What You Should Know About Guillain-Barré Syndrome and COVID Vaccines

Some people who received the Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccine for COVID-19 (one-shot vaccine) have developed a condition known as Guillain-Barré syndrome . It has often been the case that the FDA has asked them to add a note about this to the patient fact sheet, but this is still not considered a change in the risk / benefit balance of vaccination. (All COVID vaccines are much safer than real COVIDs.)

What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

First, because it is not obvious: the first word is pronounced as “GI-zeva”, and the second rhymes like “hurray.” Sometimes people just call it GBS.

GBS is not new: according to GBS-CIDP Foundation International, it happens to about 1 in 100,000 people every year, and 60-80% of cases are due to a bacterial or viral illness such as influenza or food poisoning. GBS is also a known and rare side effect of the influenza vaccine, although the likelihood of contracting GBS is higher from actual flu than from influenza vaccine .

In GBS, the immune system attacks the isolation of nerve cells. (If you think of the rubber covering around an electrical wire, each of our long, thin nerve cells is like this wire, and there are cells filled with an insulating substance called myelin that surrounds it.) As a result, people can have weakness or numbness in their legs. or problems with nerves elsewhere in the body, which may include shortness of breath or difficulty moving the muscles of the face.

Guillain-Barré is usually not life-threatening or permanent, but this can vary. According to the GBS-CIDP Foundation, 90% of patients go through the acute phase of the disease within four weeks. At this stage, there are treatments that can limit the extent of nerve damage.

After the acute phase, it takes time for the nerves to recover and function, possibly from months to years. Most people make a full recovery, but in some cases they may be left with weakness, pain, or tiredness that never completely goes away.

GBS may be a rare side effect of a single COVID vaccine

The CDC and the FDA have noticed several cases of GBS appearing on VAERS, a database that allows anyone to submit reports on possible side effects of vaccines. This is the same database that vaccine activists will use to report deaths or other dire illnesses ; the information in it has not been verified. But when the alarming symptom occurs frequently enough, the CDC seeks help to investigate the reports.

In the same way, we learned about blood clots that were serious enough to suspend the introduction of the J&J vaccine this spring. (The next time you see someone suggesting that VAERS is ignoring death or serious illness, keep that in mind. Reports of serious side effects that do warrant investigation are taken seriously.)

The FDA added this information to the fact sheet issued with the J&J vaccine:

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis) has occurred in some people who received the Janssen vaccine for COVID-19. Most of these people developed symptoms within 42 days of receiving the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The likelihood that this will happen is very small. You should seek immediate medical attention if you develop any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine:

* Weakness or tingling, especially in the legs or arms, that gets worse and spreads to other parts of the body.

* Difficulty walking

* Difficulty moving the face, including speaking, chewing, or swallowing.

* Double vision or inability to move the eyes

* Problems with bladder or bowel control

Should this change my decision to vaccinate?

The risk of GBS after the J&J vaccination is still very small, and only slightly higher than the risk of GBS that you just existed in this world as a person. (Three to five times higher, but that means about three to five people per 100,000 people, instead of one in 100,000.)

The risks of the J&J vaccine or any other COVID vaccine are much less than the risks associated with an actual COVID infection. Nearly all COVID deaths in the United States come from people who have not been vaccinated , so if you are concerned about your health, getting vaccinated is still better than not getting it.


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