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Vaccination history for diphtheria and tetanus is associated with less severe COVID-19

By Jennifer Monereo-Sanchez, Jurjen J Luykx, Justo Emilio Pinzon-Espinosa, Genevieve Richard, Ehsan Motazadi, Lars T. Westlye, Ole A. Andreassen, Dennis van der Meer

Posted 12 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.09.21257809

Background: COVID-19 is characterized by strikingly large, mostly unexplained, interindividual variation in symptom severity. While some individuals remain nearly asymptomatic, others suffer from severe respiratory failure. It has been hypothesized that previous vaccinations for other pathogens, in particular tetanus, may provide protection against severe COVID-19. Methods: We made use of data on COVID-19 testing from 103,049 participants of the UK Biobank (mean age 71.5 years, 54.2% female), coupled to immunization records of the last ten years. Using logistic regression, covarying for age, sex, respiratory disease diagnosis, and socioeconomic status, we tested whether individuals vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria or pertussis, differed from individuals that had only received other vaccinations on 1) undergoing a COVID-19 test, 2) the outcome of this test, and 3) whether they developed severe COVID-19. Results: We found that individuals with registered diphtheria or tetanus vaccinations were less likely to develop severe COVID-19 than people who had only received other vaccinations (diphtheria OR=0.46, p=3.6x10-4; tetanus OR=0.50, p=5.8x10-4). Discussion: These results indicate that a history of diphtheria or tetanus vaccinations is associated with less severe manifestations of COVID-19. These vaccinations may protect against severe COVID-19 symptoms by stimulating the immune system. We note the correlational nature of these results, yet the possibility that these vaccinations may influence the severity of COVID-19 warrants follow-up investigations.

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