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Risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection following initial COVID-19 vaccination: population-based cohort study

Tadrous M, Chung H, Men S, Chu C, Campbell T, Juurlink DN, Kwong JC, Paterson JM, Gomes T. PLoS One. 2022; 17(10):e0273903. Epub 2022 Oct 20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273903


Background — Anecdotally there are reports of newly diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection shortly after vaccination. This has led some to speculate that vaccination itself might inadvertently increase the short-term risk of COVID potentially due to airborne spread at mass vaccination clinics or relaxation of precautions following vaccination. We explored whether receipt of vaccination was associated with a short-term increase in the risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19 and if differences exist between vaccination settings.

Methods — We conducted a cohort study in Ontario, Canada to compare the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection within 21 days of receiving a first vaccination, according to the setting in which vaccines were administered between March 1, 2021 and May 6, 2021. We used linked population-wide vaccination, laboratory testing, and health administrative databases. We created a 1:1 matched comparison group of unexposed individuals. We reported the overall risk of infection calculated at 3, 7, 10, 14, 18, and 21 days. This was completed overall and by setting of vaccine receipt.

Results — We identified 4,798,430 Ontario residents who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the primary analysis, the rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection was significantly lower among vaccine recipients vs non-recipients at all the post-vaccination time points. Analysis stratified by vaccination setting found that mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies, and physician offices were consistent with the main findings. Individuals who received their first vaccine dose in congregate residential settings had a higher rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection at 7 days (HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.00–1.83) and 10 days (HR 1.49, 95% CI 1.03–2.15).

Conclusion — In this population-based cohort study, we found that there was no increased risk of SARS-CoV2 infection after vaccination suggesting no broad transmission of disease at time of vaccination. Some evidence of increased risk among those vaccinated in congregate settings, highlighting the need to consider opportunities for supporting safe vaccine administration in these settings. Given ongoing and future immunization programs, the results support the need for continued vigilance during any mass vaccination processes and education regarding the delayed nature of protection following vaccination.

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