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Temporal association between the age-specific incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome and SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in Republic of Korea: a nationwide time-series correlation study.

BACKGROUND: The incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) changed significantly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Emerging reports suggest that viral vector-based vaccines may be associated with an elevated risk of GBS.

METHODS: In this nationwide time-series correlation study, we examined the age-specific incidence of GBS from January 2011 to August 2022, as well as data on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccinations and infections from February 2021 to August 2022. We compared the forecasted estimates of age-specific GBS incidence, using the pre-SARS-CoV-2 period as a benchmark, with the actual incidence observed during the post-vaccination period of the pandemic. Furthermore, we assessed the temporal association between GBS, SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations, and COVID-19 for different age groups.

RESULTS: In the age group of 60 and older, the rate ratio was significantly elevated during June-August and November 2021. A significant, strong positive association was observed between viral vector-based vaccines and GBS incidence trends in this age group (r=0.52, p=0.022). For the 30 to 59 years age group, the rate ratio was notably high in September 2021. A statistically significant, strong positive association was found between mRNA-based vaccines and GBS incidence in this age group (r=0.61, p=0.006).

CONCLUSION: Viral vector-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines were found to be temporally associated with an increased risk of GBS, particularly in older adults. To minimize age-specific and biological mechanism-specific adverse events, future vaccination campaigns should adopt a more personalized approach, such as recommending homologous mRNA-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for older adults to reduce the heightened risk of GBS.

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