Vaccine associated benign headache and cutaneous hemorrhage after ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine: A cohort study

J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2023 Jan;32(1):106860. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2022.106860. Epub 2022 Nov 17.


Objectives: Fatal complications have occurred after vaccination with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, a vaccine against Covid-19. Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) with severe outcome is characterized by venous thrombosis, predominantly in cerebral veins, thrombocytopenia and anti-PF4/polyanion antibodies. Prolonged headaches and cutaneous hemorrhages, frequently observed after the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, have therefore caused anxiety among vaccinees. We investigated whether these symptoms represent a mild form of VITT, with a potential for aggravation, e.g. in case of a second vaccination dose, or a different entity of vaccine complications MATERIALS AND METHODS: We included previously healthy individuals who had a combination of headache and spontaneous severe cutaneous hemorrhages emerging after the 1st dose of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. Twelve individuals were found to meet the inclusion criteria, and a phone interview, cerebral MRI, assessment of platelet counts, anti PF4/polyanion antibodies and other laboratory tests were performed.

Results: None of the symptomatic vaccinees had cerebral vein thrombosis, hemorrhage or other pathology on MRI. Platelet counts were within normal range and no anti-PF4/polyanion platelet activating antibodies were found. Moreover, vasculitis markers, platelet activation markers and thrombin generation were normal. Furthermore, almost all symptoms resolved, and none had recurrence of symptoms after further vaccination with mRNA vaccines against Covid-19.

Conclusions: The combination of headaches and subcutaneous hemorrhage did not represent VITT and no other specific coagulation disorder or intracranial pathology was found. However, symptoms initially mimicking VITT demand vigilance and low threshold for a clinical evaluation combined with platelet counts and D-dimer.

Keywords: Adverse event; ChAdOx1 nCoV vaccine; Cutaneous hemorrhage; Headache.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / adverse effects
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • ChAdOx1 nCoV-19
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic*
  • Thrombocytopenia*
  • Vaccines*


  • ChAdOx1 nCoV-19
  • polyanions
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines
  • Antibodies