiety or depression at enrolment associated with higher risk of such symptoms (1.24, 1.12-1.39). Post-vaccination anti-S titres were higher among participants who experienced reactive symptoms after vaccination vs. those who did not (P < 0.001). We conclude that factors influencing risk of systemic symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination include demographic characteristics, pre-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 serostatus and vaccine type. Participants experiencing reactive symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination had higher post-vaccination titres of IgG/A/M anti-S antibodies. Improved public understanding of the frequency of reactogenic symptoms and their positive association with vaccine immunogenicity could potentially increase vaccine uptake.


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Cite as

Holt, H., Jolliffe, D., Talaei, M., Faustini, S., Vivaldi, G., Greenig, M., Richter, A., Lyons, R., Griffiths, C., Kee, F., Sheikh, A., Davies, G., Shaheen, S. & Martineau, A. 2023, 'Incidence determinants and serological correlates of reactive symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination', Npj Vaccines, 8, article no: 26. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41541-023-00614-0

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Last updated: 09 March 2023
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