The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in notable morbidity and mortality worldwide. In December 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for 2 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines—produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna—for the prevention of COVID-19. Phase 3 trials of the vaccine developed by Moderna showed 94.1% efficacy at preventing COVID-19 after 2 doses.1
Common cutaneous adverse effects of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine include injection-site reactions, such as pain, induration, and erythema. Less frequently reported dermatologic adverse effects include diffuse bullous rash and hypersensitivity reactions.1 We report a case of reactivation of a BCG vaccination scar after the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
A 48-year-old Asian man who was otherwise healthy presented with erythema, induration, and mild pruritus on the deltoid muscle of the left arm, near the scar from an earlier BCG vaccine, which he received at approximately 5 years of age when living in Taiwan. The patient received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine approximately 5 to 7 cm distant from the BCG vaccination scar. One to 2 days after inoculation, the patient endorsed tenderness at the site of COVID-19 vaccination but denied systemic symptoms. He had never been given a diagnosis of COVID-19. His SARS-CoV-2 antibody status was unknown.
Eight days later, the patient noticed a well-defined, erythematous, indurated plaque with mild itchiness overlying and around the BCG vaccination scar that did not involve the COVID-19 vaccination site. The following day, the redness and induration became worse (Figure).
The patient was otherwise well. Vital signs were normal; there was no lymphadenopathy. The rash resolved without treatment over the next 4 days.
The BCG vaccine is an intradermal live attenuated virus vaccine used to prevent certain forms of tuberculosis and potentially other Mycobacterium infections. Although the vaccine is not routinely administered in the United States, it is part of the vaccination schedule in most countries, administered most often to newborns and infants. Administration of the BCG vaccine commonly results in mild localized erythema, swelling, and pain at the injection site. Most inoculated patients also develop an ulcer that heals with the characteristic BCG vaccination scar.2,3
There is evidence that the BCG vaccine can enhance the innate immune system response and might decrease the rate of infection by unrelated pathogens, including viruses.4 Several epidemiologic studies have suggested that the BCG vaccine might offer some protection against COVID-19, possibly due to a resemblance of the amino acid sequences of BCG and SARS-CoV-2, which might provoke cross-reactive T cells.5,6 Further studies are underway to determine whether the BCG vaccine is truly protective against COVID-19.