Comparison between viral vector and mRNA based COVID-19 vaccination in prevalence and severity of regional immune reactions, and 18F-FDG PET/CT features

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Ultrasound & PET, Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia

2 Nuclear Medicine Research Center, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran


Objective(s): The coronavirus pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 commenced in late 2019, and global wide vaccination appears to be the only reasonable solution to fight this dreadful virus. There are two main types of COVID-19 immunization using viral vector and mRNA-based vaccines. However, the impact of each of type on 18F-FDG PET/CT needs to be accurately assessed. This study aimed to compare the 18F-FDG PET/CT features of these two types of COVID-19 vaccines.
Methods: A total of 188 patients referred for 18F-FDG PET/CT with a recent history of either BioNTech/Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination, and a control group of 40 patients with no history of any type of recent vaccination, were included in the study. 18F-FDG PET/CT studies of vaccinated patients assessed for injection site uptake and regional nodal and systemic reactions post vaccination. The data were compared to the control group and to the contralateral side for each patient. The findings were compared between patients who received Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Results: 18F-FDG PET/CT was semiquantitatively positive in 50.5% of the studied population for vaccine-related features. The ipsilateral axillary and infra- and supraclavicular lymph nodes were significantly larger in size and exhibited higher metabolic activity compared to the contralateral lymph nodes after both types of vaccination. The prevalence of regional nodal reactions post Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccination was 39% and 17.9% on visual, and 61% and 47.6% on semiquantitative assessments, respectively. Patients receiving the Pfizer vaccine exhibited higher metabolic activity in the ipsilateral regional lymph nodes (p<0.05). No significant difference in the intensity of regional nodal reaction post vaccination was noted between the first four weeks.
Conclusion: Significant local and regional nodal reactions are observed after both viral vector and mRNA COVID-19 vaccination with a tendency to extend toward the infra- and supraclavicular nodal stations but not to the pulmonary hilum. The greater intensity and extension of the nodal reaction after Pfizer vaccination suggests a higher possibility of false-positive results on 18F-FDG PET/CT studies using mRNA vaccination technology.


Main Subjects

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