Two new reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) have been documented in response to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Previously, published papers have documented 4 cases in England and 7 cases in India. In each of these cases, GBS was reported 10-22 days after COVID vaccination.
However, despite these cases, researchers emphasize that correlation does not mean causality. Further research is absolutely needed and is currently being worked on.
GBS is a rare condition which causes bilateral facial paralysis, demyelinating polyneuropathy starting in the legs, reduced reflexes, and more.
Following the COVID vaccine, the onset of GBS was characterized by facial paralysis. While this symptom is not uncommon in GBS, it only occurs in 20% of all cases. Therefore, its commonality following vaccination is notable. The most common symptoms in typical GBS are respiratory dysfunction and severe appendicular weakness.
Previous cases of GBS have been found to arise following a GI viral infection or a respiratory infection.
A Further Breakdown of GBS Cases
All four of the cases in Britain were male. For these individuals, the time after vaccination before the onset of GBS was 11 to 22 days. This period of onset is consistent with the anticipated time period for maximum immune response.
In India, all but one of the 7 cases were female. All 7 cases faced areflexic quadriplegia and had bilateral facial paralysis. Six of the patients needed mechanical ventilation as they faced respiratory failure. Further, 57% of the patients faced other cranial neuropathies like trigeminal sensory nerve involvement and abducens palsy.
In India as well as England, the onset of GBS was 1.4-10 times greater than what was originally expected.
In the United States, a total of 279 cases of GBS have been identified following the COVID vaccine. 59 of these were following J&J, 97 were following Moderna, 121 were following Pfizer, and 2 were following an undocumented vaccine.
The J&J vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine both use the same type of technology. To date, the J&J vaccine in the US comprises just 3.7% of all vaccinations.
When examining this data, it is also important to understand that many complications following vaccination are not reported to VAERS and therefore the incidence could be higher.
Understanding The Risk
These researchers discuss that this reaction is likely due to a cross-reactive immune response. The body reacts to both the COVID spike protein and parts of the peripheral immune system.
Again, this association has not yet been proven. For now, it has determined correlation, not causality.
Nonetheless, the researchers conclude that this slight risk of GBS in an atypical form is still a much lower risk than those associated with COVID-19. The form of GBS associated with these cases has generally been reversed and has not been fatal.
Nonetheless, awareness of this complication is important. Although rare, it is important for doctors and individuals to understand the potential.
You can read more about this rare complication here.