Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine linked to rare cases of eye inflammation - study

Twenty-one people developed anterior uveitis and two developed Multiple Evanescent White Dot Syndrome (MEWDS).

An illustrative photo of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An illustrative photo of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine may be linked to a form of eye inflammation called uveitis, according to a multicenter Israeli study led by Prof. Zohar Habot-Wilner from Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center.
The research was conducted at Rambam Health Care Campus, Galilee Medical Center, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Kaplan Medical Center and Sourasky. It was accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed ophthalmology journal Retina.
Habot-Wilner, head of the Uveitis Service at the hospital, found that 21 people (23 eyes) who had received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine developed uveitis within one to 14 days after receiving their first shot or within one day to one month after the second.
Twenty-one people developed anterior uveitis, and two developed Multiple Evanescent White Dot Syndrome (MEWDS).
“All the patients in the study met the World Health Organization and Naranjo criteria linking the onset of uveitis to the vaccination,” Habot-Wilner said. “This time frame is consistent with other reports of uveitis following various vaccines.”
She said that any patients that had other systemic diseases that could have been related to uveitis were under control before vaccination. In addition, none of the patients had any changes in their systemic treatments for at least six months before getting the shots.
Eight of the patients had a prior history of uveitis, but no less than one to 15 years prior.
Specifically, most cases were mild – only three were severe – and all anterior uveitis cases were able to be treated by topical corticosteroids and eye drops for pupil dilation. MEWDS cases, as accepted, were not addressed.
“Only one case worsened after receiving the second dose,” according to Habot-Wilner, but she said that with appropriate treatment the disease also resolved for that individual.
“An examination at the end of the follow-up period found that in all eyes visual acuity improved and disease was completely resolved,” she said.
“The conclusion is that I do recommend getting vaccinated for people with or without a history of uveitis,” Habot-Wilner stressed. But she said that if people do experience a uveitis attack after taking the vaccine, they should get a good ocular examination and be treated appropriately. And, if the uveitis occurs after the first dose, they should still get the second one.
Habot-Wilner stressed that developing uveitis from vaccination in general is “quite rare,” but that the eye inflammation has been associated with other vaccines.
“It is very uncommon, but if you do feel something is wrong with your eyes, if you have pain, redness or vision deterioration,” she said, “please go and visit your eye doctor.”