This is not the first vaccine to be linked to Guillain-Barre, although the risk appears to be low.
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will be seen at a pop-up vaccination site inside the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in the Staten Island district of New York City. Photo credit: AP / Mary Altaffer
Despised by Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 the vaccine may be associated with a small increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare but potentially serious neurological condition, federal officials said Monday. The Food and Drug Administration has added a warning about possible side effects to its vaccine information pages.
The risk seems to be very small. To date, 100 syndromes have been reported in people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Nearly 13 million doses of vaccine have been given in the United States.
Here are answers to some common questions about the syndrome and its connection to vaccinations.
What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
Guillain-Barré is a rare condition in which the body’s immune system attacks nerve cells. It can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. Although symptoms often go away within weeks, in some cases the condition can cause permanent nerve damage. In the United States, according to disease control and prevention centers, the syndrome is typically 3,000 to 6,000 per year. It is most common in people over 50 years of age.
The exact cause of the syndrome is not known, but in many cases, the condition is followed by another disease or infection, such as the flu. It has also been reported in people with COVID-19 .
What has it got to do with vaccinations?
This is not the first vaccine to be linked to Guillain-Barre, although the risk appears to be low. A major swine flu vaccination campaign in 1976 led to a small increase in the incidence of the syndrome; the vaccine caused roughly one additional case of Guillain-Barré for every 100,000 people vaccinated. A seasonal flu shot is associated with about one or two additional cases for every million vaccines.
“I think the data is pretty convincing that the flu vaccine causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, but it’s a very low risk,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University.
The shingles vaccine Shingrix may also increase the risk of the disease.
It is not entirely clear why some vaccines can cause Guillain-Barré. “We don’t really understand the biological mechanism,” Salmon said. “It’s an incredible frustration.”
What we know about its connection COVID-19 vaccines?
Hundreds of reports of the syndrome following Johnson & Johnson’s shooting vaccination have been submitted to the Federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), officials said Monday. Of those, 95 cases resulted in hospitalization, and one was fatal.
The syndrome was usually reported about two weeks after vaccination, mainly in men, many of whom were 50 years of age or older, officials said. There is not yet enough evidence to show that the vaccine causes the disease, but the FDA continues to monitor the situation, the agency said in a statement.
There is as yet no data to suggest a link between the farm and COVID vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna based on different technology, the FDA said.
What symptoms should I watch out for?
The syndrome is likely to occur within 42 days of vaccination, the FDA states in a revised patient information sheet. You should talk to your doctor if you experience weakness or tingling in your hands and feet, double vision, or difficulty walking, talking, chewing, swallowing, or controlling your bladder or intestines.
Should I still get a COVID-19 vaccine?
If the link between the vaccine and Guillain-Barré is real, it seems that COVID-19 , experts said. In the United States, almost all hospitalizations and deaths COVID-19 happens unvaccinated, the CDC said in a statement. The agency recommends that everyone 12 years of age or older be vaccinated.
“Everyone has risks,” the salmon said. “And the key to decision making is to optimize benefits and reduce risks.” He added: “COVID is a rather nasty disease that killed 600,000 people.”
Emily Anthes b. 2021 The New York Times Company