UNITED KINGDOM – The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has added Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare nervous system syndrome, as a possible side effect of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system attacks their nerves, causing weakness and, in severe cases, paralysis.
According to the NHS, the disease primarily affects nerves in the feet, hands, and limbs, and symptoms can last from a few weeks to several years. Most people recover completely, but some may suffer permanent nerve damage.
The syndrome was added to the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) list of potential side effects from the AstraZeneca jab last month, and the MHRA has now added it to its list after reviewing available data.
However, according to the government website, the syndrome falls into the category of “very rare” potential side effects, which means that it may affect up to one in 10,000 people.
Blood clots, which the site describes as “extremely rare reports,” are included in this category, as is “serious nerve inflammation, which may cause paralysis and difficulty breathing (Guillain-Barré syndrome [GBS]).”
A government document revealed that the MHRA had received 432 reports of the syndrome with the AstraZeneca COVID jab, 59 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and four with the Moderna vaccine.
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has received 89 reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) following vaccination with Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca).
It states that the warning added to the vaccine’s Product Information is a ‘precautionary measure’ in response to rare cases of adverse reactions following vaccination in Australia and around the world.
While a causal relationship has not been established, healthcare professionals have been advised to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of demyelinating disorders in order to “ensure correct diagnosis” and rule out other causes.
GBS will now be listed as a possible and “very rare” side effect of Vaxzevria, which is administered in a two-dose regimen, by the European Medicines Agency.
Both vaccines are based on adenoviruses, as opposed to the mRNA shots offered by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. The J&J and AZ vaccines have also been linked to extremely rare cases of blood clots that occur in conjunction with bleeding.
GBS has also been linked to other vaccines. The FDA required GlaxoSmithKline earlier this year to include a warning about the condition as a potential side effect of its highly successful shingles shot, Shingrix.
GBS has been associated with other types of immunizations, such as influenza vaccines and has been reported with COVID-19 infection.
GBS is most commonly caused by a virus or bacterial infection. According to the CDC, the syndrome affects between 3,000 and 6,000 people per year.
Health officials maintain that vaccination is the best way to combat COVID-19, with the government urging anyone who hasn’t had a jab to get one.
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