Conference Coverage

COVID vaccination does not appear to worsen symptoms of Parkinson’s disease



Mexican researchers found no direct association between SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and worsening symptoms among 60 patients with Parkinson’s disease. Nonmotor symptoms seemed to improve after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, although the investigators could not verify a causal relationship.

Vaccination programs should continue for patients with Parkinson’s disease, they said, reporting their clinical results at the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.

The International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society has recommended vaccining patients with Parkinson’s disease. “All approved mRNA-based and viral vector vaccines are not expected to interact with Parkinson’s disease, but patients [still] report concern with regard to the benefits, risks, and safeness in Parkinson’s disease,” Mayela Rodríguez-Violante, MD, MSc, and colleagues wrote in an abstract of their findings.

Social isolation may be contributing to these beliefs and concerns, though this is inconclusive.

Investigators from Mexico City conducted a retrospective study of patients with Parkinson’s disease to see how COVID-19 vaccination affected motor and nonmotor symptoms. They enlisted 60 patients (66.7% were male; aged 65.7 ± 11.35 years) who received either a vector-viral vaccine (Vaxzevria Coronavirus) or an mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2).

A Wilcoxon signed-rank test assessed scale differences before and after vaccination, measuring motor involvement (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale), nonmotor involvement (Non-Motor Rating Scale [NMSS]), cognitive impairment (Montreal Cognitive Assessment), and quality of life (8-item Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire index).

Investigators found no significant difference between scales, although they did notice a marked improvement in non-motor symptoms.

“The main takeaway is that vaccination against COVID-19 does not appear to worsen motor or nonmotor symptoms in persons with Parkinson’s disease. The benefits outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Rodríguez-Violante, the study’s lead author and a movement disorder specialist at the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Mexico City.

Next steps are to increase the sample size to see if it’s possible to have a similar number in terms of type of vaccine, said Dr. Rodríguez-Violante. “Also, the data presented refers to primary series doses so booster effects will also be studied.”

Few studies have looked at vaccines and their possible effects on this patient population. However, a 2021 study of 181 patients with Parkinson’s disease reported that 2 (1.1%) had adverse effects after receiving the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine. One of the patients, a 61-year-old woman with a decade-long history of Parkinson’s disease, developed severe, continuous, generalized dyskinesia 6 hours after a first dose of vaccine. The second patient was 79 years old and had Parkinson’s disease for 5 years. She developed fever, confusion, delusions, and continuous severe dyskinesia for 3 days following her vaccination.

“This highlights that there is a variability in the response triggered by the vaccine that might likely depend on individual immunological profiles … clinicians should be aware of this possibility and monitor their patients after they receive their vaccination,” Roberto Erro, MD, PhD and colleagues wrote in the Movement Disorders journal.

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