Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has now affected tens of millions of people globally. It is the hope that vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 will deliver a comprehensive solution to this global pandemic; however, this will require extensive national vaccination programs. Ultimately, clinical conditions and even sudden unexplained death will occur around the time of vaccination, thus a distinction needs to be made between events that are causally related to the vaccine or temporally related to vaccination. This study aimed to estimate the background occurrence of 43 clinical conditions in the Japanese population. Methods A retrospective cohort study was conducted from 2013 to 2019 using data from two large healthcare claims databases (MDV and JMDC) in Japan. The estimated number of new cases and incidence were calculated based on the actual number of new cases identified in the databases. The PubMed and Ichushi-web databases, as well as grey literature such as guidelines and government statistics, were also searched to identify any publications related to incidence of these conditions in Japan. Results and conclusion The estimates of the number of total cases and incidence were similar for the MDV and JMDC databases for some diseases. In addition, some estimates were similar to those in the scientific literature. For example, from the MDV and JMDC databases, estimates of incidence of confirmed Bell's palsy in 2019 were 41.7 and 47.9 cases per 100,000 population per year, respectively. These estimates were of the same order from the scientific publication. Determining whether clinical conditions occurring around the time of vaccination are causally or only temporally related to vaccination will be critical for public health decision makers as well as for the general public. Comparison of background occurrence at the population level may provide some additional objective evidence for the evaluation of temporality or causality.
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