November 22, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Take-Up Rate and Safety in Adults with Epilepsy: Data From a Multicenter Study in China

Summary, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: This study was undertaken to investigate the COVID-19 vaccine uptake rate and possible postvaccination effects in adults with epilepsy.

Methods: We invited adults with epilepsy attending three centers in China from July 24 to August 31, 2021 to participate in this study. We also asked age- and sex-matched controls among people attending for other chronic neuropsychiatric conditions and healthy controls accompanying people with illness attending the hospitals to participate. We excluded people who, under the national guidelines, had evident contradictions to vaccination. Participants were interviewed face-to-face using questionnaires. Vaccine uptake and postvaccine adverse events among the people with epilepsy were compared with those with neuropsychiatric conditions and controls. We also compared the willingness and reasons for hesitancy among unvaccinated participants.

Results: We enrolled 981 people, of whom 491 had epilepsy, 217 had other neuropsychiatric conditions, and 273 were controls. Forty-two percent of those with epilepsy had had the first dose of a vaccine, compared with 93% of controls and 84% of the people with neuropsychiatric conditions (p < .0001). The majority (93.8%) of those immunized had inactivated vaccines. Among the unvaccinated people with epilepsy, 59.6% were willing to have the vaccine. Their main reasons for hesitation were potential adverse effects (53.3%) and concerns about losing seizure control (47.0%). The incidence of adverse events in the epilepsy group was similar to controls. Nineteen people with epilepsy reported an increase in seizure frequency. No episode of status epilepticus or prolonged seizures was reported. Two controls had their first-ever seizure, which was unlikely related to the vaccine.

Significance: The vaccine uptake rate in people with epilepsy was lower than in their same-age controls. The postvaccination effect was no higher than in controls. We found no evidence suggesting worsening seizures after vaccination. Measurement and education focused on increasing the vaccination rate in epilepsy are warranted.

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