There is ongoing interest in potential unwanted side effects associated with COVID-19 vaccination. While many of the original theories on adverse events were deemed conspiracy theories, some data are emerging that suggest that COVID-19 vaccination may lead to some unintended health consequences. A new case study published in the journal Cureus discusses the potential link between COVID-19 vaccination and vitiligo.
According to the authors, physicians have seen several cases of skin manifestations appearing after COVID-19 vaccination that have been reported in the literature during the pandemic, with 2 specific case reports on the development of vitiligo. The authors present the case of a 67-year-old woman who had no significant past medical history who developed skin discoloration on both hands two weeks after she had received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Though results of the physical examination were consistent with vitiligo, the authors note that the patient had no known risk factors for vitiligo. Nonetheless, the vitiligo diagnosis was confirmed through Woods lamp examination. By excluding other potential causes, the authors determined that COVID-19 vaccination was the most likely cause for the skin changes this patient experienced. While the authors concede that it is not possible to know without certainty that the vaccine caused the vitiligo, the timing between vaccination and onset of symptoms make the vaccine a probable cause.
Two other reported cases of vitiligo linked to COVID-19 vaccination occurred in a 61-year-old woman who had also received the Moderna vaccine and in a 58-year-old man who had received the Pfizer vaccine. More data are needed to determine if COVID-19 vaccination can in fact cause vitiligo and, if so, what mechanisms drive the relevant skin changes. One working hypothesis for how COVID-19 vaccines could lead to vitiligo is that the melanocytes become antibody targets in some people who received the COVID-19 vaccine. Future research will likely address this possibility.
Militello M, Ambur AB, Steffes W. Vitiligo Possibly Triggered by COVID-19 Vaccination. Cureus. 2022;14(1). doi:10.7759/CUREUS.20902