Nervous and Muscular Adverse Events after COVID-19 Vaccination: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials

Vaccines (Basel). 2021 Aug 23;9(8):939. doi: 10.3390/vaccines9080939.


Background: Nervous and muscular adverse events (NMAEs) have garnered considerable attention after the vaccination against coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, the incidences of NMAEs remain unclear. We aimed to calculate the pooled event rate of NMAEs after COVID-19 vaccination. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on the incidences of NMAEs after COVID-19 vaccination was conducted. The PubMed, Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure databases were searched from inception to 2 June 2021. Two independent reviewers selected the study and extracted the data. Categorical variables were analyzed using Pearson's chi-square test. The pooled odds ratio (OR) with the corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated and generated with random or fixed effects models. The protocol of the present study was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42021240450). Results: In 15 phase 1/2 trials, NMAEs occurred in 29.2% vs. 21.6% (p < 0.001) vaccinated participants and controls. Headache and myalgia accounted for 98.2% and 97.7%, and their incidences were 16.4% vs. 13.9% (OR = 1.97, 95% CI = 1.28-3.06, p = 0.002) and 16.0% vs. 7.9% (OR = 3.31, 95% CI = 2.05-5.35, p < 0.001) in the vaccine and control groups, respectively. Headache and myalgia were more frequent in the newly licensed vaccines (OR = 1.97, 95% CI = 1.28-3.06, p = 0.02 and OR = 3.31, 95% CI = 2.05-5.35, p < 0.001) and younger adults (OR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.12-1.75, p = 0.003 and OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.20-1.96, p < 0.001). In four open-label trials, the incidences of headache, myalgia, and unsolicited NMAEs were 38.7%, 27.4%, and 1.5%. Following vaccination in phase 3 trials, headache and myalgia were still common with a rate of 29.5% and 19.2%, although the unsolicited NMAEs with incidence rates of ≤ 0.7% were not different from the control group in each study. Conclusions: Following the vaccination, NMAEs are common of which headache and myalgia comprised a considerable measure, although life-threatening unsolicited events are rare. NMAEs should be continuously monitored during the ongoing global COVID-19 vaccination program.

Keywords: COVID-19; adverse events; muscular system; nervous system; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Review