Real-world safety data for the Pfizer BNT162b2 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine: historical cohort study

David Shasha, Ronen Bareket, Fabienne Hershkowitz Sikron, Omer Gertel, Judith Tsamir, David Dvir, David Mossinson, Anthony D. Heymann, Galia Zacay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine showed a reassuring safety profile in clinical trials, but real-world data are scarce. Bell's palsy, herpes zoster, Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) and other neurological complaints in proximity to vaccination have received special public attention. We compared their rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Methods: Individuals ≥16 years vaccinated with at least one dose of BNT162b2 were eligible for this historical cohort study in a health maintenance organization insuring 1.2 million citizens. Each vaccinee was matched to a non-vaccinated control by sex, age, population sector (general Jewish, Arab, ultra-orthodox Jewish) and comorbidities. Diagnosis of Covid-19 before or after vaccination was an exclusion criterion. The outcome was a diagnosis of Bell's palsy, GBS, herpes zoster or symptoms of numbness or tingling, coded in the visit diagnosis field using ICD-9 codes. Diagnoses of Bell's palsy and GBS were verified by individual file review. Results: Of 406 148 individuals vaccinated during the study period, 394 609 (97.2%) were eligible (11 539 excluded). A total of 233 159 (59.1%) were matched with unvaccinated controls. Mean follow was 43 ± 15.14 days. In vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals there were 23 versus 24 cases of Bell's palsy (RR 0.96, CI 0.54–1.70), one versus zero cases of GBS, 151 versus 141 cases of herpes zoster (RR 1.07, CI 0.85–1.35) and 605 versus 497 cases of numbness or tingling (RR 1.22, CI 1.08–1.37), respectively. Discussion: No association was found between vaccination, Bell's palsy, herpes zoster or GBS. Symptoms of numbness or tingling were more common among vaccinees. This study adds reassuring data regarding the safety of the BNT162b2 vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-134
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Adverse events
  • Bell's palsy
  • COVID-19
  • mRNA vaccine
  • SARS-CoV-2


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