Tree-based data mining for safety assessment of first COVID-19 booster doses in the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

View Abstract


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) has been performing safety surveillance for COVID-19 vaccines since their earliest authorization in the United States. Complementing its real-time surveillance for pre-specified health outcomes using pre-specified risk intervals, the VSD conducts tree-based data-mining to look for clustering of a broad range of health outcomes after COVID-19 vaccination. This study's objective was to use this untargeted, hypothesis-generating approach to assess the safety of first booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2), Moderna (mRNA-1273), and Janssen (Ad26.COV2.S) COVID-19 vaccines.


VSD enrollees receiving a first booster of COVID-19 vaccine through April 2, 2022 were followed for 56 days. Incident diagnoses in inpatient or emergency department settings were analyzed for clustering within both the hierarchical ICD-10-CM code structure and the follow-up period. The self-controlled tree-temporal scan statistic was used, conditioning on the total number of cases for each diagnosis. P-values were estimated by Monte Carlo simulation; p = 0.01 was pre-specified as the cut-off for statistical significance of clusters.


More than 2.4 and 1.8 million subjects received Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters after an mRNA primary series, respectively. Clusters of urticaria/allergy/rash were found during Days 10-15 after the Moderna booster (p = 0.0001). Other outcomes that clustered after mRNA boosters, mostly with p = 0.0001, included unspecified adverse effects, common vaccine-associated reactions like fever and myalgia, and COVID-19. COVID-19 clusters were in Days 1-10 after booster receipt, before boosters would have become effective. There were no noteworthy clusters after boosters following primary Janssen vaccination.


In this untargeted data-mining study of COVID-19 booster vaccination, a cluster of delayed-onset urticaria/allergy/rash was detected after the Moderna booster, as has been reported after Moderna vaccination previously. Other clusters after mRNA boosters were of unspecified or common adverse effects and COVID-19, the latter evidently reflecting immunity to COVID-19 after 10 days.

Publication Date
Pubmed ID
Full Title
Tree-based data mining for safety assessment of first COVID-19 booster doses in the Vaccine Safety Datalink.
Katherine Yih W, Daley MF, Duffy J, Fireman B, McClure D, Nelson J, Qian L, Smith N, Vazquez-Benitez G, Weintraub E, Williams JTB, Xu S, Maro JC