COVID vaccine: Study links the Pfizer jab to facial paralysis

A condition that weakens and paralyses one side of the face has been linked to two COVID vaccines.

COVID vaccine: Study links the Pfizer jab to facial paralysis
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While the benefits of getting inoculated against COVID vastly outweigh the risks, scientists have nevertheless been examining all the potential side effects that could come with vaccination. A recent study, published in The Lancet Infectious Disease journal, has linked two COVID vaccines to a condition that temporarily paralyses the face.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a condition in which one side of the face is temporarily paralysed or left in a weakened state. Usually most people get better within nine months, but it can take longer depending on the individual. The NHSstates permanent weakness or paralysis only occurs in the rarest of rare cases.

Unfortunately, the cause of this condition is still unknown but a new study has found two COVID vaccines that could trigger this facial complication—China’s CoronaVac and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The study

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong examined Bell’s palsy cases that occurred within 42 days of the first or second jab in Hong Kong. They also included a case-control study that took data from territory-wide records.

Between 23 February and 4 May 2021, 28 confirmed cases were found in 451,939 people who received at least one dose of CoronaVac. A further 16 cases were identified among the 537,205 individuals who were inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine.

To compare around 27 cases of Bell’s palsy are recorded for 100,000 people every year in Hong Kong.

The study thereby concluded that those jabbed with CoronaVac were 2.4 times more likely to get this condition. On the other hand, findings showed that the Pfizer vaccine did not significantly increase the risk, however researchers think that is because of insufficient data. Professor Ian Chi Kei Wong, lead author of the study said:

Our study suggests a small increased risk of Bell's palsy associated with CoronaVac vaccination.
Nevertheless, Bell's palsy remains a rare, mostly temporary, adverse event.

The scientists have agreed that further research needs to be conducted to understand the link better and confirm the findings as the study was limited to patients who were newly diagnosed with the condition.